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Author: Samuel Pratico (Page 1 of 2)

Entrepreneurship in the Automated World

As advanced civilization crosses the threshold into an era of extensive automation we are found with a greater degree of leisure time, but also a decreasing demand for both intellectual and manual labor. This trend has inspired many economic, political and ethical questions surrounding many of the proposed solutions. Developments in science and technology are assumed to have a direct benefit on society as a whole, but if we are left with a nation without discretionary consumerism creative innovation will slow dramatically. The most popular solution is a national basic income so that people can meet a baseline standard of living, however, this proposal carries its own set of issues. This begs the question; can modern automation coexist with the free market that fostered its development?

In a World Economic Forum article Kathleen Elkin cites the Oxford study, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization,” which predicts that 47% of US jobs could be automated within one to two decades.” The author states, “It’s no longer just the “dangerous, dirty, and dull” jobs on the block. Technology is also poised to replace white-collar positions, like lawyers, reporters, and financial analysts, to name a few.” (Elkin) With this said, Entrepreneurship in America is at it’s highest rate in decades. The course of technology at the moment allows for many of the most creative thinkers to find ways to either digitally or physically automate different industries and markets at massive gains to them. However all predictions point that the majority of industries will be entirely automated in the not too far future. With this in mind, creative thinking would have to be the one thing that computers can never replace, and if one were to think of mental capacity on the basis of supply and demand it would seem that innovative thinking will only be increasing in value over the coming years.

The current trends in automation leave us with an image of society not too far from that seen in Pixar’s Wall-E, where people rarely work and just sits in front of screens all day. However one thing that every single person in that movie is doing is constantly consuming digital content on those screens. While it is clearly an animated film with a PG narrative, it does present an imaginable future that accelerates many of humanities current trends. With more leisure time there is greater demand for content, and already in recent years we have seen a massive uptick in independent media as consumers are choosing to overlook financial metrics of “quality” in favor of things that are different, innovative and compelling. This is the beginning of a trend that would hypothetically allow for a completely sustainable digital economy as our physical needs are completely automated. An opponent may be able to site projects such as Google deep dream and other creative computing projects that have written symphonies and original paintings. However AI only has the capacity to replicate products of styles it has been able to analyze, and even as the quality of those products will increase over the coming years, it will never be able to come up with the original and creative ideas that drive the marketplace of independent media.

The Internet has made this “creative economy” more feasible than ever, and the last decade of development has allowed for this industry to open its gates to an unprecedented number of entrepreneurs. Services like Soundcloud, Spotify, Steam, Netflix and others have allowed for independent content creators to distribute their products to a larger audience at an unprecedented rate. The benefit of this is that it is reversing many of the negative effects of corporate monopolization over the past few decades. In every merger and buy out more and more people get laid off and cannot compete with the now even more firmly entrenched industry. Through web distribution platforms and streaming service many of these conventions have gone to the wayside and more people than ever before are putting food on the table through the creative economy. The US Bureau of Statistics showed that between May 2003 and May 2012 the number of full-time independent musicians rose from 300 to 1830 as the number of label employed musicians dropped from 880 to 190. (Masnick) Regardless whether the industry is bringing in more total money for a few at the top, the true economic benefit is the amount it supports at the bottom, and with this considered these trends are undoubtedly positive ones.

These market shifts are surely encouraging and it is not unreasonable to think that these financial pressures will eventually influence tech innovation in a way that will revitalize many of the healthy social and cultural attributes of art that have largely been subverted by the monopolization of these industries. As these producers become increasingly centralized the products they are releasing are essentially the greatest common factor of progressively broader consumer groups. These products allow many to relate to them in at least a small sense, but very few to truly identify with them. Music, art, film and all other creative pursuits now have the opportunity to develop tight communities within American society that can nurture new and existing cultures around the country. The heightened exposure, yet reduced marginal profit of streaming services have already driven more independent musicians, artists, and film festivals to take their art on the road. These artists are allowing small venues to pop up and sustain themselves in small cities across the country while offering a level of intimacy and humanity to their product that even a travelling robot never could.

