Sunday, May 11, 2014

Salt of the Earth and the Sugar of the Fruit

At first it was only for disease, the first was Thomas Milton, but after some time it became more than that. Next, they did it with appearance, changing things like height, skin tone and hair color, and after people started seeing results they only got better at it.  After this first generation of designer babies, that’s what they used to call them, had matured to adulthood it was clear that what had happened with them was only the beginning. The big change came when they discovered a way to make themselves smarter, that’s when the real divided started to appear.
Life here in the Crystal­[0] is wonderful, with anything you could ever desire available to buy. It is just so lovely how much time we have to just sit back and enjoy ourselves and go shopping with our friends. I usually work 20 or so hours a week, much like our tribal ancestors[17] who averaged only fifteen hours of work a week, I know that I work a bit more than most but I love my job too much to work any less. I graduated from college at 15 with a BS in Genetics and continued on to get a graduate degree in Genetic Engineering hoping to discover the next great g-mod[1].
Right now we’re working on making a way to add mods to adults using only the genome. The actual mod we’re testing the process with is a trivial one that creates a much more pronounced sternum, a decade ago this mod turned fashion on its head. There is currently some trouble we’re having with the update delivery system prematurely terminating customers, while rodent trials were successful enough, when we switched to Sugar trials there were unprecedented levels of intranuclear mutation. Of course  Genentech™[2] feels sorry for their families, but the importance of these trials outweighed the risks. It was all the same when I came on oh so long ago, and even though everything was a lot riskier back then it was by no means any less popular. Everyone with enough money would get it; even when it was new, everyone wanted their children to have strong immune systems such that they never got sick, it had people waiting in line for weeks hoping to be a part of the initial human human trials. But soon there was so much demand, and with the hope that we would start giving away our mods, that popular demand quickly lifted most of the regulations controlling what we had created.
When the G3 Convention[13] mandated basic health mods on all future citizens (less than half a century after the birth of Thomas Milton), it separated society into two groups, those who valued nature above all and those of us who recognized the progress at hand.  The law said no babies were allowed to be born unless there was documentation proving that they had the appropriate health mods. But back then that was relatively easy because they hadn’t discovered how to block Genentech™ patented sequences from reappearing in babies that came to term in the womb.   Genetic disorders and predispositions were eliminated from everyone except for a few fringe religious groups who hid.  With this improvement the rate of poverty dropped to an all-time low.  Medical research and advances stopped due to the strength of the new generation, except of course for the genetic research and those that refocused around it.  Quickly, people started to realize that the new genome could be made extremely robust and improved beyond the point of disease prevention.  First, it was the rich and the shallow who designed their offspring to be taller or fitter or thinner.  And thus, the first few Sugars[15] were born.  As this became more stylish, specialized loans were created such that families of more modest backgrounds were able to receive the benefits of the developing technology.   What came next is the most important development in scientific history: Dr. Natasha Dzheyms discovered the first intelligence modification based on the work done at BGI Shenzhen[3].  Sure, the improvement was nothing by today’s standards but it opened the flood gate for aersinology[4]. Soon a generation of the hyper-intelligents was born and the intelligence mods just kept coming after that and with it an ever greater flood of other technology. One of the earliest of such being the replacement of pregnancy with mechanical gestation and after that each new mod would nearly make the generation that invented it obsolete.
These intelligence mods helped bring together the governments of world in a way that past societies would have never expected, with the formation of a truly Global Government that brought the shards[5] together from all over the globe to form the three great Crystals[6]. In Hong Kong, Miami and Rome there stood one Crystal in each, recognizing the three great powers that brought the World together. Each of these Crystals were built to with efficiency in mind, incorporating cultures and styles from the entire planet and feeling very much like our home here in Miami. The true beauty of our crystals is that they are entirely self-contained and designed to create the ultimate convenience with homes, shops and offices all mixed into one so you never need to leave your facet[7]. With its own atmosphere, climate control does quite the job at keeping the entire Crystal at a perfect 22o C making it ideal weather for when one does leave their facet to explore the home they share with one billion other minds.
Even the Dirt[14] are able to live in the Crystals.  They work as farmers mostly.  They do not have any other choices because the Sugars out perform them academically.  I know I should feel sorry them but they and their parents before them chose to shun technology for the self-righteous idea that God made them in His image and they shouldn’t change His “work”.  Their concepts of beauty and intelligence are old fashioned and honestly ridiculous.  They wish to preserve nature but the synthetic surpassed nature long ago and as far as I’m concerned, there is no reason to hold back progress because it isn’t considered natural.

