Is That Text Worth Death?

What has changed in your world in the past ten years? Likely, everything about your life has completely changed. Similarly, the technology world has changed immensely in the past ten years. TV’s have grown about 20 inches, computers have shrunk about 10 inches, and cell phones have evolved from cordless bricks to handheld lifelines that control our every move. Further, today’s cell phones give us the ability to send instant messages, send emails, update Facebook statuses, take pictures, use GPS, and a whole plethora of other applications. Many of these phones are more complex than your basic desktop computer! And while it may seem remarkable that we have limitless access at our fingertips, the extended capabilities of cell phones may be more detrimental than useful. One issue that may arise from this limitless access is texting and driving.

Since 2010, texting and driving has increased almost 50% (AT&T It Can Wait Campaign). The specific reason for this increase in texting and driving is unknown, but it has been found that texting and driving is even more dangerous than it once was (if that’s at all possible). Prior to touch screen phones, people were able to text without looking at their phones because they could feel the buttons. Today’s phones, however, require that we look at them because there are no buttons. Each time we look at our phones, we spend almost five seconds with our eyes off of the road (AT&T It Can Wait Campaign). Five seconds is enough time to travel across the length of a soccer field! And obviously, five seconds is also more than enough time to get into an accident. One report says that “texting and driving results in longer response times than even drunk driving!” A drunk driver only needs an additional four feet to start braking, while a driver who’s texting needs an additional 70 feet to begin braking (Cell Phone and Texting Accident Statistics).

So why do we continue to text and drive? Further, why are we still allowed to text and drive? Only fourteen states and the District of Colombia have banned texting and driving. Even more surprising is that only six states and the District of Colombia have prohibited driving and talking on the phone (Cell Phone and Texting Accident Statistics). With approximately 3,092 distraction-related deaths in 2010, you’d think lawmakers would crack down on this issue. Some argue, though, that it’s not the government’s responsibility. Do you think the government should put restrictions on what we’re allowed to do while driving? Or should we take it upon ourselves and just stop driving distracted?

For those who think we should take it upon ourselves to stop distracted driving: there’s an app for that. Recently, AT&T developed an app called “Drive Mode”.  Drive Mode is an app that once activated, disables incoming calls and text while you are driving. All calls go straight to voicemail and all texts and emails get autoreplies (if you choose).  Drive Mode also has an “allow list” of people that you’re allowed to receive calls from and make calls to while the app is running. Further, 911 is always accessible whether the app is running or not. If you choose to download this app, you are choosing to take the pledge to stop texting and driving. I already took the pledge. Will you?

If you are interested, take the pledge now! Do not text and drive. Someone needs you.

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The Reality of Science Fiction

Growing up with parents who were both major Star Wars and Star Trek fans I have been exposed to the world of science fiction since I was extremely young.  Within the realms of sci-fi, one major thematic element to offset it from reality is the presence of machines functioning in a manner similar to humans.  From the stiff, mechanical movements of C-3PO to the fluid human-like grace of the android Data, robots have existed as a marker for the undefined “future.”  Well, this future is much closer than many believe it to be.

This video is several years old now and the project has come a long way since then, but it is still one of the best introductory examples of AIST’s Cybernetic Human HRP-4C “Miim.”

Although Miim is still a work in progress, she is able to perform basic song and dance as seen in the video.  In addition, Miim runs on a basic form of artificial intelligence to respond to human verbal input and can even generate facial expressions to fit the mood of the conversation.   Also, she is capable of walking smoothly based on the mathematical algorithms presented at the 2010 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Taipei, Taiwan.  Since then, the HRP-C model has been further refined, and versions of her shell as well as operating system have been incorporated into a number of practices, including the dentistry field where the robots are able to react to stimuli such as pain or a gag reflex while being able to communicate where the pain is experienced.  Additionally, the dentistry models are capable of basic human functions such as coughing, sneezing, moving their tongue, attempting to talk with tools in their mouth, etc.

Although their artificial intelligence modules are not fully developed yet, mankind is faced with the inevitability of having to deal with a question it has long avoided.  As people are already having a hard time dealing with the fact that the internet is becoming as much a reality as the physical world, how will society react to the introduction of an artificial person?  Will they be integrated into society as full citizens or will these machines fully capable of thought and feeling be oppressed, enslaved, and/or mistreated simply because they are not organic?  Unfortunately only time will tell, but until then humanity must prepare itself mentally for these ethical questions which will be faced in the very near future.

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Why social media can’t change the world

On April 20, 2012, the entire world changed forever. Inspired by Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign, millions stormed the streets in protest of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group. These die hard activists stormed the streets armed with posters, t-shirts, and novelty buttons. Overnight, decades old conflicts were solved, Kony was arrested, and justice was served.

The only unfortunate downside to April 20 was that the world didn’t change forever. The millions of protestors turned out to be only a few hundred. The novelty items turned out to be ineffective weapons against the harsh realities of the African continent.

In 3 days, the video garnered 21 million views, and today, the total view count sits at over 90 million. Yet unbeknownst to many Youtube viewers, watching a video is not equivalent to engaging in social advocacy. This had led some to accuse Invisible Children of promoting slacktivism.

They argue that the oversimplification of complex situations into easily digestible social media bites undermines legitimate activism.

However, others reply that awareness campaigns are beneficial, and provide a social outpouring of support that is used to enact real, lasting change.

What do you think? Is Kony 2012 simply a bad example? Can social media really change the world?