Humans have well documented psychological responses to music that have even proven to benefit medicine in treating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s in recent years. Through millennia of survival- driven evolution, the psychology, and resulting biology of the modern human is very tied in with many social influences. In a 1983 study comparing the effects of live vs. recorded music on cancer patients, it was found that those that attended live music reported a significant drop in tension, anxiety, physical discomfort and an increase in vigor and mood. (Bailey) There are clear benefits to increased heart activity, mental stimulation and synchronized brain waves, which have all been found in live concerts. (Ehrenberg) These effects are all intensified by increased heart synchrony with those around them, often mirroring increases in heart rate. A 2016 study measured heart synchrony in a fire walking ceremony comparing the heart synchrony of someone related to the firewalker, and someone who was a stranger to another firewalker. Of the two groups there was a clearly heightened level of synchronization of heart rate and beat in reaction to the walker in the people who had relations to them. (Ellamil et al) In a performance setting such as music, live art, theater, etc, the heart rate of the performer on stage is guiding the synchrony of the audience in a similar way, in turn driving the heightened sensations tracked in the aforementioned studies. This is an element that is critical to live music that can never be replicated by AI.

Journalism is another creative industry that is reportedly going to be replaced by AI in the eminent future but there are clear human elements that are unlikely to be replaced any time soon. The Gaurdian reports that 90% of journalistic articles will be written by computers by the year 2030. This is a surprising statistic at first glance but one that is not too unreasonable when one considers the nature of the writing. The writing style is inherently lacking in the human element with many sources priding themselves in being unbiased, just reporting the facts, and being the first to report the news. This emphasis on efficiency is one area where humans can never compete with the split second computing of a computer, especially if they are feeding the same information through the same guidelines. While this will clearly be an ever more prominent trend in this industry, it opens an even broader area of interest for independent news sources as people begin to desire the human elements of their news articles. Computers will have a difficult time creating narratives within the articles that hold the readers attention, and entirely lack the underlying tone driven by the author’s opinion that stimulates the viewpoints of the reader. Corporate journalism has become a form of labor rather than the craft it once was, and we are already seeing trends towards online news sources such as the Huffington post who shamelessly express opinions and viewpoints driving dialogue amongst its readers and the rest of the independent industry. The introduction of AI into in this workforce will only increase this trend towards independent media as the decreasing humanity in journalistic writing already has.

Another aspect of AI in journalism that is already extremely prevalent is the use of machine learning to process user data through things like Google visits and Facebook clicks. This creates what has been dubbed a “filter bubble”, and it has already shown the extreme problems it creates in its influence on society. This term broke out into American thought most prominently after the Trump election with the New York Times blaming it for the election result the next day, Wired reporting that it was “Destroying Democracy” the next week and an MIT study confirming it’s influence within a month. New York Times journalist Amanda Hess describes this software as creating “personalized feedback loops”, trapping their visibility within the confines of specific news sources, types of events and political ideologies. While Republicans seem generally more apt to read opposing articles and seek confrontation online, Democrats seemed particularly caught up in the “self affirmation” of seeking news articles and sources that conformed to their scope of belief. This caused this group of the population to become so convinced of their political strength going into the election that there seemed to be more an emphasis on posting the self aggrandizing articles that shame the opposition amongst the rest of their bubble, rather than creating dialogue on conservative comment sections or posting more moderate articles geared towards swaying the opposition. In doing so, the greatest proponents of the undoubtedly safer candidate became completely disconnected with the rest of America over time due to the way these actions are processed by machine learning software. If opinions are to be regarded as creative content, it is clear that AI is impeding on this crucial aspect of American Democracy with harrowing results. Tech companies are currently scrambling to find a way to accommodate this demand for opposing opinions because it is a crucial aspect of content distribution that conflicts with the very core of Artificial Intelligence and it’s current and foreseeable capabilities.