            The Saccharin[16] act like they’ve forgotten about us, the Salts, all trapped in their Sugar Crystals as if they’re protecting themselves from something. After being removed from the shards the lucky ones, Salts with family in the Government mostly, were sent off to the factories and farms that keep the Crystals running. When they ran out of jobs to give the rest of us, we were left outside the Crystals and had to form our own grains[8] in order to survive.  All we had left were our neighbors who shared our now destroyed home.
As a child I was told that there were a few hundred of us when we first settled, but after a couple of bad winters, our settlement had become rather small with only fifty or so people. We had lost a large portion of our grain to hunger, but  when portions began to shrink there were many more that left hoping to find somewhere with better land. After the first winter we quickly found Farming alone wasn’t going to give us enough food or nutrients to survive, luckily we had our basset hound, Beaux, who had grown fond of catching small game like rabbit and bringing it back to share with us and it would be pretty safe to say that if it weren’t for my dog we wouldn’t have made it through that winter. Thankfully as we shrank we became more spread out, which gave us room to grow enough food in the sandy excuse we had for soil.  Also, being so close to a river, even with the white color and harsh taste, made it extremely convenient for us to water our crops and get water for cooking.
Having been born in a hospital right before the Flood[9] I consider myself lucky, because it meant that my parents had been able to afford a legitimate health mod that protected me from the diseases of the wild throughout my childhood. Children who were secretly born without health mods weren’t as lucky, with many of them catching things like lyme disease and Cholera that even us Salts had never seen in any of the shards. Living in shards for so many years had caused the science of treating disease to become somewhat of a lost art, with our only knowledge of it coming from very old books that people had taken with them during the Flood. Those that had screens[10] brought them but quickly found them to be less than useful when there was no way of generating electricity to keep them charged.
Our tools and weapons were made of carved wood and scavenged metal, most of which came  from an old landfill that was a three days hike away from our grain. This landfill was disgusting to search and probably very toxic but proved useful when tools broke that we couldn’t be remade from the pieces. On my son Leiblich’s first trip to landfill with Pabulum, a more experienced scavenger from our grain, they got lost trying to navigate using the sun.  They happened upon some kind of mining operation after following a stream. Being curious they observed for a day and noted that most of the workers were there until after sunset with the same ones back to work all day shortly after dawn. When he had had enough of watching, Pabulum decided to get closer to try and take some of their fresh metal and told Leiblich to stay back on lookout, but he must’ve tripped some sort of sensor when he got near the opening in the gate because a quick piercing noise sent Pabulum to the ground. According to Leiblich, after seeing Pabulum’s death he was able to follow the stream that brought them there back to our river running the whole way back to the grain.
As a whole our grain considers itself to be rather intelligent, and as a whole I’d say that’s been spot on. With about half the grain able to read and write we’re rather exceptional compared to most salts before the Flood, and because of this we have grown a rather extensive library of books and texts that paint quite a rich history for us. However there is a text that I bought from a traveler long ago, that I would never dare share anyone else, which confirms an old story about how the Salts and Sugars got their names albeit much darker than any version of the story I had heard before this. The old stories always mentioned Thomas Milton, but nothing of his death. He was the first of the Sugars, only they were much more technical about it at the time he was alive. They claimed to have freed him of genetic disease that he would’ve inherited from his parents as well as adding genes, linked to improved immune function,  which they claimed would improve his long term health. This was met with violence by some organizations like the radical religious group Salt of the Earth, led by Reverend Emmett Dayton. Members of Dayton’s group were often charged with directing all levels of crimes towards Genentech™, mostly trying to destroy their labs and records, but the charges against Emmett were always dropped. On Milton’s 26th Ash Wednesday, Dayton decided to deliver his first televised sermon and to have Thomas Milton at his side. In his sermon that day Dayton managed to do something unimaginable, he gave Thomas a death by fire as a way for man to give up his ultimate sin of playing god by creating Thomas. The quote that stuck with people that were in favor with genomics the most from his reading from Proverbs 9:16-18 “Let all who are simple come to my house! To those who have no sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.” The majority of those against mods resonated with this message and joined the Salt of the Earth, which led to the origin of the term Salt. Knowing this to be the origin of our name, I am disgusted that the title of Salt was thrust upon me at birth. The gruesome nature of our tag makes me feel as if I have no choice in who I am or what I am called. Thomas’ gruesome public death was used to rally people to petition and protest at the then U.S. Government to remove all restrictions on modifying the human genome. With all restrictions dropped Genentech™ was able to hold a global monopoly on their technology charging almost anything for it.
Being on a river we see a fair share of traders come through our grain and with them comes news of the outside world. There was once a woman, much like the traveler with the text, that came through claiming to have been fired from her factory job when she was replaced with a machine[18] and had apparently seen an estimate census the Sugars had done in an attempt to count us Salts. This census placed the Sugar’s best estimates around 5 billion, with India and Africa together having almost 4 billion of those people that exist in a world far removed from the Crystals, with no salts or sugars, just people, paradise regained. God I hope that’s true…
With so many people in India and Africa having to share a disproportionately small amount of the few remaining resources on Earth after the formation of the Crystals, famine and squalor are more common for the people there than they are where the Salts have been made to call their home. If not for the death of Thomas Milton, then there is a perhaps these mods would have been viewed more objectively in their time and the Earth may not have been abused to the point its at now, preventing it from becoming the hell that we live in.
1: g-mod(s)/mod(s)/g-modification(s)/gene-mod(s)/gene-modifications: Modified genetic sequences that wouldn’t be found naturally and are produced by  Genentech™
2:  Genentech™: The largest, most powerful and profitable Company in the World; Controls 100% of G-mods; bought Pfizer shortly after the death of Thomas Milton; questionable relationship with most governments
3: Specter, Michael. "Michael Specter: Inside B.G.I., China’s Genomics Factory." The New Yorker. N.p., 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 04 May 2014.
4: Aersinology – the study of increasing intelligence
5: shard(s) – what they call cities from before the Crystals
6: Crystal(s) - Any of the three sealed Megacities of Rome, Miami, or Hong Kong that were built to put an end to all wars and bring humanity closer together in the pursuit of Science. All Crystals are connected by underground hypersonic rail. Conceptually and visually similar to the proposed Japanese Pyramid City which can be found at the link in [12]
7: facet – a neighborhood or section of a Crystal; each facets can more than adequately support the needs of each resident; infrastructure is shared across facets  
8: grain(s) - salts use this term to refer to their own settlements where they try to exist outside of the crystals.
9: flood - the exodus of the Sugars to the crystals marking when the Salts were forced out of the Shards
10: screen(s) - a battery powered computer the size of a large pen that unrolls to a screen with dimensions 8.5” x 11” and with more processing power than the entire world had 200 years ago.
11: Transcript of Reverend Emmett Dayton’s Sermon at the Burning of Thomas Milton:
DAYTON: Today, my brothers and sisters, we join together to rid this world of the man who has
risen above human beings to spit in the face of God. Thomas has had his biology altered—for
the sake of progress—and ignored the truth that God made all of us in his image. But now, we
have among us someone who would destroy God’s work—on a molecular level. And I ask you
this: what would Thomas want us change next?


