Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a society that is based on keeping everyone happy. If anyone is unhappy, they can simply pop a soma: a government-provided drug that is “Euphoric, narcotic, and pleasantly hallucinant.” Huxley writes, “Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back without so much a headache”, as soma has “All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol, but none of their defects.” Soma essentially creates a fake fantasy- an escape from reality for members of this controlled state. Emotions and experiences that people don’t want get replaced with a sense of happiness and overall wellbeing. In a world that creates life from test tubes, soma seems like it is pretty fictitious and has no real consequences. However, I argue the opposite. Soma renders humans as machines that are completely devoid of emotions and rational thought and thus, represents the powerful influence of science and technology on society. Continue reading
Jun Wang is a entrepreneur who, like many of us, is frustrated with the limitations of today’s medical practices. He dreams of using Artificial Intelligence to maintain people’s health through his company iCarbonX (ICX). ICX is a personal-health company that creates devices that will display everything you may want to know about your health. The devices aim to present a 3-d mirror image of your body with readouts about your weight, sleep patterns, blood pressure, heart rate, how these measures may correlate to your DNA, a monitoring of your metabolites as you process food, information from your medical history, etc. He also hopes to add frequent blood tests to measure proteins and enzymes that may yield early signs of cancer or chronic disease. His goal is rather ambitious, yet thoughtful. He hopes to allow you to have access to a “continuous monitoring of your health and suggestions of adjustments you might make in your diet and behavior before you slip from being healthy into the early stages of an illness.” Wang’s vision of personal health monitoring will capture more data about your health than ever before, and could change the world of medicine for good. But are people as obsessed as Wang? Would you want to know exactly everything that is going on in your body? Continue reading
Our transportation system: The latest Franken-technology?
Thesis Statement and Critical Question:
America’s current transportation system has consequences. If we do not start to tame our car centered culture, it has potential to become the latest Franken-technology.
How can we use technology to be more akin to improving the fate of our planet and specifically, reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions? Continue reading
Snow’s argument for two cultures has had a lasting significance on the way that we view the world today. However, his explanation for these two cultures, that the arts and sciences are impoverished because of a lack of understanding of each other, deserves criticism. Snow claims that a literary intellectual has little means to process the knowledge of a scientist, and vise versa. From this perspective, literary humanists are not objective, intelligent, or nerdy like scientists. Rather, they are creative, crunchy, and deeply emotional. Therefore, Snow’s objective in Two Cultures is to teach us to build bridges and to further the progress of human knowledge. I argue that there are already bridges that have closed the gap between Snow’s two cultures. Colby College is one example. Continue reading
Statements like, “It’s a shame to see a man’s brain inside a woman’s body” are typical in the science world today. The truth is that women continue to be viewed as being inferior to men. They are yet to achieve equity in certain careers. However, feminist debates concerning the scarcity of women in science have ensued. Advocates, like Evelyn Fox Keller, have raised questions about equal opportunity for men and women in the workplace. Keller’s feminist critique of science has prompted us to think what it is about our culture that drives this tendency. Our version of science is defined by a set of cultural predispositions that we must redirect in order to advocate for equality.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein provides a great lesson for the world of Science, Technology, and Society. Shelley’s portrayal of a man creating a monstrous creature, and later betraying it, speaks to both the hopes and fears of today’s race to innovation. In the novel, Waldman insists that technologies (i.e. Frankenstein) have “Acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows.” Waldman implies that good intentions can often lead to unintended (and not so good) consequences. This message is even more relevant today, as we are constantly on the hunt for new technologies to solve our problems. Perhaps the reason we are still reading Shelley’s work 200 years later is because of the concern about the increased chances of creating “Frankensteins”. One example of a modern day Frankenstein with potential for unintended consequences is GMO’s.
On the final page of Steven Shapin’s Scientific Revolution, he writes, “Science remains whatever it is- certainly the most reliable body of knowledge we have got.” This implies that we ought to trust science. But, the fact is that today, many of us don’t. 21st century public opinion polls show that Americans do not believe that the earth is warming as a result of human-induced activities. Similarly, people do not believe that their kids should get vaccinated, or that their risk of lung cancer will go down if they quit smoking. So, what has rendered this broken sense of trust? I make the case that the consumption of today’s media is partly to blame for the threatened reputation of science.
Forget information that is unbiased, factual, or free of rhetoric. Today’s media has a narrow scope. It is manifested in invoking a particular emotion in an audience, at the expense of accuracy. In other words, there is an incentive for the media to acquire a level of credibility that may distort from factual science. For instance, reporters have become experts at breaking down complex scientific jargon into a language that is easier to understand for the non-scientist. As a result, people read “academic” papers that have been stripped of their original meaning. Likewise, journals feel pressured to publish papers only if they have “exciting” findings. This means that real, truthful science may not even make it to the newsstand.
One author suggests, “We are fed fudgings, misunderstandings, errors, and fabrications every day.” This is evident in today’s world, as researchers are guilty of altering their experiments by controlling certain variables, in order to produce the results that they want (i.e. results that they can tailor to their audience). In fact, one study revealed that 14% of the scientists surveyed said they know a scientist who has made up entire datasets. More shockingly, 72% of these scientists admitted that they know someone who has gone to the extent of eliminating data points in order to sharpen their results. This is just one instance that proves that the consumption of media is taking a toll on science’s credibility.
Looking forward, we should take Shapin’s words with a grain of salt. Yes, we cannot deny the legacy of the Scientific Revolution. Shapin taught us that science is knowledge- it is a “collectively practiced, historically embedded phenomena.” But, there is a problem that we ought to address. Our media is full of opinion-based, misguided, and meaningless information. Thus, we should consider how we consume it. If science cannot be trusted, perhaps we should trust ourselves. Trust yourself to question how you consume this constant barrage of misinformation. Trust yourself to be like Bacon, to question authorities- maybe not by denying everything that you have been told, but by asking questions that matter (e.g. Should the methodology be critiqued? Are there any limitations to a particular study? Is the sample size representative enough to make a generalization about a larger population?). If we can do this, perhaps science can earn back the reputation that Shapin puts forth.
In Technology Matters, David E. Nye argues that one major issue in defining technology is that we can only imagine humans pre-literature and not pre-technology. Throughout Nye’s essay, he emphasizes that we cannot hide from technology – it lingers in our lives and we are shaped by it. Nye grapples with the fact that the history of humanity can only be understood as a sequence of technical systems. He claims, “Technologies are not foreign to human nature, but inseparable from it,” which implies that technology plays a dominant role in shaping who we are as individuals. Put simply, he suggests that technology makes us human. However, I defend the opposite: Technology dehumanizes us. Continue reading