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Was Aldous Huxley trying to tell us something and if so what?

Carter Liou

4/24/18

STS 112 – WA

 

In Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, the context of the story is set in a dystopian-like future labeled the “World State.”  Naturally, this fictional society differs in many ways from our own, and Huxley distinctly describes the points where our world and the World State diverge.  While these differences, such as how babies are genetically engineered through artificial wombs, or how infants in different castes are classically conditioned in different ways, may seem quite obvious to the reader, what is not as evident are the ways in which the New World society mirrors ours.  Through the idea that this future New World shares the similarities with our current society, Huxley is ultimately warning us of the harmful effects that expansion and development of a capitalist ideology can impose on society.

 

While in modern society we are forced to sacrifice certain aspects of our lives to conform to certain norms, in Brave New World, the sacrifices that are made are far more extreme.  In Huxley’s dystopia, the ruling body, under Mustapha Mond, pursues a society driven by absolute consumerism by ultimately sacrificing certain human values, that in today’s society, might be seen as essential.   The first value that Mond believes must be sacrificed are personal relationships that produce emotions or feelings of passion. For this reason we see that the citizens of the New World do not have parents, lovers or children.  Ironically, in the real world family is essential and often acts as a primary support system, in the World State that job is given to Soma, a recreational drug, that alleviates any pain the user is experiencing. While in our current world this concept seem unimaginable, in the eyes of Mond, the restriction of personal relationships lead to an economic stability in society.  

 

Another sacrifice is that of equality.  It’s true that today we are not all born equal, but in the western world it is believed that even if one is born into poverty, that with hard work and dedication, one can climb the socio-economic pyramid.  In Brave New World this idea of the American Dream is nonexistent.  People are born into a certain caste (Alpha, Beta, Gamma Delta, and Epsilon) and will remain is such caste for their entire life.  This is ensured through the treatment of the embryos, fetuses and infants in different castes. For example the Gamma Delta, and Epsilon embryos are shocked into form 90 identical embryos, but the Alpha and Beta embryos are not.  During the fetal stage, the lower castes are given alcohol and deprived of oxygen to ensure lower intelligence, and during infancy.  The lower classes are also dissuaded from the pursuit of knowledge.  For example, the Delta class is classically conditioned to fears flowers and books through a series of repeated shocks whereas hypnopaedia is instilled in the Alpha and Beta castes.  This may seem diabolic, but Mond explains that inequality is crucial for the stability of their heavily consumerist society. In this way the castes know their role in the larger mechanism that is productivity of goods and services.

 

The debate between capitalism and communism was prominent during the twentieth century, when Huxley wrote this story.  Is it then safe to say that Huxley is intrinsically communist? Not exactly. For a decent portion of the novel, we the readers, identify Bernard Marx as the protagonist of the novel.  The fact that Bernard exemplifies an outcast who envies his friend makes him inherently human, unlike all his brainwashed counterparts. While Berard defies the system by bringing John to the World States, he does so not to expose the defects of society, but rather for his own personal gain.  It should be noted that his last name is clearly hinting at Karl Marx, one of the leading figures in communism, and although he opposes the corruptness of the World State, he does not do so for the right reasons. Is this sense Huxley’s view can be seen as one that stresses moderation over extremity.

Robots versus Humans: Where Do They Differ?

Carter Liou

4/8/18

ST112-WA

While a robot’s physical attributes may be easily distinguishable,the definition of one is rather ambiguous.  In Robots, John Jordan writes that, according to the Robot Institute of America, a robot is a reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move materials, parts, tools, or specialized devices through variable programmed motions, for the performance of a variety of tasks.  He also states, however, that this definition does not exclude humans. The question than is, at what point, if any, do the similarities between humans and robots diverge? One could say that we humans are composed of flesh and blood while robots are built from circuits and metal, yet we function in similar ways.  It is then crucial to differentiate the two based not on their composition, but on their behavior. In this way, the two main ways that robots differ from us humans is that they cannot express emotions, or empathy.

While emotions are essential to human existence, they often impair our sense of judgement and our rationality.  For example, if you have a project due, but you recently lost an important person in your life, you might find it difficult to focus on the task at hand and produce your best work.  Or if Consider another example in which you are playing basketball and you disagree with a call made by the referee. Your natural response may be to lash out even if it increases the possibility of you being ejected and thus hurting your team’s chances of winning.  A robot is defined by its ability to carry out an action or goal often times in a cold, calculated and rational manner. Hence, in the predicaments described above, a robot would not dwell over a death or lash out at a referee because, statistically, these behaviors would hurt its chances of completing its task.  We as humans would like to be able to control our emotions; however, there are certain instances where we simply can’t; hence this is an example of how robots behave differently from humans.