The influence of AI on the Trump election seems to exemplify a sort of “Invisible Hand” impact on society that reflects the unconscious nature of machine learning, similar to the subconscious self-interest that drives the concept from the human perspective. This “Robotic Hand” of AI seems to be gradually working against creative thought in all areas of society that it bears influence. By the laws of supply and demand its influence on corporate America will allow for individual producers of content to benefit off the increasing value of their work, however when a force such as this influences our political systems the results are more dire. Creative thinking is the antithesis of the more critical and quantitative processing of AI, so it seems natural that the candidate that reaped its benefits would lie more on this side of the spectrum. Trump has been gutting public arts programs across the country in favor of things such as America’s increasingly automated manufacturing sector. The National Center for Education Statistics found that American’s are disproportionally behind comparable nations in the Arts due to the already present lack of programs and funding in this country. (Miller) Trump plans to gut the few programs that do exist, with 19 federal organizations set to be defunded entirely. This includes the National Endowment for the Arts who’s funding reached every single county in the country in 2015, serving as the only arts programming in many rural areas of the country. (Fallon) With private interests and wealthy State and Local tax bases being the only remaining investors in Arts education the disparity in those who are creatively equipped will become even more divided on class lines.

To bring the issue full circle, the lack of arts education for lower class America is, in effect, undertraining the people who have the most potential value to this developing sector of the national economy. The current trends in creative entrepreneurship have largely been due to the heightened value of unique and provocative content in contrast to the broad ended products of the established industries. If this logic stands, people in poor and secluded areas of the country would have cultures, opinions, experiences and ways of thinking that would have developed remotely from American popular culture would have the most valuable creative potential. With the rise of the Internet, anyone with access can put their content on the web for anyone’s access but if this portion of the US’s population is not given the skills to develop their art, they will never be able to reach their full potential and contribute to this growing market.

The benefit of entrepreneurial marketplaces, as opposed to monopolies, is that the producers are in equal part consumers, creating an environment of steady growth as participants spend primarily within the market while earning a portion of their money from consumers outside of the market. Farmers traditionally would grow a single or few products and trade goods of equal value amongst themselves in a local marketplace to the point that they could all sustain themselves, and then export surplus that was not needed within the community. With the money earned from surplus investments can be made in their own product, or spending on less essential goods, which overtime creates more producers and consumers, either way creating value for the market. This system is infinitely sustainable if spending is kept largely within the localized market as long as the flow of money is inward (exports) or outward in the cases of investment in technologies that boost production. Every artist of whatever type needs inspiration to keep progressing their work, and very few creative entrepreneurs would draw inspiration from the monopolistic industry because it would be impossible to “beat them at their own game”. Therefore, these artists will need to buy at least an equal part of other independent producer’s art to sustain their own production, being that innovation drives the economic value of creative entrepreneurship.

Outside of basic human needs, which are becoming progressively automated and therefore cheaper relative to products requiring human labor, the market for creative entrepreneurship can grow sustainably and infinitely by the same principles of the agricultural market example. A national basic income would tax the increasingly few producers at a rate that is just enough to sustain the right amount of consumption from the jobless populace to keep the system going, supposing the corporations pay their taxes. However this will only keep the national market stagnant, with the only growth being from international trade to no benefit of the bulk of the population. The best future for America is to grow from within. Rather than the few at the top expanding their hold on markets around the world, we can nurture the independent markets we already have so that every single person in the nation has the potential to live a unique, fulfilling and purposeful life doing something they love while positively influencing the lives of those around them. The American dream is still alive, and with a little help it can be for the many rather than the few.

With the current environment of market shifts towards innovation it is clear that producers of creative content will increasingly become drivers of the economy as traditional jobs become progressively more automated. With this in mind I would urge everyone to start considering creative pursuits with greater deliberation and treat their existing hobbies with a higher degree of aspiration and attention. In addition I think there should be greater attention to the modern arts primary and secondary education in American schools across the economic spectrum, in contrast to the current trend of school systems rapidly dropping arts programs across the country. Overall, the future is bright we just need to learn to adapt to this changing world so as to live meaningful lives rather than falling into that which is easiest with a national standard income.