DAYTON: Allow me, my people to read from Proverbs:
“Let all who are simple come to my house! To those who have no sense she says, “Stolen water
is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” But little do they know that the dead are there, that
her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.” Proverbs 9:16-18
Now, who is this she with her house of the dead, so inviting? She is sin. She is the fruit on the tree of knowledge and she has tempted us with the sweetness of eternal life but we will not eat of her sugar.


DAYTON: And today, we, the Salt of the Earth, good country folk, have brought before us a man
filled with hubris.


DAYTON: We have gathered on this Ash Wednesday to give the world its Lent. For Lent, the
human race will give up this biologic affront to God. Human beings have been tempted by Satan
and many partook but we, your children, will burn away the sins.

[Fire Crackling]

DAYTON: Now, Thomas, do you have any last words as you face the Almighty?

MILTON: Please—Please—I didn’t choose this. It was my parents. Let me go—[Coughs]—Help!

DAYTON: Very well. Let us pray. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

MILTON: No! Stop! Help!


FOLLOWERS: He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;

[Milton screams]

DAYTON and FOLLOWERS: He leadth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul;

MILTON: Help. Help.


FOLLOWERS: He leadeth me in the paths of the righteous for His name’s sake.

[End of footage]
13: G3 Summit was held in order to create international genetic engineering laws.  The countries of note in attendance were: The United States of America, The People’s Republic of China and The New Roman Republic.The first one passed The Health Mandate, which were adopted by other countries around the world shortly thereafter.
14: Dirt - A derogatory term for homo sapiens who have not been genetically modified or have not been genetically modified beyond the government mandates.  The preferred term for this group is Salts.  The origin of both these terms is the extremist group, The Salt of the Earth, that gained notoriety for burning Thomas Milton alive.  
15: Sugars - homo sapiens that have received genetic modifications beyond those mandated by the government.  The origin of the term came from a speech made by President Alighieri of the New Roman Republic during the first G3 Summit commenting on the Burning of Thomas Milton.  “The Tree of Knowledge is no longer forbidden.  We, the Sugars, embrace the advancement into a new era of strong and healthy children. ” -- President Alighieri
16: saccharin - A derogatory term for homo sapiens living in confines of the Crystals or with genetic modifications.
17:  Cohen, Yehudi (1974). Man in Adaptation: the cultural present. Aldine Transaction. pp. 94–95. ISBN 0-202-01109-7. "In all, the adults of the Dobe camp worked about two and a half days a week. Because the average working day was about six hours long, the fact emerges that !Kung Bushmen of Dobe, despite their harsh environment, devote from twelve to nineteen hours a week to getting food. Even the hardest working individual in the camp, a man named =oma who went out hunting on sixteen of the 28 days, spent a maximum of 32 hours a week in the food quest."

18: Kaiser, Tiffany. "DailyTech - Foxconn Receives 10,000 Robots to Replace Human Factory Workers." DailyTech - Foxconn Receives 10,000 Robots to Replace Human Factory Workers. N.p., 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 05 May 2014.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A final word - 5/2/14

Of all the ideas that I've talked about in my previous blogs which one would make the greatest impact on the world? However all of these concepts could have such a great impact on the world that it is unfair to think that we should only implement one of them. All of these uncommon ideas have so much potential, yet because people grow to accept their environment fewer people think them than they should.

In many ways some of the simplest ideas are the most easily overlooked, you would think that entire populations of people would rally for companies to be held responsible for the unintended consequences of their actions. In events such as the Bhopal Gas disaster where thousands died in the immediate aftermath when they could not escape the cloud of thousands of tons of pesticide which now causes birth defects and health issues for some seven hundred thousand citizens in the area. After five years they settled for a payment worth almost a billion dollars in todays money, however this was hardly enough to pay to treat the survivors at the time and now with so many young people indirectly affected by this there is almost no one fighting for them and nothing being done. A more general and global harm that has been done by corporations is causing bacteria to gain resistance to our antibiotics. By training doctors to over prescribe the strongest antibiotic possible since the invention of penicillin we have now reached a point where all of our strongest medicines are nearly useless against diseases like MRSA. Now the only thing we can do to fix disasters like this is act out against and fight the corporations that caused them knowing that eventually if the movement can garner enough support the cause can be successful in someway.

