Artificial Intelligence

There are so many different technologies that have come to the forefront in the past few years. Whether it is new advances in medicine, advanced weaponry being used by militaries around the world, or incredible innovations being made in the entertainment industry, it seems as if there are news stories about amazing new technologies popping up everyday. One technology that has received a substantial amount of news coverage in the past few years, though has been around for decades, is artificial technology. Various forms of artificial technology have been around for decades; however, there have been many new innovations in the past few years that have caused many people in the scientific community to be very excited. This paper will focus on artificial intelligence’s role in the world today, having a focus on the representation of artificial intelligence in popular culture, and what new innovations in artificial intelligence mean for the future.

Artificial intelligence is defined as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” Now when people see this definition, and think about the term “artificial intelligence” in general, they tend to think of very advanced forms of this type of technology. These people hear the words “artificial intelligence,” and immediately think of humanoid robots or super-computers that can solve complex equations in less than a second. While these are perfectly valid examples of artificial intelligence, and will be discussed later, they have only been developed within the past few years and have little value in the everyday life of most people. There are far many more examples of artificial intelligence that people seem to forget about and actually have a practical use in everyday life. Many things that you use in your everyday life are forms of artificial intelligence without you even realizing it. For example, anytime you use a calculator to solve a math equation, you are using a form of artificial intelligence. It is considered artificial intelligence because it solves equations by simply inputting data, something that would normally require human intelligence to accomplish.

A second example of artificial intelligence that one uses in everyday life is a smartphone. It seems that wherever one goes, he/she sees someone using a smartphone. Now, it is more surprising when someone doesn’t have a smartphone than when someone does have one, something that was reversed only five years ago. Although a smartphone in itself is a form of artificial intelligence, its various apps, or applications, are forms of artificial intelligence themselves. Various diet apps can keep track of calories and determine a daily food plan. Cameras can take photographs and automatically post them to various social media sites such as Twitter or Instagram. Workout apps can automatically keep track of the amount of weights lifted in various exercises and even suggest alternative exercises based on one’s type of workout. Smartphones will even be able to track emotions and daily activities in the near future. In a report by the MIT Technology Review, researchers at Microsoft Research Asia have developed a software that mimics brain functions called “deep learning” (Metz, 2015). This software will be able to recognize facial expressions to decipher one’s emotions and even, through an accelerometer placed on one’s wrist, determine if someone is performing such activities as eating a bowl of soup or brushing teeth. These forms of artificial intelligence in the product of a smartphone are incredibly exciting as we move forward; however, the most popular and thought of artificial intelligence when it comes to smartphones has to be Siri. Siri, or Cortana in Androids, is a form of artificial intelligence that can answer almost any question asked to it. It does this by sorting through answers on the Internet or providing answers by searching the vast memory available to smartphones. Although this type of technology seems ordinary today, five years ago this type of technology was absolutely revolutionary. Being able to ask a machine a specific, personal question and receive a specific answer in return was something only seen in movies; however, now it is a reality.

I have always been interested in the idea of artificial intelligence, and what it could mean for us now and in the future. One medium in which artificial intelligence has been very prevalent, and a medium that I have enjoyed immensely throughout my life, is movies. I have always had a fondness for movies, especially sci-fi/action ones. One thing many of my favorite movies, including Star Wars, Terminator, and Avengers, all have in common is they heavily feature artificial intelligence. In Star Wars, the audience is introduced to C-3PO, a humanoid robot that assists the rebels.  The cyborgs in Terminator are sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor and her son.  Avengers has Iron Man’s artificial intelligence, named Jarvis, assist him with tech development, and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron will see the team square off against a form of artificial intelligence in the maniacal robot Ultron, who is attempting to eliminate the human race.  What has always intrigued me about these movies is that humans either have to rely upon something that is clearly not human, as such is the case with Star Wars, or destroy a technology that man originally made to help the human race.