Works Cited
Bailey, Lucanne. “The Effects of Live Music versus Tape-Recorded Music on Hospitalized Cancer Patients .” Music Therapy, Oxford Academic, academic.oup.com/musictherapy/article/3/1/17/2756890.
Ehrenberg, Rachel. “Brain Waves of Concertgoers Sync up at Shows.” Science News, 28 Mar. 2018, www.sciencenews.org/article/brain-waves-concertgoers-sync-shows.
Ellamil, Melissa, et al. “Influences on and Measures of Unintentional Group Synchrony.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5101201/.
Fallon, Claire. “Trump’s Budget Proposes To Eliminate Arts Agencies, As Many Feared.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 16 Mar. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-actually-proposed-eliminating-arts-agencies-in-his-budget_us_58ca9b60e4b00705db4c9b2b.
Masnick, Mike. “Massive Growth In Independent Musicians & Singers Over The Past Decade.” Techdirt., Floor64, www.techdirt.com/articles/20130529/15560423243/massive-growth-independent-musicians-singers-over-past-decade.shtml.
Miller, Hayley. “U.S. Students Are Struggling In The Arts. Donald Trump’s Budget Would Make The Problem Worse.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Apr. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/us-students-struggling-arts-and-donald-trump_us_58ff678be4b0c46f0782711b.
Stanton, Andrew, director. Wall-E. Pixar, 27 June 2008.

The Ethics of Designer Babies

The concept of “designer babies” as presented in Biotechnology and Society has many advantages for the individual employing the technology, but carries with it many social implications that may prove extremely problematic depending on how the technology is managed within society. At the moment the technology is largely preventative, in essence guaranteeing a “normal” offspring. IVF and “screening of embryos” find embryos clear of certain conditions and discard the others. The PGD tests used typically focus on diseases and “defects” to essentially find a clean version of a child. Ethically this can be seen as just like any other medicine we use to prevent disease, however the definition of “normal” is very much up to the standards of a given society, which could lead to a discarding of otherwise “normal” traits.

The economics of such an operation is also a large social factor. Stevens notes “People will continue to want the best possible or healthiest possible babies and be willing to pay for the privilege, regardless of any attempts to halt the use of this technology.” (p. 271) In America, the free market largely dictates medical advancements, it would seem natural that the technology has started developing in the direction of finding the “best” versions of an offspring on standards beyond preventing disease. Already, “Advertisements promise $50,000 for eggs harvested from certain women (usually specified as young, healthy, athletic, tall, white, and with a high SAT score).” (p.273). This industry is clearly airing towards a very socially constructed view of what is “best”, from Anglo-American beauty standards to certain intellectual markers. While this could likely perpetuate existing genetic divides based on class, it could also start weeding out many of the traits that truly make an individual and community successful in favor of more superficial ones. In a group, you would clearly lose much of the intellectual diversity crucial to democratic systems, and in an individual you could create a genetic bias towards the intellectual standards of certain exams, regardless of their real world application. Regardless of the issues of utility, it also creates a social dichotomy that would reinstate lines of prejudice in this country. “The problem with most unregulated markets is that they generate inequalities- haves and have-nots.” (p. 274) Eugenics was a “scientific” defense for racial prejudice, however in media like Gattaca the concept of designer babies creates a new genetic hierarchy in a similar fashion.

While this perpetuates the norms of upper-class society and solidifies them as more pronounced in the gene pool it is in many ways just accelerating an evolutionary mating process that has existed, either consciously or subconsciously, in human societies across the world and throughout time. Agricultural societies put a greater emphasis on brawn in terms of mating, metropolitan societies put a greater emphasis on beauty, and the particularly suburban upper/middle class would likely have a greater emphasis on intellectual capacity. This is a very simplified distinction made on class lines but the same applies to traits embraced by different cultures such as aggression, humor, good-temperedness, etc…

In this evolutionary sense a population would be susceptible to “shocks” to the environment just like any other. While this may not necessarily be as acute as an apocalypse driving everyone to become hunter/gatherers or farmers, It could be something as simple as the labor market shifting to value creative thinkers to a greater degree rather than the memorization style thinking valued by competitive schooling methods. This would thereby shift the class structure regardless of who is natural or “designer”. On this account I think we should question the treating of genetics like a commodity, even when it may be seen as an unmistakable positive. The author recognizes, “This drive for consumerism is a central part of the American dream- that is, the notion that you can spend you way to happiness. We have moved from designer jeans to designer babies; but it is part of the same quest for happiness that has created the market demand for perfectible offspring.” (P.275) I would question whether consumerism has ever been the core of any American’s happiness and making a new breed of Americans the consumer goods themselves will do nothing but perpetuate this trend.

