Tag: technology

Revolutionising data

When the last global soccer season ended, back in April of this year, something incredibly crazy had taken place. Something which no one could have accounted for; something for which statistics had no justification; something which any data in the world could not explain. Leicester City, a soccer team barely anyone within global soccer circles had even heard of, had clinched the English Premier League, defeating the mighty and globally recognised teams of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. When its coach was asked the biggest reason of their success, he attributed it to their ‘firm belief’. This whole example teaches us one thing, that even though the world has undergone a data revolution, there are some things which can never be undermined.

Last Tuesday, Professor Hanlon discussed about how data affects every aspect of our lives, while also reminding of its potential risk. Data sees everything in black and white, and leaves no room for abstract qualities. Data is nothing but just binary cods strung codes, looking to transform inout into quantifiable output. Therefore, it is essential that we remain aware of how to utilise data. let us not forget; data is one of those things which distinguishes humans from animals. It makes our lives extremely convenient. However, if we fail to keep control over data and instead our governed by it, then we run the risk of overlooking many other things in life.

Since the data revolution, the whole world has come a long way.  And by no means have we reached the end. Therefore, it is safe to say that the revolution in data is not yet over. There are yet more discoveries to be made and groundbreaking research to be conducted. Our knowledge into the realms of data is only meant to expand. However, it also requires that human element.

How fast is too fast for Technology

The latest lecture in the Revolutions series presents an interesting idea in development and time. Throughout the entire lecture I was thinking how development is a slow process. It takes a long time for things to change. That while the world around is changing drastically it seems the human population is bound to fall behind.

The day after the lecture I was lucky enough to be sitting in on another talk by Dell EMC. A technology based company in Boston that was looking for more Colby students to hire. Most of that talked was focused on the development of technology. Right after hearing about the slow development of humans it was a very interesting idea. There he said technology gets twice as fast and half the price every 10 years. While an outrageous statistic, compared to the presentation I just heard about Darwin’s development and the overall slow process it nearly sounded impossible. Humans have slowly developed overtime from when we were purely chimpanzees. Where could technology be in over 100 years from now based from the current development? While my life will most likely dramatically change as much as my grandparents did in theirs are we not better equipped to handle the change that is happening.

Another key take away from the lecture I saw was how humans may not be the ideal final form of development. An idea I have never personally heard before. The species that is relatively at the very top of the food chain, but at the same time can very easily be put into our place by other animals. Relating it to technology are we moving away from certain developments that may not be ideal. Are the developments that are currently working on not actually ideal for the development of human life. And with how fast technology is now able to develop, as opposed to humans that develop at a very slow rate in terms in developing abnormalities and having that slowly effect the population. Now the worry turns to technology and its very rapid development. What areas might we miss with how fast things are bale to develop?

Humans have slowly developed over tens of thousands of years. It has allowed for slow forward moving development with that humans may not be the final perfect development, but one that has yet to cause too much harm. Will technology move at such a fluid rate as this? It is estimated within the next twenty-five years’ robots will be able to think as quickly as humans can. While a very exciting idea, is technology developing that much faster have flaws. How many sci-fi movies must be made exposing the fear of too fast developing technology before it happens. Or is this fear totally unreasonable that technology is developing too fast. Technology is going to continue to develop at an extremely fast rate. That is guaranteed to continue to happen. As humans do we have a larger responsibility to develop at a rate that we know will make sure that there are not going to be any problems or that we know will only create good?

Mind, Body, and Simulation

Up to the first half of the 20th century, the Cartesian separation between the material and mental constructs used to explain and understand the physical world had more implications than in the nature of being. This ontological-turned-epistemological dichotomy was reflected in science as the dualism between theory and practice…

Until computers came around. The digital brought a new dimension to understanding this Cartesian world, making it not a dual, but a triadic relationship between the physical, the abstract, and the virtual.

With this intangible yet graspable medium, where objects are neither entirely material nor entirely abstract, science and experimenting took on a new direction in an in-between realm of theory and practice. In the virtual world, reality is manipulated just enough for it not to be like the real world, and not abstract enough to take away the particulars. This opened up a third type of third type of experiments, simulations, that allow the manufacturing and manipulation of reality to have a closer look at the phenomenon under study. As in theoretical experiments, time and space collapse in this virtual dimension, yet that does not strip this domain from having practical applications. These simulations create a near real world in which we can create and destroy with the touch of a button. Simulations allow us to explore, refine, filter, and focus on experiments before actually engaging in them in the real world.

This new middle ground between theory and practice also implies a redefinition of the relationship between theory and practice, theory and simulation, and simulation and practice. If we strived for correspondence between our concepts and their material equivalent in order to support any scientific theory, this virtual world adds a new variable to the equation. Does this mean we should strive for matching physical, virtual, and abstract realities? Are simulations only an intellectual playground for those who know how to make them?