 

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and relate to how another person is feeling.  The ability to empathize with another person is stimulated by one’s past experiences. For example if you have never felt sadness in your life, how could you empathize with someone who was sad?  You couldn’t. In this sense, because robots do not experience human emotion or human experiences, they ultimately lack the ability to empathize with humans. This is yet another fundamental concept that differentiates human behavior from that of robots.  Everyday, we as humans partake in experiences that trigger different emotions and feelings. Robots on the other hand do not and therefore cannot relate to us humans.

 

While robots currently cannot express human emotions or empathy, they relate to humans in structure, function and purpose.  This raises yet another fundamental question: Will robotic technology ever develop to the point where robots can express emotions and empathy, and if so how will we be able to distinguish us from them?  To answer a question such as that is difficult. However, what is currently known is that as humans continue to develop, so will our robot counterparts.

The Effects of the Nuclear Arms Race on the United States and the Soviet Union During the Cold War

Carter Liou

4/3/18

ST112-WA

Critical question: What were the effects of the Nuclear Arms Race on the United States and the Soviet Union?

 

Thesis:  While the Nuclear Arms race remained predominantly cold, the event itself shows the negative repercussions that weapon technology indirectly had on both the United States and the Soviet Union from a economic, political and societal standpoint.

 

Brief description: The Nuclear Arms Race is an example of technological advancement fueled solely on fear.  As the different ideologies of the US and the Soviet Union clashed, tensions naturally began to rise.  During World War Two, the United States’ original plan was to develop a nuclear bomb before Germany, however, their first detonation, labeled the Trinity test, ended up occurring two months after the Nazi’s surrendered.  Following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and consequently the end of World War Two, the United States refuse to disclaim their findings in Nuclear weapons, the Soviets received such information from Klaus Fuchs, a physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project.  With the Soviets able to create their first nuclear weapon, name Joe 1, the race officially began and both countries would go on to invest much of their resources into building their arsenal of nuclear warheads.

 

Outline:

 

Intro

  • Brief overview of topic
  • Thesis

 

Body

  • Paragraph 1:  Origins of nuclear weapons (end/post WW2)
    • World War two and fear of German atomic bomb
    • Use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
    • Post World War two regulations on nuclear weapons
      • Atomic Energy Commision
      • Baruch Plan
        • Soviet and US response
  • Paragraph 2:  The 1950s
    • The first hydrogen bomb
    • Sputnik 1
      • American general population reaction
  • Paragraph 3:  The Cuban Missile Crisis
    • Mutual Assured destruction
    • Treaty of nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons
    • Strategic arms limitation talks (SALT 1)
      • Anti Ballistic Missile treaty
    • SALT 2
      • Limits of MIRVs
  • Paragraph 4:  Reagan administration
    • Strategic defense initiative
    • Fall of Soviet Union and end of Cold War
  • Paragraph 5:  How the Arms Race can be held responsible for fall of Soviet Union
    • Economic disaster
    • Further ways nuclear technology corrupted Soviet Union
  • Paragraph 6:  How the Arms Race negatively affected the US
    • Society
      • Bomb shelters
      • Panic among citizens
      • Constant fear of total nuclear war
    • Politics
      • McCarthyism and Second Red scare
      • Corrupt policy decisions
  • Paragraph 7:  What is someone has pressed the button?
    • The idea of nuclear warfare being directly responsible for the destruction of two global superpowers
    • Seeing the negative effects of such technology in a more direct manner
    • Why did no one press the button?

 

Conclusion

  • Restate thesis
  • Discuss other arms races and current ones
  • Discuss modern day weapon technology

 

Bibliography:

 

“Cold War Influences on American Culture, Politics, and Economics.” Shad’s Blog, 4 Apr. 2010,tradshad.wordpress.com/writings/cold-war-influences-on-american-culture-politics-and-economics/.

 

Fuller, John. “How the Nuclear Arms Race Works.” HowStuffWorks Science, HowStuffWorks, 8 Mar. 2018, science.howstuffworks.com/nuclear-arms-race5.htm.

 

History.com Staff. “Cuban Missile Crisis.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cuban-missile-crisis.

 

“The Soviet-American Arms Race.” History Today, www.historytoday.com/john-swift/soviet-american-arms-race.

Perlo-Freeman, Sam. “Arms Race.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 23 Feb. 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/arms-race.