 

Proposal

Title: Entrepreneurship in the Automated World

Thesis: Producers of creative content will increasingly become a driver of the economy as traditional jobs become increasingly automated.

Critical Question: can modern automation coexist with the free market that fostered its development.

Description: Entrepreneurship in America is at it’s highest rate in decades. Creative thinking would have to be the one thing that computers can never replace, and if one were to think of mental capacity on the basis of supply and demand it would seem that innovative thinking will only be increasing in value over the coming years. That said the course of technology at the moment allows for many of the most creative thinkers to find ways to either digitally or physically automate different industries and markets at massive gains to them. However all predictions point that the majority of industries will be entirely automated in the not too far future. Therefore if people are going to keep making their own money, rather than a government income, creative pursuits are going to be a staple of the future economy.

Outline:

  • Reference Wall-E or other scifi depiction of automation
  • Note constant screen use
  • Establish that with more leisure time there is more creative content consumption
  • Cite increase in media historically as we have more leisure time
  • Establish the relationship between independent content and large amounts of consumption “wanting for difference”
  • Show opposing view, AI will be able to make creative products
  • oppose, show why its not able to make progressive content

 

http://fortune.com/2015/02/25/5-jobs-that-robots-already-are-taking/

https://creators.vice.com/en_au/article/53wgp5/13-movies-that-explore-the-future-of-technology

Artificial Humanity

The film Ex Machina analyzes some very complex ethical issues regarding artificial intelligence. This topic is rising in prevalence in modern sci fi content and debates surrounding the development of robotics. As the questions have progressed beyond that of the Turing test, another’s perception of ones identity as robot or human, movies like Ex Machina have started tackling things like self awareness and genuine qualities of “humanity” on the part of the robot. This leads to a debate regarding what “humanity” really is. Recent film Blade Runner 2049 takes this question almost acting as a sequel to the ethical dilemma presented in Ex Machina. At one point in Ex Machina, Caleb cuts himself to discern whether he himself is a robot. In the world of Blade Runner many of the “replicants” are given memories so that they have no knowledge that they are anything but human. This is taken one step further when a replicant is given the ability to reproduce, resulting in a child that grows and develops physically and intellectually like any other human. This adds a whole new level to the debate. The Turing test established whether another human could identify a robot, Ex Machina and Blade Runner touch on a robots ability to identify themselves, now the birth of a child from a synthetically created being begs the question what does it mean to be human at all?

In Ex Machina the deceptivity of Caleb seems to be the last nail in the coffin in determining whether Ava is self interested and capable of complex and long sighted thoughts, rather than following actions and commands. This seems like a step towards basic humanity and human personality. However it is lacking the sympathetic and socially aware traits that guide humanity to an elevated status from just personhood. In Blade Runner run away replicants would often live together and look out for others like them, showing a group identity that starts to reach another level closer to humanity. That said they see themselves as separate from humans, which infringes on their ability to sympathize and reason with many of the humans that want to help. I think that the offspring of the two replicants in the movie has the potential for true AI humanity, because it can identify with the greater world and the experiences of both sides. Even though this is the product of a synthetically created being, it still has the potential for true humanity, or at least begs the question. It is relatable to many of the current ethical debates around lab made children and manipulated DNA. I think that there is no question of a humans “humanity” if though they were produced artificially.

These ethical debates in modern Sci Fi are much more relevant than as merely philosophical movie plots. The discussion and conclusions that these movies draw and move us towards as society influence how robots and AI develop. This is either in an abstract sense as an influence on consumer demand, or in a more direct way as it effects the innovators in the field. This movie and the questions it tackles is a perfect example of the intersection between Technology and Society.

 

 

Entrepreneurship in the Automated World

As advanced civilization crosses the threshold into an era of extensive automation we are found with a greater degree of leisure time, but also a decreasing demand for both intellectual and manual labor. This trend has inspired many economic, political and ethical questions surrounding many of the proposed solution. Developments in Science and Technology have a direct impact on Society as a whole, but if we are left with a nation without discretionary consumerism creative innovation will slow dramatically. The most popular solution is a national basic income so that people can meet a baseline standard of living, however this proposal carries its own set of issues. This begs the question; can modern automation coexist with the free market that fostered its development?