Even though virtual worlds do not interfere directly with the material or abstract reality (they do not make the physical less physical or the concepts more conceptual) they do have an impact on our lives. On the one hand, the virtual can help us understand the physical and abstract world better by examining them more closely in simulations. On the other hand, the virtual can also help us lose ourselves in the noise and disregard the real world completely. For example, the easiness with which simulations are created and destroyed impact our definition of permanence and relevance: in the midst of such quick changes and progressions, can the relevant simulations be singled out if they do not prevail for long?

We can always choose not to acknowledge or participate in this new intermediate level of reality, still living by the traditional mind and matter dualism. However, as technology becomes more accessible, prevalent, and ubiquitous, the more difficult it will be to resist its pull. This urges a reexamination of how we relate ourselves to this new, fabricated reality, and how we choose to value it.

Those Darn Millennials and Their Revolutions

Khalid is adamant that we are “at the mercy” of scrolling. That is, anyone from artists and creatives to advertisers and corporations must make their content worth stopping for. It must be attention-grabbing, immediately recognizable, and worthy of a share. I was inspired by Khalid’s talk, because while this kind of content is usually chastised in think-pieces as  Just Another Thing Those Horrible Millennials Do, it is clear that this content is not only impactful, but revolutionary.

Too often, social media and the people who use it are painted as lazy, unmotivated, young people with short attention spans and poor social skills. But what is not always fully realized is that social media can facilitate revolutionary causes. There is often an argument that people on social media are participating in “slacktivism” or “clicktivism.” This is a valid grievance, as many people at least initially involve themselves in causes through social media, leaving their work on the screen.  But this is not necessarily a bad thing. First, most “slacktivism” is just the initial entry-point into other forms of activism. We cannot expect all people to care about revolutionary causes if they have never accessed information about these causes before. Social media serves to inform people about these issues first, and to allow people to grow, learn, and gain momentum at an incredibly fast pace. While some work may stay on the screen, others could use this knowledge and engage in other forms of dissent and disruption, such as protest. That being said, it is also not necessarily negative for some activism to remain confined to a screen. Protesting takes physical and mental health that not everyone has, while screen activism can be done for people who are not able-bodied. Protesting also requires a certain socio-economic status; if someone is worried about losing their job and not having enough for even the most basic resources, taking to Twitter might be far safer than taking to the streets.

Yet we are still quick to judge millennials and others who use it as a form of activism. I am wondering, then, if part of this resistance stems from the belief that young people do not have the capabilities, time, or will to turn “slacktivism” into a revolution. Regardless of the histories of young people starting and succeeding in revolutionary work, we still view the efforts of young people as frivolous or “phases.” This is fascinating, because even very recent history proves otherwise, whether by pointing to the role of social media in Obama’s 2008 election, the use of live Facebook video during the most recent police shootings in the United States, and, of course, the importance of Twitter during the Arab Spring. To understand social movements and the political context within which they are growing, we have to also understand the role of social media. Hopefully, the work of Khalid and his contemporaries can show that activism sparked by social media often succeeds, not in spite of its online origins, but because of its origins.


Does a Another Paradigm Shift lie Ahead?

The Scientific Revolution was a monumental time period for the advancement of human kind. Not only did the discoveries of the time make us rethink our place in the universe, but the Scientific Revolution initiated a paradigm shift that would change the way of thought for future generations.

One of the fundamental inventions of the revolution was The Scientific Method. Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes helped innovate this idea. The idea was a step by step method for conducting experiments which emphasized gathering data and doubting all assumptions until evidence says otherwise. The Scientific Method was only one of many inventions of the time that allowed for this paradigm shift. Some of the other important creations of the time were the microscope, barometer and the telescope. Most notably, the telescope which was invented by a dutch priest in the early 1600’s, and refined by Galileo later on, allowed astronomers to see further into the cosmos. This extended human capability allowed Galileo to see discover Jupiters largest moons, many new stars but most importantly it allowed him to confirm Copernicus’s model of an heliocentric Solar System. By being able to observe the sunspots on the sun, he confirmed that the sun rotated and that the planets orbited it. Without these innovations in experimentation and observation the paradigm shift that was The Scientific Revolution would not have happened.

As the human kind enters the most dramatic time of technological change our species has ever endured, I wonder if another paradigm shift lays ahead. The advancements in information technology have provided humans with a platform to observe the knowledge of human kind with ease, and preform calculations that are virtually instantaneous. In some ways the internet has already created a paradigm shift of mind. People have started to no longer make bold assumptions or claims about past knowledge before accessing the internet to see if the rest of humankind agrees. Some futurists believe that this access to big data and future technologies will cause a paradigm shift that could affect our every thought. As our world continues to integrate with technology every thought we have could be checked or added to with technological aids. It may be that rational experimental and scientific thought is no longer trusted or helpful without the aid of artificially intelligent brain integrated systems. A human with extended brain power may be able to answer our species greatest questions such as the nature of our existence, and the mystery of life in the universe. A new scientific revolution may be just around the corner.