This inaction is much deeper than people disagreeing with ideas and what to act on, its much more that they don't see what's wrong with what's happening and just don't question it. Too often are people taught to just believe what they're told in schools without question from a very young age. However as they transition from children to teenagers they are never told that they should question the status quo and because of this the majority of people just accept the way things are. If people were to question the idea of consumerism and why they have been made to only feel satisfied when then they have more things then instead of a combination of over consumption and disparity being the norm there would be enough resources for everyone. If people were to become aware of what ads are doing to us, then they could ignore them and help spread the benefits of our techno society.

The most surprising part of these ideas isn't the tragedies that could be avoided, but that people accept them as the norm and do nothing to change that. Sure there are a few people that try to stand for what's right but it is not enough for much of anything in our society to change. If people were to be more aware of what's wrong with their ignorance and corporations not being help responsible for what they've done then that could change and people would stand up to try and change it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

working ourselves to depression - 4/29/14

Since the industrial age began, the pace of work has increased dramatically from the state it was once at with introduction of factories and mechanized transportation. However most of the world did much better than us in preserving their free time as technology changed the pace of the world. If we are to truly enjoy the benefits that modern technology has brought us, then we should be able to use them to our advantage so that we have more free time to do what we choose.
As the World has shrunk and we have become more connected, time has become a much more valued commodity than in the past. Since 1980 the number of people working more than 50 hours a week has increased dramatically among all but the lowest earning working populations.
Aside from this, a shocking number of employees are also required to keep their minds on work even on their time off such as the weekend or on sick leave. As people have begun spending more time at the office, these changes have led to a culture where people begin to stress over the question of  whether or not they should go spend time with their friends this weekend or work on that report they have to do next week. 

American jobs have historically been the most productive in the world, with productivity up more than 80% in the past 30 years however it has almost no tie to an increase in income for the majority of workers. Much of this increased productivity, which should help raise wages for all employees, is being used to make the top 1% almost two and a half times wealthier today than they were in the past and this is effectively making middle and working class people poorer as the living wage continues to rise with inflation their stagnated wages haven't even been growing to match it. If the majority of workers are to not see any economic gain, then should there not be some kind a labor revolt for pay to reflect productivity and how much their worth to the company?

Over the past century increasing productivity has become the most valued thing in any employee and this has led to a corporate culture where there is a constant pressure for more work to be done with the same or fewer employees. All of this pressure to work harder isn't even being reflected in employee compensation or leisure time. All of this has contributed to the overall reduction of happiness as the world has grown to operate faster and more complicated.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spending Wars 4/18/14

Since World War Two military spending and waste has been on the rise with no clear division between useful and wasteful spending. The lack of distinction between what will be useful and what is waste is a problem that leads to the treadmill of innovation which requires a constant input of money to keep it moving. Much of defense spending around the world is often justified with the deter-or-win rationale, and this leads to massive defense spending. If all countries were to abandon these strategies then conflict would happen at identical or lower levels with less spending on things that don't lead to societal improvement.

A large portion of defense spending goes to projects that are overzealous in complexity and scope that end up being canceled several years in due to time and budget constraints. With projects like the Future Combat Systems that would digitally connected every troop, weapon and armament on the battlefield to each other so they could communicate at a higher level and allow for more exact control of battlefield conditions. However this $190 Billion project was canceled several years into the project after billions had been spent, but had there been better cost-benefit analysis to see if the project would still be worth keeping even if the Department of Defense had to cut its budget at the time it was started then there's a good chance that this project would have never taken off in the first place and the taxpayers wouldn't be short nearly $20 Billion. Measures such as preventive cost analysis of a project that look into the likely-tude of projects running over budget and advising against a project if it is unrealistic in its scope are great ways to reduce unnecessary wastes that cause our defense budget to be the largest in the World.

For the history of warfare people have worked to have pointier sticks than their enemies, and it is this that has spurred the of development of weaponry. The greatest example of this being the gatling gun, which was created with the hope that it would make wars too gruesome for men to fight. However that was not the case and it laid the foundation for the machine gun, which has made warfare all too efficient for all men to carry out. If we stopped trying to make better weapons it would eliminate the issue of us killing each other faster every time we have a war which would leave more room for diplomacy to determine the outcome of war.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Transhuman Improvement 4/15/14