In a World Economic Forum article Kathleen Elkin cites the Oxford study, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization,” which predicts that 47% of US jobs could be automated within one to two decades.” The author states, “It’s no longer just the “dangerous, dirty, and dull” jobs on the block. Technology is also poised to replace white-collar positions, like lawyers, reporters, and financial analysts, to name a few.” With this said, Entrepreneurship in America is at it’s highest rate in decades. Creative thinking would have to be the one thing that computers can never replace, and if one were to think of mental capacity on the basis of supply and demand it would seem that innovative thinking will only be increasing in value over the coming years. That said the course of technology at the moment allows for many of the most creative thinkers to find ways to either digitally or physically automate different industries and markets at massive gains to them. However all predictions point that the majority of industries will be entirely automated in the not too far future.

This leaves us with an image of society not too far from that seen in movies like Wall-E, where no one does any work and just sits in front of screens all day. However one thing that every single person in that movie is doing is constantly consuming digital content on those screens. With more leisure time there is greater demand for content, and even in recent years we have seen a massive uptick in independent media as consumers are choosing to overlook financial metrics of “quality” in favor of things that are different, innovative and compelling. This is the beginning of a trend that would hypothetically allow for a completely sustainable digital economy as our physical needs are completely automated. An opponent may be able to site projects such as Google deep dream and other creative computing projects that have written symphonies and original paintings. However AI only has the capacity to replicate products of styles it has been able to analyze, and even as the quality of those products will increase over the coming years, it will never be able to come up with the original and creative ideas that drive the marketplace of independent media.

Divided Innovation

While CP Snow’s observations about the lines dividing the “two cultures” in academia absolutely exist, I do not think that they are rooted in the areas he identifies. He see’s himself to walk both sides of the line, a false portrayal of unbiasedness which is immediately undermined by the qualities he describes of the two sides. Every personality type has pros and cons, which he presents with balance in regards to the scientists. However when looking through the biased lens of one of these personality types, which he clearly is, one can only see the negatives. His analysis of how literary intellectuals are, and how scientists perceive them, are both almost exclusively negative even if they are presented as positives. His generalizations focus on personality issues that are most of the time products of insecurities rooted in the exact same conditions in life, for better or worse, that gave this personality type the “active mind” that did not allow them the liberty to focus on the rigorous and often monotonous study of the maths and sciences without distraction. However, if someone always has issues and questions on the forefront of their mind, the creative-problem solving skills developed over time are exactly the ones potentially valuable to scientific progress.

As it was taught to me, science is just a method of making discoveries, either for the purpose of knowledge or innovation. Scientists are people that are intellectually well equipped to carry out this method in specific subject areas. However, ideas must guide all hypotheses in the first place. Isn’t this naturally a qualitative, creatively based pursuit? There is clearly a social divide between the personality types that spawn from these areas of study, but I don’t think the lack of respect comes from the humanities side. Whereas a government major may have a broad, memorized understanding of the inner-working of a nation’s government as it is, they still respect and encourage those who want to study the theory behind these government systems. This is because there is an understanding that this theory is what guides new policy, and can defend the old when supported by numbers. The fact that there is this mutual respect in government courses completely refutes the argument that the literary intellectuals are the ones leading this cultural divide.

I have never met a humanities major that looked down on science majors, outside of feeling as if they are closed minded due to the lack of respect and patronization they themselves received. There is no denying science is a time consuming and demanding area of study. Conversely I have met very few Math or Science majors who respect the way that humanities majors think, both in academics and life. Some have gone as far to directly call them out in the civil discourse and in public social discussion. Unlike Government majors, scientists typically don’t even go so far to entertain the proposed hypothesis of humanities majors if there is not sufficient evidence, which there rarely is for progressive ideas because that’s exactly what a hypothesis is supposed to be. This is because there is no respect for the course of study and if you cant put it in proper scientific terms apparently ones empirical or philosophical evidence bears no weight.