How many Scientific Revolutions Will There Be?

Before last Tuesday night, I didn’t know much about the Scientific Revolution. However, Professor Cohen’s lecture “How Revolutionary-and how Scientific-was the Scientific Revolution?”, was very informative and made the cogs in my head start to turn. In his lecture, Professor Cohen distinguished that “The” Scientific Revolution wasn’t the first or last Scientific Revolution to occur, and that it should really be renamed to “A” Scientific Revolution.

This event, that revolutionized natural science through mathematically precise, experimentally-based discoveries may have been seen as unique in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it seems that almost every era is categorized by such a revolution. This revolution brought the medieval world to the modern world. However, now that we’re in the modern world, where is there to go? This brings me to my question: How many more scientific revolutions will there be?

The world has definitely come a long way since the 16th century, but we still have a long way to go. There are many world issues that we need to focus on and “revolutionize”, and not all of these are dealing with hard sciences. Many people think physics, biology, and chemistry when their hear “science”, but I think of agriculture, technology, and infrastructure.

For example, we need to have an agricultural/farm science revolution. In the United States we have a somewhat sustainable food system, but other countries do not. There are entire populations that go day to day without food, clean drinking water, and the basic necessities required to live. There needs to be a scientific push to help further process in developing nations and at home. While the common adage is “think of the starving children in Africa,” what about the starving children in America? There is no reason for Americans to be hungry while we have an enormous amount of food waste in this country. Perhaps this revolution could focus on reducing food waste, encouraging people to donate expired goods instead of throwing them away, and finding a way to produce larger quantities of food without completely depleting the land of all natural resources.

As a planet as a whole we also need to focus on an energy revolution. We are much too dependent on fossil fuels and non-renewable resources, such as petroleum, gasoline, and coal.  The last I heard, fossil fuels are expected to be depleted in 300 years, and while that might seem like a long time from now, our consumption of and dependence on these fuels continues to grow. However, if we change our main energy sources to more sustainable renewable energies such as hydro, solar, wind, and natural gas, we won’t have to worry and we’ll also reduce the damage that we inflict on the Earth. These energies are already being used on a small scale, we just need to expand outwards. There is always the excuse that producing them is too expensive, but if adequate research and research are put into the process, and once we make the switch it’ll be much more affordable.

Overall, while there have been many scientific revolutions in the past, I believe that there will be many more in the future. We’re definitely an intellectually advanced society, but there is always room for improvement. Until the world is perfect and free from struggle, we need to challenge ourselves to ask what revolutions still need to happen and how they’re going to impacts us.



The technological revolution: A repeat of the scientific revolution?

Fast forward 400 years from now, will subsequent generations be hosting discussions like Professor Cohen’s “How Revolutionary – and how Scientific – was the Scientific Revolution”, but for the ongoing technological revolution? The technological revolution continues to accelerate before our eyes and influences our lives in unimaginable ways. Moving for jobs is no longer as difficult when you can Facetime your loved ones at any time, and anywhere; you can keep in touch with old high school classmates through social media platforms like Facebook; you must maintain a “clean” social profile, as what goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet. When this revolution of sorts past, and is recorded down in history, will Colby’s class of 2416 be asking: Was the technological revolution really technological and revolutionary? Albeit the continuing technological revolution differs significantly from that of the scientific revolution, I’d expect some individuals will be posing these sorts of questions given the many parallels the technological revolution has with the scientific revolution.

Can we place the technological and scientific revolutions on the same comparison plane? Let’s first examine what constitutes a “revolution”. As discussed in Professor Cohen’s lecture, a revolution results in a break with the past, is violent, has a group spearheading the movement, and this group is ousted, and is sudden. However, like the scientific revolution, the technological revolution encompasses not all, but only some of these. It is sudden, celebrates a break with the past, may be violent through means like cyberbullying, and has many big-name groups, like Apple, Google, and Samsung directing its trajectory. These characteristics do not necessarily overlap with those that make up the scientific revolution, but it shares its ambiguity.

With such ambiguity, future generations might examine the technological revolution and ask, was this really a revolution, and was it really technological? Even today, the technological revolution is not a fully established term to describe the ongoing changes related to technology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Moreover, much like the term “scientific”, the word “technological” is fluid. Technological might represent something completely different than how we currently define it.

Like the scientific revolution, it will take outsiders, specifically those outside of the revolution’s direct influence, to fully comprehend its meaning and whether it represents a revolution or not. Moreover, I’d argue they would likely come to the same conclusion Professor Cohen did: That the most revolutionary part was its metaphorical implications of the word “revolution”. However, it will be a path we will currently lay out: Whether or not we solidify on the ongoing changes as a technological revolution, and, if so, whether this decision will affect what constitutes a revolution in the future.