We are all cyborgs!

 

This was a big part of my final project but I felt it deserved its own blog post instead of being crammed into my earlier outline post. One of the sources I used for my final was a TED talk by a Cyborg Anthropologist and Amber case. She states the traditional definition of a cyborg in the video as an organism “to which an exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments.”   She then goes on to describe how we have made technology a part of our selves. We rely on these devices we carry with us everywhere to hold our information and to give us instant access to it. We use these devices to communicate with each other and to allow us to do things we could not do before. She stated that all of these things are not an extension of our physical selves but our mental selves. I found this extremely interesting because it means that my cellphone is a part of me, a part of who I am. Maybe not the phone itself, because I do get a new one every two years, but the ability to access information through it and to connect with others. In my project I cited a study that found that 79% of people 18-44 have their phone with them 22 hours a day and that that fact was true of me too. I’ve always thought of my cell phone as a device that I happen to be extremely attached to but I never really thought of it as a part of me, but it is. I feel completely lost without it. Aside from my summer without air conditioning, for my journal I also wrote a short entry of my day without my cellphone. Only one day and there wasn’t a whole lot for me to write because I didn’t do much. I didn’t even really leave the house because I didn’t know what I could do. I also stayed off of my computers so I couldn’t message my friends. I mostly just watched TV. I am completely attached to my devices and without them I wouldn’t know what to do with my life. I use them for work, for school and for my social life. If I were to be without them for an extended amount of time I don’t know what my life would be like. I’d say I’d read a book but all of my books are digital now and on my computer or tablet. Amber Case also states in the TED talk that we have a second self, and that that second digital self is being interacted with even when we aren’t there, which is very true for me. I can barely think of a day where a friend or family member didn’t ask me “did you get that link I sent you?” or “did you see the invite?” Thinking about this is kind of amazing, I now feel like there is this whole other “me” and I have to figure out who that person is, because if I lost that person (lost my devices) and couldn’t interact with them I would “totally freak out.”

 

Technological Singularity

In a class I had taken previously we discussed the topic of technological singularity and I think it definitely has a place here in this blog. “Technological singularity is a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature.” In this class we read a story that was published in 1989 called “The Gentle Seduction” by Marc Stiegler, in this story we followed a woman who was skeptical about technology and gradually became accepting of it. Little by little she would use body enhancing technology to cure the effects of aging, then to improve her mind, then to travel through space leaving her body behind, and eventually relinquishing her individual mind to join the collective mind of the rest of the human population. There was no death, you could engineer your children to be perfect instead of having a natural birth. I found this amazing because this story was written 25 years ago and there is already technology being developed that is in the story that didn’t exist then. Singularity is a concept I find terrifying, however, if the human race stayed away from everything we were frightened of we wouldn’t be living here in this country with the freedoms we enjoy every day. We would likely be ruled by one empire or another. A lot of the luxuries and scientific knowledge we have access to today would not be here and everyone may still be ruled by the beliefs of some religious empire that demonized and shunned scientific findings and progress. So even though singularity scares me, it also excites me and is something I hope I get to live to see. Hopefully, it’s a bright future and not one that resembles the matrix where we are farmed or where we are enslaved by the very machines we create. I would be excited to experience the moment when I can go to the store and take a pill that will cure all of my ailments by releasing a million tiny nano bots into my body. I want to be able to have instant access to knowledge i would like to know instead of having to look it up on my computer, having a way to just know and have that information somehow “beamed” to my mind. Nano bots have already been created. We have 3D printing and even 3D printed buildings. We have holograms that we can interact with. We have cellphones that connect us to every bit of information we could want that we keep in our pockets. All of this technology that we have has been developed in the last 40-50 years. I don’t think it’s too farfetched an idea that technological singularity can occur. It may not happen the way it is depicted in “A Gentle Seduction” but I believe that the point where technology starts developing at an exponential rate is not far off. It only takes about six months for the new model gadgets get announced from when the previous models were released and it seems like that time frame is getting shorter and shorter. I can’t wait. 

Animals.