The concept of lengthening the human life substantially has been in the minds of men for thousands of years. Stories about so called Fountains of Youth date back as early as the 5th century BC. Modern technology could end up being this fountain of youth that we are looking for, however there is a large possibility of abuse that exists for technology that can lengthen or improve peoples lives and these technologies must be shared equally between all people.
Unlike the Fountain of Youth, Transhumanism is more than a folk tale or story it is a series of ideas on the state humans could obtain with technology if it were to be properly focused. They believe we should use our ability to screen for harmful genetic diseases in a form of altruistic eugenics to eliminate inheritable genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell that lead to death and health problems for all those affected. By screening for these diseases at conception parents can choose to abort fetuses that would otherwise live sickly lives and likely die at a young age. They also hope to be able to take advantage of ever shrinking technology to create artificial limbs and organs that could replace old or damaged ones that are no longer usable to their full capacity. By replacing limbs and organs dying of old age will become far less common as it will allow people to extend their ability to work and enjoy life even more than they do now. Combined these uses of technology could eliminate many causes of early and premature deaths that could easily cause significant increases in life expectancy.
By the nature of invention in the beginning many of these innovations will only be available to those with money. While genetic screening is available to those with healthcare, groups without it still do not have access to a quality of care that allows  them to take full advantage of modern prenatal care. This has allowed genetic diseases such as sickle cell which exists mostly among the black community to continue to thrive and cause death among the poor. Artificial limbs and organs that replace those that were removed by choice and not of necessity will be some of the most expensive and powerful tools to separate the rich from the poor. Currently these devices perform worse than their natural counterparts, but as technology progresses it is only logical that we will eventually be able to build body parts that are superior to their natural counterparts. This could cause a larger gap between the rich and the poor by putting physical differences as yet another barrier making it harder to change classes in our society. Unless measures are made before these technologies become recreational to prevent purposeful replacement of body parts and genetic testing is made free for all, then a gap of disease, lifespan and physical ability will be made between the rich and poor.
Combined these ideas have the ability to greatly improve the human condition for all peoples. However it must be carefully watched and maybe even regulated so that it is not abused to keep the current leaders in power or to oppress the poor.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Changing Sience 4/8/2014

In the academic world, and especially at the undergraduate level much of the research is done simply because it is funded and in someone's field rather than because of how much it will impact the world. This research can rarely be called fair for more than ten percent of the population since only that top 10% will be able to afford the product when it is released even if it were to affect them. We ought to focus spending and scientific resources not just on problems that are interesting or hard for scientists to solve or on things that could be easily monetized but they should focus on solving problems that can help as many people as possible.
Due to the way the current grant funding systems works, basic science in medical research has reached a point where it is hard to call it true science. Science relies on peer review in order to ensure the quality of research and that there are reproducible results. However the way that the current grant system is structure no longer lends itself to the continuation of that philosophy since grants are not awarded for peer review but for new and unique ideas on the treatment for an ailment. This flaw in modern research tactics is brought to light in 'Trouble at the Lab' by the economist, where at one point the author brings up a study by Amgen who tried to recreate 53 landbreaking cancer studies with the help of their original publishers and out of these 53 studies they were only able to reproduce to results of six. The market for biomedical research is a multi-billion dollar powerhouse on its own, with over $59 billion being spent in 2012 alone, and if only 11% or even 25% of the studies being done have reproducible results that's $40 to $52 billion being wasted every year on bunk research whose result could have been completely fabricated due to the lack of peer review taking place. Many of these groundbreaking papers with unreproducible results spawn research on similar subjects that could just as easily have bunk results. This wastefulness needs to be removed from the system by allowing more grants for scientists to peer review papers before they or other base more research off of them. This would have a two fold effect that could reduce the research costs for new treatment while opening the door to more research that may not have been done in the current system and both of these changes could have the effect of making more medicine available to more people all at a lower cost.
The most common drugs being created and pushed by Big Pharma aren't cures for rare and deadly diseases or even drugs actually cure diseases. Most drugs introduced today are designed and prescribed to treat symptoms of more complicated health issues that are often left untreated once the symptoms can be abated by medications such as lipitor, prilosec, viagra, and diabetes medications like Glucophage. All of these drugs have a whole host of side effects that can be treated by the other such as in the case of statins like Lipitor which are attributed to a 48% increase one's likelihood of contracting type-2 diabetes. While diabetes drugs are necessary for people with type-1 diabetes, the majority of diabetes cases are type-2 which should have a long term treatment that involves a change of lifestyle and not a permanent prescription, this is also true most cases of high LDL cholesterol and bad acid reflux. Pills like viagra don't even treat a real disease, they provide a change of lifestyle for the elderly who in the past would have had no choice but to accept that they can't have sex anymore. Pills like Viagra and for the most part Glucophage are the bread and butter of modern pharmaceutical companies that allow people to live an otherwise unnatural and unsafe lifestyle that can ultimately shorten their life. Much of this money that went into researching chemicals like these would be better spent if it went into finding cures for common diseases that affect millions like TB or distributing existing cures to things like dysentery and malaria to the people.
Changing the way and reason for basic science research could have significant impact on what comes out of the technoscience machine. Better enforcing peer review by allowing grants for researchers to peer review papers could reduce the waste of grant money on ideas and concepts that don't work, opening the door for other solutions and options to be developed and worked on. If Big Pharma were incentivised in someway with money or emotions to develop low cost cures to diseases that exist only among the poor then more sick people could be treated by the charities that work to help treat the ill in poor countries and they may even be able to eradicate diseases like TB completely like they did with the smallpox virus . All of these changes would lead to a higher quality of medicine for everyone and a better life for those without the money to access current medicines.