A healthy relationship would be for Philosophy to hypothesize science, science to verify philosophy, and government to implement these verified theories. I feel as if a literary-based education of scientific history and principles, which I hope to receive from STS, is the perfect area to bridge this gap for a more productive relationship between these two sides. With this considered, I find it disheartening that I am the only Humanities major in 2 periods of Intro to STS. While I understand the intimidation, if humanity subjects are ever to take a role in progress, more majors should become versed in areas of science.

 

 

Women in Science

Women in science

 

Women have stereotypes in many cultures that have historically been taken as negative traits to keep them out of many fields, however I feel that even if many of these stereotyped gender roles have lead to biological differences over time, I think that these differences in thinking would add value to the modern work force rather than retract from it. In “The Classical Debate” the author notes “Women were viewed as essentially evil creatures. This perception can be traced back to the writings of the eighth-century poet Hesiod, who provided us with the story of Pandora and her box. In his poem Works and Days he described human misfortunes as beginning from a woman’s curiosity: Pandora opens the box she has been told not to open and lets out “pains and evil” (cited in Anderson and Zinsser 2000, 1: 49) I find this similar to the story of adam and eve which leads the prejudice against women as evil in Christian culture. However it is the “woman’s curiosity” that would make women most valuable to scientific pursuits.

I believe that women’s curious trains of thought have likely sparked many scientific discoveries throughout history with their spouses or another relation in the scientific community. I think Pythagoren theory makes the most sense of the philosophies presented. “The importance of harmony, balance, and reason was a crucial aspect of Pythagorean philosophy, and the nature of the human soul was a central concern. According to Pythagoras, the soul had three parts: intelligence, reason, and passion. Diogenes Laertius, writing in the third century a.d., informs us that Pythagoras stated: “Reason is immortal, all else is mortal” (Diogenes Laertius 1941, 2: 347). Pythagorean theory believes that at the base both men and women have equal capacity for “intelligence, reason and passion” as Men. Being that these are the most crucial factors for productivity it would follow that Men and Women have equal potential value to the American workforce. However I think it is also acceptable to take gender into consideration when determining the positions where women would reach their highest value potential. If in the Pythagorean principal of opposites men and women are to have many different character traits and mental dispositions, having equal numbers of men and women in academic fields like science would serve to provide the balance and harmony valued in this philosophy. It would also increase the intellectual diversity and increase the value of everyone in the process as their ideas are developed by being challenged and put to test. As

Thomas R. Martin asserted, “The inclusion of women in the ruling class of Plato’s utopian city-state represented a startling departure from the actual practice of his times. Indeed, never before in Western history had anyone proposed—even in fantasy—that work be allocated in human society without regard to gender” (Martin 1996, 181). Whether justified or not I think that it would make sense that the roles that women have been subjected to throughout history would have some impact on the evolutionary development of the female gender in whole, this is not to say that these skills can not be applied to the modern workforce.

Aristotle defines these distinctions clearly.

In all cases, excepting the bear and leopard, the female is less spirited than the male…. With all other animals, the female is softer in disposition, is more mischievous, less simple, more impulsive, and more attentive to the nurture of the young; the male, on the other hand, is more spirited, more savage, more simple and less cunning. The traces of these characteristics are more or less visible everywhere, but they are especially visible where character is more developed, and most of all in man. The fact is, the nature of man is the most rounded off and complete, and consequently in man the qualities above referred to are found most clearly. 

While some of Aristotle’s analysis may have merit, he see’s many otherwise positive qualities in only a negative light. According to Aristotle, both male and female possessed a soul with the ability to reason; however, in the female the irrational power dominated. This is the opposite of the male. Furthermore, although the woman, unlike the slave, has a “deliberative faculty,” it is “without authority” (1260a 14; Aristotle 1984, 2: 14). Woman’s described qualities seems to make them the perfect kind of innovative and creative thinkers that break outside of the normal way of thinking and dream.