The topic that struck a chord with me the most in class was when we were discussing the story “Why Look at Animals?” by John Berger, and the movie Blackfish. The way human beings treat animals astounds me. The abuse we put them through just for our benefit and profit is something I cannot understand. When it comes to the movie Blackfish and Sea World I did read a couple of the blogs that refuted the point of view presented in the movie. I understand that with institutions like Sea World a certain amount of funding is required to keep the animals they have in a healthy environment and one of the blog posts stated that, unlike the local zoos, Sea world was not receiving the funding they needed at the time to properly take care of the animals, and that over time sea world has made many changes to improve the conditions. This was something that was not shown in Blackfish. My question regarding this stance is, if you cannot afford to properly take care of the Orcas in the first place, why keep them? I understand that maybe they could not be released into the ocean but there probably were better options than keeping them in such confined spaces, like sectioned off areas of the ocean by the shore so that the orcas could live a something of a healthier life. The only reason I can think that Sea World would keep the Orcas in such conditions is for the profit. They were making a lot of money, and were not willing to give up that comfort. This is not something that happens just at Sea World but any institution that charges money to show off animals in cages, or doing tricks. I believe that animals should be treated as moral beings. To cause any sort of pain or discomfort to a living being just for the sake of profit and entertainment is wrong in my eyes. I have had many pets growing up, and each and every one of them were and are treated like family. My dog Sadie has a personality, she gets sad when I leave, happy when I come home, she is mischievous when she wants something, and she knows how to get out of being in trouble. She actually reminds me of me when I was younger. The story “Why Look at Animals” mentions several different ways animals have been regarded over time. They have been seen as Gods, companions, reduced all the way down to tools and now entertainment. I am sure a lot of you have had a pet at one time or another and feel or felt a since of love toward them. I am not saying that everyone should just become a vegetarian or vegan and we should start living as equals with animals as though they could be just as just as humans are. I eat meat, other animals eat meat, that is just a part of life and there is definitely a cognitive difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. However animals do share our traits, they can feel, learn, and use tools they may even one day soon start to create. So why is it ok to confine animals like Orcas to a tank and put them in a way of living that shortens their natural life span by 75 or so years?

Final Project Outline.

 

For those of you that didn’t get to see my presentation yesterday, I wanted to do a short outline of what my project was about. It was basically me ranting about how much I am annoyed at how people (including myself) that go to some kind of social outing and end up spending most of time on the phone. After the ranting though I look into some possible causes as to why people are so attached to their phones. Here are the main reasons I’ve found:

1) There is an instant gratification when people share about themselves and especially when someone receives feedback.

  • It is ingrained in human nature to want to share about ourselves. The happy feeling we get when we do it is because the act of doing so gets a chemical reaction from the part of our brain that releases dopamine. The problem with this is that when we do this too often, we don’t get the same level of happiness over time and can start to experience what feels like depression.

2) You can present the best of yourself in the digital world. People don’t have to worry about bad impressions or making mistakes when they can edit everything they say before they send a response or make a post.

3) Real relationships are messy.

  • Dealing with real people can get complicated and frustrating and no one really wants to deal with that anymore. (I know if I could have done the presentation through this blog I probably would have done a lot better, I’m a terrible public speaker, even with just one person)

 

There were also s few interesting, and unexpected things I found out while researching for this project.

  • 79% of people age 18-44 have their phones with them 22 hours a day. This includes sleeping with their phones. (I can say this is absolutely true of myself, and most people who saw my presentation agreed)
  • The biggest issue with everyone spending so much time connected, is that they aren’t spending time on themselves. Self-reflection is very important to figuring out who you are and when we aren’t doing that our relationships with ourselves and our relationships with each other suffer.

In the end I found that if we were to put down our phones and spend some time thinking about who we are that we would be able to have actual conversations with each other when we go out. We may one day even be able to find a better purpose for the technology we use, including social media. The problem was never the technology we have today or the amount we are exposed to it, which what I had assumed coming into this project (at least I assumed it was a part of the issue). Humans are 100% to blame for this antisocial and addictive behavior (which, upon reflection is not that big a surprise). So maybe next time you have some time to yourself, put away your devices. Maybe you’ll be more inclined to not pull out your phone next time you’re spending time with your friends or family.