Politics of Engineering 4/1/14

Whether they know it or not most creators are politicians, all be it not in the way most people imagine politicians. By the nature of their field gives them a larger influence than most in the direction of future cultural phenomenons and the way people view innovation. Engineers should be both more willing allowed to exercise this power as well as not be punished as much for speaking out against an innovation or idea that they feel could be harmful or dangerous.
It can be said that necessity is the mother of invention and that may be so, but Engineers are the father of invention. As they are the driving force behind the shaping of their creation and have significant if not total control of of at least some aspect of the design process. There have been many times in the past where if an engineer had spoken up about or thought of a possible design flaw then many disasters could've been averted. Such was the case with the original Ford Pinto which had a fatal flaw that caused it to catch fire and explode in low speed rear end collisions. This design flaw was known by the engineers testing the car, however nothing was done about it because there was no one in the company willing to stand up to Corporate and threaten to refuse to work or inform the media about the dangers of the Pinto in the design state the was produced during its first production run. While it is not the fault of the engineers that this design reached production in the United States there is much more that could have been done to prevent this design from reaching production. The Engineers working on the Product could have gone on strike to delay the car from being released until a solution to their explosive problem could be found, especially since skilled labor like engineering is much harder to bust with scabs due to the time it takes to train new engineers when there is suddenly a gluttony of need for them. While this would work it could prove extremely difficult to throw a strike when employees aren't being disenfranchised, which is why whistleblowing and alerting the media of the cars flaw would have become known to the public and Ford would have been forced to change the car or face a public unwilling to buy their cars. However the way that Ford and its engineers reacted to the Pintos flaws was one of the earliest large scale examples of how large companies corporate culture had changed how it viewed customers to be no more than a line on a docket and not as people.
The digital age has brought on significant changes in the way people do just about everything, from communications to the way children play electronics have become embedded in our lives like television did in the 1950's. Mobile devices have embedded access to near infinite knowledge and distraction into our pockets and this has changed so many things about how we behave. In children and teenagers the structure of information availability on the internet has lead to reduced attention spans which may be able to be linked to attention deficit disorder, since the brain rapidly adapts to the things it is presented. In the business world these devices have created an atmosphere in which people feel like they must always be working just to stay with the pack and the feeling that in many industries the only way to stay ahead is with the use of chemical supplements. By speeding up society the internet has inadvertently created a culture which values work and near constant productivity over all else, which has lead to a reduction in leisure time in adults and attention spans in children and if these societal changes had been foreseen by the inventors of the internet who just wanted a faster way to exchange academic papers then we can only hope that they would have taken extra precaution to prevent the current abuse of the technology in its current state.
Engineers have a very large influence on the impact of what they create, however they often exercise very little of this influence or don't know how to properly estimate the impact of their inventions. If an engineer is to be true to their social responsibility, then they need to better use their ability to influence the impact of their creations in order for them to have the most positive impact possible.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nanotechnology the new boom 4/4/14

In many ways we are already living in the future, but with the key difference being that we don't fully understand the dangers of many of the things we do. In "A TINY PRIMER ON NANO-SCALE TECHNOLOGIES AND “THE LITTLE BANG THEORY”" they introduce the concept of nanoscale technology and how the properties of elements change at the nanoscopic scale. The author argues that the possible dangers and abuses of nanotech is unknown and because of that all implementations of them should be taken off the market until all health and safety concerns for each nano-material are resolved. However these materials have the ability to change the world and the way people live.
In medicine nanotechnology has led to breakthroughs that have the potential to revolutionize medicine by inventing new cures to diseases that don't exist in the wild, purpose built to remove certain infections. Making medical devices smaller allows more sensitive devices to be made cheaply on a larger scale, such as in the recently invented electronic tattoos that are printed directly on the skin and can detect things such as heart rate and hydration levels as well as electrical conductivity of the skin, and that's just with them being on the surface of the skin. This technology is relatively cheap and is easy to implement with only the possibility for improvement in the future with this being the first step to nanobots that are injected directly into the bloodstream to monitor a patients health. Even modern medicine has been changed by nano-technology, with sub-dermal glucose monitors that are so small they can be powered by the bodies natural energy and read via RFID chips attached to these almost impossibly small devices, and while sub-dermal implants are still on trial they show great promise to decrease the change in lifestyle for those afflicted with diseases such as diabetes and also show that implantable monitors are possible.
Due to their incredibly small size these nanomaterials have the possibility of being constructed on a particle by particle basis, meaning that  they can be built automatically at an incredibly low manufacturing cost. These molecular factories could be used almost anywhere to greatly reduce the cost of manufacture of these advanced materials, and allow people of all wealth classes access to them. Molecular assemblers could be used drive the price of modern medicine through the floor by making it extremely easy to produce any chemical or nano-device. Low cost medicine is key to preventing a quality of care gap between income levels that widen the divide between classes even more. If implemented properly nanotechnology could be used to make self replicating factories that are able to build products, chemicals and devices for several times less than we are currently able to and that would allow for more people to access the new technologies created by these nanomaterials.
To change the world would be introducing these technologies, and while they are not without their dangers the possible benefits of nanotech far outweighs any dangers that are realistic. While the green and grey goo's discussed in the Woodhouse text are scary they are unrealistic when compared to how nanotech is being used. With nanotechnology changing the way products as simple as sunscreen work, it is amazing that it can be found scary when it should be viewed as a tool to advance humanity and society to having not only a new level of control over its domain, but we will also be able to increase the quality of life of everyone with access to it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A new evolution - 3/28/14