 

The Yin and Yang of the Two Cultures

Carter Liou

3/13/18

ST112-WA

 

In his 1959 Rede Lecture, C.P. Snow addressed an idea that would later spark debate over the divergence of academia in the Western world.  His argument was that there was an “ever growing” schism between the sciences and the humanities, which could ultimately be responsible for the lack of progression in solving global problems.  Snow would go on to criticise the British educational system, holding it accountable for misguided political leadership. While Snow presents the two fields of study, which he refers to as “cultures,” as being antithetical to one another, the two are actually not as black and white as he deems them to be.  A perfect representation of their relationship is the Yin and Yang symbol which illustrates that seemingly opposing concepts or, in this case, cultures, may actually be interconnected in small, distinct ways. Thusly, I will be comparing very stereotypical aspects of the two different cultures; for the sciences I will be examining lab based-research, and for the humanities I will be examining literature.  

 

The first way in which the two cultures overlap is through the integration of creativity. For a fiction writer, the need to have a creative mind is fairly self explanatory in the sense that in order to develop a story, the writer must develop something new.  In the sciences, creativity is not as obvious, but still essential.   In lab research, before an experiment can be conducted, a hypothesis must be developed.   This requires creative thinking through the formulation of something that, although may not be factual at first, is in itself new.  In this sense, creativity is necessary for the overall pursuit of scientific knowledge because all scientific research is conducted by first setting up a hypothesis.  Without creative thinking, progress in both the sciences and the humanities would not exist.

 

The second way in which the two cultures overlap is through an emphasis on precision.  The term “precision” denotes how closely a concept, story, or measurement is to the actual thing.  In the humanities, precision writing is an exercise where a writer learns to discriminate between essential and nonessential information.  The goal is ultimately to clarify and to highlight information that the writer wishes to convey to the reader. In this way, an exercise such as precision writing is helpful in honing one’s ability to compose the journals, articles and biographies that constitute nonfiction writing.

 

In lab research the use of precision is also important.  When conducting research, it is necessary to follow instructions and ensure that measurements are precise.  Precision is also vital to results in which a percent error can tell you how precise your data was. This is crucial and allows scientists to examine the mistakes that could have been made during the experiment.  Without the integration of precision in the sciences and the humanities, both cultures would struggle to produce reliable data and comprehensible writing.

 

While there are underlying similarities between the humanities and the sciences, it does not mean the two are one in the same and that one can equally divide their time in both and be successful.  Then again, to only dedicate one’s time to a single subject would not stimulate “well rounded” intellectual growth. The key is to find a healthy balance and to utilize skills that radiate from both sides of the academic spectrum.  

The Two Faces of Science

Carter Liou

3/6/17

STS 112-WA

 

When I think of the term science, words such as objective, factual, and unbiased are the first that come to mind.  This is no surprise, seeing as how the term “science” comes from the Latin word scientia, denoting knowledge.  The establishment and pursuit of scientific knowledge has long been conducted by means of setting up a hypothesis– which is then investigated through an experiment– and ultimately produces data.   This is, however, merely a facade: science, like any human activity, is not an objective product of human intelligence, but is rather subject to emotion and bias. The theory that science has been heavily influenced by society is supported by the fact that women throughout history have been mostly excluded from the field itself.  

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Women have faced discrimination in the field of science since the foundation of Greece.  For example, in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, women were often times viewed in a negative manner, and were subdued to prevent disaster.  This can be further observed in the story of Pandora and her box. Despite this negative outlook on women,  Greek Mythology incorporated goddesses such as Artemis, the goddess of hunting, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare, who symbolized very non traditional female roles at that time. However, they are consistently overshadowed by their male counterparts: for example, Artemis was said be less skilled than her twin brother Apollo.   

 

Greek mythology and literature, being incredibly misogynistic, had extensive influence over the Greek people.  The greek philosopher Aristotle was one of the first to argue that women had specific societal roles due to both their innate tendencies to appeal to emotion rather than logic, and their biological makeup representing a “mutilated man.”  Today, we know this to be far from the truth. The question that remains, however, is how could such a prominent figure in science such as Aristotle believe something as vacuous as the idea of women being mutilated men? The answer lies in the societal factors that plagued his time and that ultimately shaped his view of women.  That is not to say that I am defending Aristotle’s misogynistic opinions, or condoning his beliefs. Rather, I am arguing the fact that the influence of society extends to all people, including those who contributed to the field of science.