 

 

 

 

Climate and Creativity

 

The eruption of Mount Tambora’s global weather implications and the coinciding birth of quintessential horror stories such as Dracula and Frankenstein highlight a relationship between climate and creativity that has inadvertently guided strands of human development for generations. For example, the harsh weather conditions, especially when they affect harvests and general public health, will incite an adequate amount of stress to keep peoples minds active. The social isolation and lack of mental stimulation when indoors for extended periods of time in the face of threatening conditions outdoors will lead people’s imaginations to run wild. When delving into the specific impacts of these conditions on the stories that came from that time period there is a clear influence. This is just one example of how weather conditions have guided movements in creativity and innovation throughout history.

Wood notes “It was in this literally electric atmosphere that the Shelley party in Geneva, with Byron attached, conceived the idea of a ghost story contest, to entertain themselves indoors during this cold, wild summer.” (Wood) This reminds me of Iceland’s public programs in support of the arts. Iceland has notoriously harsh winters with limited daylight and extreme winds that tend to keep people indoors. Iceland “has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world.” It is said that 1 in every 10 people in the country publishes a book in their lifetime, in large part due to government programs that facilitate it, and in turn keep moral and productivity up through the winter. I see these programs to be very similar to the ghost story contest in their aim and impact.

Additionally, people grow and learn from each other creatively. This is another impact of harsh weather because when many creative people get holed up together for an extended period of time it can inspire a wave of creativity that will just keep growing until it produces something substantial, this is the case with Frankenstein. “As Percy Shelley later wrote, the novel itself seemed generated by “the magnificent energy and swiftness of a tempest.” Thus it was that the unique creative synergies of this remarkable group of college-age tourists—in the course of a few weeks’ biblical weather—gave birth to two singular icons of modern popular culture: Frankenstein’s monster and the Byronic Dracula.” (Wood) Often writing is a relatively solitary pursuit but I believe the social aspect to these projects absolutely contributed to the direction and level of quality that they developed in.

Overall, It is a set of unique weather conditions that created the creative conditions that produced an equally unique set of stories. But I think extreme weather conditions across the spectrum are at the root of many major points in humanities development. The specific impacts of Mount Tambora’s eruption are obviously not the same as say, a summer without rain, but I think the concept remains the same.

The church’s science

While in current times many consider religion and science to be in fundamental conflict with each other, it is interesting to read about the relationship the two have had throughout the scientific revolution. Galileo seemed to be one of the first major scientific disruptors to religious teachings, however the author said that even many groups within the Catholic Church believed that his findings were progress, pushing Catholic European society forward intellectually. While the church eventually stood against Galileo, it also later stood to accept its teachings which set a good precedent for the relationship of these two fields. From this period forward the church became the predominant supporters of scientific pursuits. Whether it was the church directly, or other affiliated institutions, the majority of research was done on the budget of the church. The author noted that “…few could, or wished to, separate their scientific work from church concerns.” (P. 126).

It is said that philosophy guides science, and science guides politics, I see religion as merely a philosophy that was guiding the scientific philosophy of the time. Later it became a trend that aristocratic families would host scientists as patrons. This is very similar to the trend of musicians at the time, patrons would support musicians that would formerly have to stay within the confines of the churches use for the music and give them the level of freedom to make their best creative work. This is similar to the trend with the sciences, allowing for things like astronomy to be studied beyond their practical navigational uses. Capitalism doesn’t offer a consistent demand for the more philosophically driven scientific experiments. In many ways universities serve as a new form of patronage in todays society for professors who are driven by intellectual drive, rather than financial. This offers the opportunity for a healthy balance between religion and science because many private colleges are religiously affiliated. Rather, when science become driven purely by its financial opportunity it starts becoming dominated by investments in the military, oil and other high return endeavors. It is interesting in an aristocratic society how people have the leisure and motivation to become well versed in philosophy, sciences and religion. It is clearly a flawed system but this is a class that doesn’t exist even in capitalist societies because you always need to manage and increase your assets and “keep up with the joneses” so the result is a ruling class that is still capital driven rather than basing their social status in these pursuits. However in the scientific societies that eventually developed rules against the use of religion in scientific conversations started a trend of separation between the two fields. I think it would be better to have thinkers versed in religious, philosophical and scientific thinking in harmony but the current system has clearly veered away from that. I think the concept of religious-affiliated universities and private colleges that invest in professors that pursue projects in science and technology is the pinnacle of todays positive relationship between the religion and science.

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