With the pace of invention accelerating at an alarming rate society and the way people interact has been changed dramatically. The fields of chemistry, engineering and physics have allowed us to create fields like computer science, which didn't exist 100 years ago. This impressive pace of progress is moving to the field of biology, where modern technologies are allowing us to perform the unprecedented form of creating life from scratch, allowing for amazing new possibilities in all aspects of human life.
In confessions of a botanist the author, Martha Crouch, argues that much of the work she had done in the field of plant breeding and genetics research was misused by Monsanto to create the genetically engineered foods that dominate the markets we have today. With much of her research being implemented by these companies in a manor that allowed them to patent and sell the seeds to plants that could produce significantly more food than classical plants. This created a second green revolution that helped the world grow to hold over 7 billion people, with modern techniques of genetic engineering we could find a way to make new plant strains that are even more pest and weather resilient that can survive in much harsher climates, all while producing even more food in indoor greenhouse towers to feed the cities of the future.The author presents a tone of regret nearing malice when speaking of her past work and how it was used, but it was just a stepping stone to a nearly unrecognizable future where plants have been optimized to take as much energy from sunlight as possible in order to produce unthinkable yields of food in a highly efficient manor.
The invention of artificial life in 2010 was perhaps one of the most groundbreaking things to ever happen in biology. With the phi X174 virus being created by J. Craig Venter we have reached a new landmark in the science of biology that opens the doors to creating custom organisms to make us anything we need using renewable fuels that our machines cannot efficiently capture energy from. While this does open a two way door and has a possibility to lead even more deadly forms of warfare and terrorism, it opens a much wider door which will give humanity the means to continue prospering and even save the planet through renewable creation of gasolines, pharmaceuticals, or even metals that are currently very expensive to manufacture. Combined with the older techniques of genetic manipulation used by Crouch and her team it gives us the power to feed the world even more efficiently and maybe even save it.
These amazing advancements are a way we can use to avoid the catastrophe that will occur if we ever truly outgrow our environments ability to support us. By some genetic engineering may be considered playing god, and perhaps that is the case but it gives us the ability to do things that would've been thought impossible a century ago. Like electricity and the computer synthetic biology and GMOs should not be viewed as man playing with powers he should never control, but as tools we can use to change the World we live in for the better and why not change the World?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The failure of overconsumption engineering 3-25-14

Overconsumption is a topic that has been engineered into our culture for the sixty years since the Second World War. This idea was introduced in order to best capitalize on the massive production capacity we built up during the war. When introduced it was thought that this over consumption of goods by the general populace would be good for both business and the happiness of the American populous. However this idea has not proven true, and as it has spread through to more and more products it has decreased consumer happiness  in line with its spread through industries.
In Chapter eleven of the text, Woodhouse speaks about how the sheer volume of waste that goes into current manufacturing of products. With billions of pounds of waste being generated every year in the production of good, many of which cannot be broken down in landfills that will sit there for thousands of years leaching toxins into the environment and groundwater, many of these goods and made from chlorinated hydrocarbons which were introduced to make use of manufacturing bi-products. While there were possibly good intentions behind the reuse of the dangerous chlorine from the manufacture of paper, there was little research done to see if the chemicals they were making were dangerous or harmful to people and the environment. This type of advancement without research can cause harm and with so many companies coming with new materials all the time it becomes difficult for them all to be regulated and tested accurately.

This process of over monetizing has leaked into fields other than manufacturing and classical engineering, such as in the field of computer science where it has lead to a development cycle similar to modern manufacturing in that many applications are being split into smaller projects that can be more easily monetized. This can also be seen in smartphone apps and games where microtransactions and expansions have been introduced to allow developers to introduce content that makes the game easier for people willing to pay. By doing this they are able to make people more willing to part with their money for an inferior product and it makes the applications less enjoyable for people who don't participate in the cycle of paying for content that should be included.

The concept of over consumption has become deeply embedded in our culture to the point that it is not just accepted but expected. This mentality allows companies and manufacturers to sell incomplete products to allow the consumers an illusion of choice that ends in citizens becoming nothing more than mindless consumers with no choice but to buy more every time they want a new feature that they don't need.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In the tenth chapter of the text Breyman spends a lot of time talking about using the internet and other modern communication technologies to improve the representative ability of our democracy. With his main argument being that it would allow for significantly more people to participate in democracy all while raising the point that it would be incredibly difficult to implement without the help of the current system and massive support from the general public.
With the powerful impact that the internet has had on the way people interact, it would be surprising if there were little to no online forums for debate at this point in time and within a very short time I was able to find hundreds of websites that existed for people to debate the politics of their choosing. However finding independent forums for local politics that existed outside of news sites like the Troy Record proved too difficult,  but these newspaper forums still existed with a seemingly active user base and goes to prove the point of people being interested in debating current politics in an online forum. With all of these forums that exist they all have a central system of moderators that help to keep discussion on track but none of them seem to be the central authority for politics. With all of the interest that can be seen it could be the time for a central authority to form for political discussion. But this system would have to exist outside of the government because if there were to be controlled by the government any ideas that the current powers disagreed with could be moderated away and in a worst case scenario the people who posted those threads could be hunted down and arrested for suggesting a radical idea. Obviously such a scenario would only exist in a more totalitarian state than we have now but it is an eventuality that should be avoided at all costs. For example the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was started by a facebook event to protest the Mubarak regime which led to the recent Egyptian revolution.
Currently steps are being taken to implement democracy over the web, with initiatives like We The People at which allows anyone to submit a petition to the US Senate and if more than 25,000 people sign it the idea will get time and at least be mentioned on the floor of the house. This is an amazing first step towards people being able to more transparently interact with their representatives and effectively makes our democracy stronger. If we want to step away from the classical model of democracy that we have used for the last two hundred and fifty years we will need to take full advantage of our ability to integrate technology into anything to make it a corner stone of every citizens democratic authority.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Regulating the Regulators