 

The 20th century was still faced with the same problem: an overall exclusion of women in science.  Despite the many successful women such as Though there have been many successful female scientists–Marie Curie, Rosaline Franklin, and Rachel Carson, for example– many educated men continued to believe that women were biologically inferior and were therefore unfit.  James Mckeen Cattell, a former professor at Columbia University, was one of the major drivers of this continued misconception of women. He stated that women had failed to succeed in departments assigned to them by men, meaning that they were not fit to work in scientific fields.  Not only was this false, but it also reflected the fact that women were still limited due to their sex and the preconceived notions that society had placed upon them. Again, society had triumphed over the so-called “unbiased” and “uninfluenced” image commonly attributed to science at the time.  

Today, we are still met with problems concerning the integration of women into science.  Improvements have been made [passive voice] , but the unequal treatment of women in many of the hard sciences still highlights the extent to which the field has been influenced by opinion.  Will science ever reach an equilibrium between men and women? The answer remains unknown, but what is known is that both sides will only reach a balance when society favors neither sex.  

Nature versus Nurture (or how society reacted)

Carter Liou

2/26/18

Nature vs Nurture.  

The debate over nature versus nurture is a prevalent theme in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  In the novel the reader is exposed to the atrocities that are committed by Victor Frankenstein’s creature. The question then is: Was it in the nature of the monster to be malicious or rather was it the environment that caused it to commit the heinous acts that it did?  In actuality, both the monster’s nature and the way society reacted to its existence can be held responsible for the murders that arise in the novel.

While Victor’s creation takes the form of a grotesque-like creature, the reader discovers, that despite its deformed appearance, the being possesses kindness, intellect and above all a curiosity concerning the society that surrounds it.  Sadly, these desirable qualities of the creature begin to fade as it is pushed further into isolation first by Victor and then by the people it encounters.  In some sense, the concept of nature and nurture are directly related when it comes to Frankenstein’s monster.  Its horrid appearance – its nature or natural state of being – has extensive influence over the way that both Victor and society treat the creature.  This can be seen in the fifth chapter when Victor flees from his house upon running into the monster, in the fifth-teeth chapter when the monster is driven away by Felix, and in the sixteenth chapter when it saves a drowning girl but is later shot at when a man believes that it is the accomplice.  All three of these instances fuel the monster’s hatred for mankind and ultimately lead him to kill his first victim, Victor’s brother.  In this way, although it is the mistreatment and isolation the creature experiences, that drives it to kill, it is its physical appearance that initially drives such mistreatment and isolation.  

Despite its monsteresque appearance, the reader soon understands, that at heart the creature is not a monster and that its actions reflect the suffering that it has been forced to undergo.  The concept of monsters is obviously a major theme in the novel as the storyline follows the life and actions of Frankenstein’s creature.  The question then remains:  If the creature is not the monster in the story, who is?  A strong argument can be made for its creator, Victor Frankenstein.  Although Victor is not 8 feet tall, or constructed from stolen body parts, he can be seen as the monster due to his passion in the pursuit of dangerous knowledge.  The creation of Frankenstein’s creature can be seen as surpassing the natural human limits of science, and is what ultimately sparks his alienation from his friends and family.  Furthermore, Victor’s hatred and endless obsession with destroying his own creation furthers his unnatural and monsteresque personality given that parents are programmed to protect and care for their children.  All in all, the novel shows the reader how monsters can come in all shapes and forms and fortifies the idea of the consequences of judging a book solely off of its cover.

The Never-ending Scientific Revolution

Carter Liou

2/20/18

STS 112-WA

 

The Scientific Revolution was a period of intense debate between science and religion.   Prior to the Scientific Revolution, a majority of the European population was uneducated, and the little schooling that was accessible was closely regulated by the Roman Catholic Church.   Their scientific teachings were heavily influenced by biblical theory and the science that had been provided by the Ancient Greeks.  For example,  the geocentric system– which was accepted by Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Ptolemy– argued that Earth was at the center of the universe and that the Sun, Moon, stars and other known planets all orbited Earth.  This way of of thinking was prevalent up until the Scientific Revolution, during which Nicolaus Copernicus developed the Copernican system that stated that the earth orbited the sun which was located at the center of the solar system.  In addition, the Bible also stated that the Sun and the Moon were perfect in form because they had been created in God’s image.  This idea was debunked by Italian philosopher Galileo who built a telescope which he used to examine sunspots and the craters of the moon.  The church, however, did not take these findings lightly as they continued to disregard the laws established by natural scientists throughout the Scientific Revolution.  

This debate continued long after such period in European history.  When Charles Darwin released his On the Origins of Species in 1859, he sparked a debate between the concepts of evolution and creationism that would carry on long after his death.  In 1925, the infamous Scopes Trial, where a highschool teacher named John T. Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in a public school in Tennessee, brought attention to the rejection of evolution and whether or not it should be taught in schools.