 

The Lacks family experience.

The Lacks family with Rebecca Skloot

Earlier in class when we were discussing the HeLa cells and listening to the radio lab a point came up where the class discussed how we thought the family of Henrietta was depicted. It was a surprise to me that quite a few people thought they were being presented in a negative light. It seemed that most of the negative connotations centered around two parts in particular. The part of the radio lab where they were explaining how Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, did not understand that the HeLa cells were not clones of her mother, and the part where Deborah felt overwhelmed and burdened with the knowledge of her mother’s cells being used in all of these medical experiments. I listened to the radio lab several times before the class and I did not at all think of the way the family was presented in the show as negative, so hearing how other people in the class had interpreted that information in a negative way surprised me. I have listened to the radio lab a couple of times since that class and I just cannot hear the negativity others heard. When listening to Rebecca (author of The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks) talk about Deborah the only thing I interpret in the way she speaks about her is a since of sympathy, for the way she was bombarded with the information of her mother’s cells without anyone properly explaining what the cells existence meant, and a since of wonder, when Deborah went to her uncle and he began to pray and sing to sooth her. Now when I say sympathy I do not mean that she was pitying Deborah and the Lacks family, but that she understood how they were feeling. The way I heard it was that Rebecca knew how Deborah could think that there were several clones of her mother being experimented on because no one had properly explained it to her. I thought there was even a hint of astonishment in the tone of her voice because of how the researchers were being kind of insensitive toward the family. In my mind Henrietta’s daughter wasn’t crazy for thinking that her mother was cloned or that she was feeling the pain of the diseases being injected into her cells, no one had explained to her that there were no clones, and no one could tell her with 100% certainty that her mother’s soul could not rest or that she wasn’t feeling the pain because of the uniqueness of the cells themselves. I am not an expert in biology or medicine, so it’s possible that I could have come to the same conclusion if I were put in a similar situation. The part of the story where Deborah is with her uncle and almost hysterical because of the burden the information of the HeLa cells had put on her is something I am not unfamiliar with. My family is very spiritual and has a deep belief in God. Going to church with my family growing up, I had witnessed similar situations where prayer and rejoicing by singing praise were common. Even today my family turns to prayer for any and everything. Being someone who grew up with that experience, but does not share those beliefs, I understand how people who have not had the same experience or have those beliefs can interpret what happened on the tape we heard as strange. However, what I heard in Rebecca Skloot’s voice and how she talked about the event was not a negative reflection, but was someone who had not experienced that before and was kind of amazed at what had happened. I listened time and time again but cannot hear any negativity. I’d like to hear from someone who did hear negativity when hearing about the Lacks family. What about the story gave you that impression? Why do you think you heard the negativity and I cannot?

Procrastination and technology.

Ok, I’m writing about procrastination because I’ve been doing it all week. I usually do things at the last minute and end up putting myself under pressure to get things done in a very short amount of time (which is also what I am doing right now). I usually find that I get distracted by a large number of things while attempting to do work, all of them being some form of electronic entertainment. In my house there are 6 TV’s, 5 computers, and 7 game consoles. There is literally not one room in my house that doesn’t hold some electronic form of distraction for me (aside from the bathroom, and doing my work in there is not an option). Let’s not forget my cell phone that feels almost like it should be surgically attached to my hand since I am never without it. Aside from all of the other devices I have, I’d say my biggest distraction is the very computer that I need to do my work on. The only way I am able to sit down and get what I need done is to seclude myself as much as possible, and make it so those electronics are inoperable. Several times this week I have sat down to complete these blog posts and have gotten distracted. Most of the time it is because I would work for a little while and something small would catch my attention, like my being hungry. So I would reward myself for the small amount of work I did by grabbing something to eat… and then sitting down to watch TV while I did it. Next thing I know I’m stuck watching an Adventure time marathon and 4 hours have past. In order to not get stuck in that trap again I confine myself in my room and I notice that I Sharknado 2 is being released soon thanks to a notification on Facebook and that Syfy is having a shark movie marathon. Naturally I must watch this marathon and I can finish the Blogs tomorrow right?…. I didn’t finish the blogs the next day. Instead I find out from a friend through text that Sharknado 2 is being shown at a local movie theater for free. So now my distractions are piling up and it’s Sunday, the day before our final projects are due and the semester is over.  Even now as I am sitting here typing, with earplugs in and my other appliances in my room unplugged, out of the corner of the corner of my eye I can see that tiny green LED on my phone flashing to let me know something has happened. (To be honest I didn’t even finish typing that last sentence before I checked my phone). It’s almost an obsession one that I can’t control. The reason I have earplugs in is because I usually listen to music while I work, but even that is a distraction now. If I’m listening to music, and a song comes on that I am not too fond of I then spend the next two minutes finding a song I like and then the next 15 minutes after that I am making a playlist so that I don’t have to stop and to look for a song I like again. I don’t believe that my procrastination is a result of the technology that surrounds me, but I do believe it makes it a whole lot easier to do so which kind of exacerbates the problem for me.