Corruption has become an accepted part of the political fact set in the United States and it is becoming unsustainable. Since it has become accepted as fact that all politicians will end up taking bribes during their term people seem to care much less than they should, because when politicians start working for bribes they no longer work for the people that they represent but whoever is paying them the most. As Woodhouse says, this system does not make for a government that works efficiently.
As a representative democracy, our representatives should not be able to consider bribes and think that they can get reelected. In a day and age where politicians biggest concern is to be reelected it is important to try and find out why they  are not as concerned with helping the people that they represent. A model that was presented in the text was to pay our representatives significantly more to allow them to focus explicitly on their job rather than looking for ways to help them support themselves. However our representatives are by no means poor, pulling in $125,000 a year it is easy to understand why it would be difficult to make an argument for paying them much more than we do when our country is trillions of dollars in debt. A much better system that could allow our representatives to make as much as the average American, would be to introduce more fluidity into the representative system allowing for voter feedback on the performance of an elected official to have a greater consequence on a politicians career. A five star system similar to what RPI uses to control the Greek system could be implemented to watch over politicians and it could be done in an almost identical manor and presenting it to their electorate. If each local government were pressed to review these write ups and score them , a method could be devised that can punish or reward them based on how much they have done for their electorate.
This model of reward and punishment could have quite the impact on how politicians behave, especially as the worst offenders are forced out of office and barred from returning. If successful, this model could greatly reduce overhead as there would be no incentive for politicians to introduce 'pork' to a popular bill just because they were incentivized to do so by some corporation. It will allow for a new level of freedom for politicians to do what they feel is best for our country that hasn't been seen in over half a century.

Unions and Coops

The hierarchical model of  structural organization is a system designed to keep the majority out of power and has allowed for some of the worst labor atrocities of all time. Some of the worst conditions existed in mines and factories where people were forced to work long hours in extremely dangerous conditions in order to survive. This system was never fought or defeated until organized labor appeared and allowed workers to force management to give them some say in their working conditions. However these Union contracts are often very delicate and non-negotiable after the contract is signed. This system can lead to problems when the unions over negotiate and make it too expensive for a business to operate, as happened most recently with the GM collapse.
The biggest problem with systems like unions is that instead of actually getting a say in how the business is run, they only get to negotiate once. This leads to problems where unions over negotiate and this ends up causing problems between labor and management when they should be working together to ensure the company stays profitable. But this is rare in American business, and it is especially rare in large businesses anywhere. While some unions are better about this than other, for the most part their goal is solely to protect workers rights and compensation over the success of the company. A better system would be one in which the workers were better represented and informed about management decisions such that they were given a say in critical business decisions that could affect the workforce.
Workers and management should be equally represented in the business just like how every citizen is equally represented in the United States. If every worker felt that they were a partial owner of the company they worked at, then they would be more likely to put in their all every day to maximize productivity. Hard work could be even further incentivized if wages were based on a percentage of corporate profits rather than a fixed hourly rate.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Through the massive wealth that corporations are able to obtain they are able to take unreasonable risks for society. This is a problem that exists across multiple fields and industries in both the public and private sectors such as in the recent sub-prime mortgage crisis when the Lehman Brothers collapsed and were bailed out by the federal government as detailed in akadjian's article "25 images of markets regulating themselves". After the collapse they were able to successfully argue to the government that without a bailout they would be SOL and the economy would collapse. If this was the first time that big banks had asked for handouts then it might not have been as big of a travesty but it has been standard operating procedure for banks to take on extremely risky investments for the highest possible profit margins and when their investments fail they just ask the tax payers for a bailout. This happened first with the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company in 1984, with US Savings and Loans in 1989, 2001 with the airline industry, and again in 2008 with A.I.G. Lehman Brothers and several others.
When you look at how much money these companies are getting for messing it is completely possible to see how they justify making such risky decisions as what they did with sub-prime mortgages. Its as if their vehicle of profit is stuck in overdrive speeding down the highway not caring if it breaks down or crashes they know it can be fixed for free. When it becomes expected that the taxpayer will pay corporations for making mistakes and the average citizen can at best declare bankruptcy should they not get some compensation for the risk they are taking the brunt of? If the people have to keep supporting these businesses every time that they fail then they should become the property of the people and their profits should be used to reduce taxes. This could incentivise business to make less risky decisions while still keeping the company profitable, because if they need to be saved by the government they would then become property of the government. This would be good for both businesses and the consumer as it would allow them to return to profitability and reduce expenditure by using services the government already uses meaning that all of their savings could be given directly to the consumer in the form of cheaper services.