Today it is appropriate to say that we have entered another Scientific Revolution; however, the central debate revolves more so around science with respect to political ideals.  A primary example is the ongoing dispute over the ethics of abortion.  This debate fosters two opposing views: pro-choice which believes that the woman has the right to terminate the fetus, and pro-life which believes that the fetus has the right to be born.  Many differences stem from the abortion debate such as when the fetus should be considered living and what methods of abortion are considered humane.  

The most influential and perhaps controversial debate is the argument over climate change.  Although a minority of the U.S. population does not believe in the legitimacy of rising temperatures on the surface of the Earth, most accept this to be unequivocal, and therefore the dispute focuses more so on whether or not human activity can be held responsible for the rising amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.   The pro-side argues that the burning of fossil fuels by humans should be responsible for this increase and that a halt in the usage of fossil fuels is essential to stopping climate change.  The con-side argues that greenhouse gas emissions due to human activity are to small to affect earth’s climate and that the increase in temperature is rather due to the sun.  The argument has been further stimulated after the United States, controversially, withdrew the from the Paris Accords under the presidency of Donald Trump.   

As we undergo this modern scientific revolution it is important to remember that science will always be met with some sort of opposing force.  In this sense, the scientific revolution is not finite.  The purpose of science is to discover the new–and frankly the new may seem daunting– but without change, the human race cannot improve on the mistakes that it has made in the past.  

How do Kranzberg’s laws apply to the development and usage of the atomic bomb?

Carter Liou

2/13/18

ST112-WA

 

Although most people do not know of Melvin Kranzberg, his work in the field of technology has had a significant effect on the way society thinks of it.  Although the term technology is often associated with computers and other various other electronics, the term correlates to a much wider range of innovations ranging from the modern automobile to the invention of the chair or wheel.  One of Kranzberg’s most well known publication were his 6 laws of technology.  In essence, these laws should be seen as the Hippocratic Oath for those who are trying to develop influential technology.  Although many different technological innovations adhere to a multitude of these laws, very few adhere to all of them; one in particular was the invention of the atomic bomb.  

 

In 2000, Time Magazine released a list of the top one hundred most influential innovations of the the century; at the very peak of their list was the development of the atomic bomb.  The question then is, how does this technology abide by all of Kranzberg’s laws? The first law says that technology is neither good or bad; nor is it neutral;  by this Kranzberg is trying to convey the importance of context.  This is emulated perfectly in the development and usage of the atomic bomb.  By itself the bomb is harmless, it takes the detonation and an urbanized setting for the weapon to become destructive.  Furthermore, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be seen from both ends of the spectrum; from one end they were devastating and killed thousands of innocent civilians, but from the other they forced the Japanese government to surrender potentially saving millions of lives.  The second law states that invention is the mother of necessity.  Essentially Kranzberg is denoting that with the development of any great technology comes the need for other technologies to aid in its function.  The atomic bomb is no exception; without the redesigned Boeing B-29s, the bombs would have never been able to make it to Japan.  The third law exclaims that technology comes in packages big and small.  Literally, it perfectly describes the atomic bomb, however, what Kranzberg is referring to is the idea of how technology is usually composed of smaller more intricate pieces.  The fourth law states that although technology may take a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.  Kranzberg is saying that the usage and development of technology is highly affected by social factors which placed a lot of pressure on the US government to end the war quickly and without American casualties.    The fifth law states that all history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.  This law in itself is rather straightforward and a statement on which I agree.  Knowing the history how the atomic bomb came to be and how it was used can help explain a lot of history before, World War Two and US-Japanese relations, and after, the Cold War and the US-Soviet arms race.  The sixth and final law says that technology is a very human activity, and so is the history of technology.  This statement is heavily accurate with respect to the atomic bomb.  Although designed for mass destruction, the bomb itself presents no danger without human activity.  This essentially applies for every piece of technology that has been created; its only with the human influence that its purpose is fulfilled and its significance is observed.  

 

Although all of Kranzberg’s laws are important to take to heart, one in this instance surpasses the rest.  That is the fourth law.  While the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible and tragic, their story and the history of the atomic bomb help us to comprehend the power and influence that nuclear warheads possess.  Today, we face a serious predicament with the North Korean government who are threatening to eradicate neighboring countries such as South Korea and Japan with their arsenal of nuclear missiles.  To understand the history of nuclear warheads is the understand the present problems that pose a threat to humanity and how we can prevent them.  As George Santayana once said, “those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”

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