I read an article about this very topic called Technological distractions present a greater risk of procrastination and threaten work ethic. Although it did not present any solutions, it did hit the nail on the head when identifying the problems (at least it did for me). The article listed 3 types of procrastinators, Arousal types (thrill seekers), Avoiders, and decisional procrastinators. Arousal types “wait to the last minute for the rush.” Avoiders are procrastinators “who might be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success,” and Decisional procrastinators “who cannot make a decision” and by not making a decision they eliminate any responsibility for the outcome of events. I don’t exactly think I fit perfectly into any category given but I do identify with them. Another fun fact I read, and which I am curious to see if this is at all true, is that in the academic world from high school to graduate school, undergraduate students are the most likely to procrastinate. So here’s my question, how many of you have procrastinated in this class? Also, which procrastination type are you?

Social media sickness.

A few times in class we have discussed technology that we believe we would be better off without. One thing I absolutely which I could do without is social media. Rather, I wish it weren’t such an obsession with myself or my friends and family. I feel this need to constantly check my devices for any updates that I may have missed from friends, or even just to know what’s going on in the world so I don’t miss anything someone I know might refer to later. I became painfully aware of this habit a couple of years ago when I noticed I felt the need to check my Facebook, twitter, and reddit at least every couple of hours. Any free moment I had was dedicated to these sites. The worst part about it was that it was “normal.” All of my friends and family were doing the same exact thing so it wasn’t considered a problem even if my interactions with my loved ones were mostly through these sites when I could easily see them any time. After some time I have been able to wean myself off of Facebook and twitter for the most part. I still have my accounts because I unfortunately have to check them to find out what my friends are up to. I often get asked if I am going to an event I had never been notified of because the invite was sent to me on Facebook. I have to be told to check my Facebook so I don’t miss out on real life social interactions with my friends which I find ironic. My friends now know and accept this about me. Although I have semi-successfully broken the social media cycle I had with Facebook, twitter, and reddit, and I have successfully avoided joining other new social media phenomenon like Instagram, tumbler and Pinterest, I have unintentionally found myself in the same cycle with what I thought was a harmless game on my android smartphone.  The game is called Clash of Clans and although it is a game, a large aspect of it is social media. I joined the game because I would always see my cousin playing it and it presents itself as a strategy game that you can enjoy with your friends. Even while writing this article I have checked my phone twice to make sure nothing new had happened in the game. I check my phone constantly even though the game gives me notifications when something does happen, as if I can psychically predict when something happens. This bothers me deeply, even more so now, as I am writing about it and thinking about my behavior.   One thing that bothers me more than anything else is when people go out to be with friends and pay more attention to their phones and what is going on in the cyber world rather than paying attention to what is going on in the real world around them.  I am no exception as I am still guilty of this and I haven’t found a good solution for myself.

Now that I am done ranting, I want to share an article that talks about Social Media Dependency and its connection to mental health disorders and developmental issues. This article explains everything I have been feeling about social media and everything that I talk about above. It’s a short read and full of information on this topic.

Social Media Dependency Has Become a Mental Health Issue