In my own life, I have experienced and used a multitude of examples of artificial intelligence. One of the first experiences I can vividly remember of using a form of artificial intelligence is when my parents bought their first GPS. A GPS, or global positioning system, is a form of artificial intelligence that can accurately determine the location of a person and calculate the most efficient route to the destination that person is trying to reach. It is considered artificial intelligence because, basically, it is a computer system or series of systems that does a task (give directions) that would normally require human intelligence to do. I remember being in awe of how the GPS knew where we were, not understanding the concept of satellite tracking. I was in further awe of how the GPS could search for a multitude of different businesses and places, including restaurants and gas stations. Nowadays, it is fascinating the level at which people depend on a GPS for navigation. Whether it is on their phone or a traditional setup, most people would be unable to navigate a few miles from their homes. Many people do not even know how to read a map anymore. A second form of artificial intelligence that I have a lot of experience with is video games. Video games are an example of artificial intelligence when instead of playing against another human opponent, one plays against the A.I., or commonly referred to as the “computer” by gamers. When playing against the “computer”, it makes decisions in the game that a human opponent would normally make; additionally, one can set the A.I.’s difficulty to easy, medium, or hard, depending on how difficult of an opponent one is willing to face.

There have been many positive outcomes that have come from the use of artificial intelligence in our world today. One field in which innovations in artificial intelligence have significantly helped those in the field is the field of medicine. For example, there are now devices that can be implanted into a person’s body that release the correct daily amount of medicine that person needs. Additionally, there are machines, such as life support machines, that are able to keep a person alive and keep track of vitals such as heartbeat and brain function. A second field in which innovations in artificial intelligence have been made is transportation. For example, pilots can now turn on the auto-pilot feature of an aircraft that will fly the plane by itself. This significantly reduces the stress pilots face. A third field in which innovations in artificial intelligence have been made is the military field. For example, there are now drone technologies that can locate potential terrorists and predict where they will be and the potential threat they can be. Not even ten years ago, this type of technology was only seen in science fiction.

Artificial intelligence is one of the primary scientific issues that has received many ethical and cautionary questions in the past few years. There are still a large portion of people who fear what artificial intelligence may do in the future.  In regards to AI in industry, these people fear that this technology will “eventually…think faster than us and…get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently” (Holley, 2015). An example of this already being done has to do with the various automobile factories around the country, and even the world. Many automobile plant workers have been laid off because companies are deciding to use robots to build the vehicles instead. They are doing this because it costs less money and is more efficient. Famous scientists/technologists such as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and recently Steve Wozniak have all expressed their concerns with the emerging dependence on artificial intelligence. Extremists among this group fear these devices of artificial intelligence, in time, will become so powerful that they can be used by those in power to cause harm to others. In Langdon Winner’s article “Do Artifacts Have Politics?”, he states that a form of technology can be democratic or totalitarian. It simply depends on those who use the technology, and the same can be said for those who use new innovations in artificial intelligence.

In conclusion, artificial intelligence, in short, is a technology that uses a computer system to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence to do. Although there are forms of artificial intelligence that are very advanced, there are also examples of artificial intelligence, such as calculators, that although are simple, yet very useful in the lives of everyday people. Artificial intelligence has been portrayed in various movies over the years, both in a positive and negative light. Although there have been many positive outcomes from the development of various forms of artificial intelligence, including innovations in transportation and medicine, there are still many people who are cautious of continuing to developer newer and newer forms of artificial intelligence. The verdict is still out whether or not these new innovations will end up harming or helping the human race.

Works Cited

Holley, Peter. “Apple Co-founder on Artificial Intelligence: ‘The Future Is Scary and Very Bad for People’.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 01 May 2015.

Metz, Rachel. “Deep Learning Squeezed Onto a Phone.” MIT Technology Review. MIT Technology Review, 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 01 May 2015.

Winner, Langdon. The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1986. Print.

The Technological Changes of Music Production

As the world becomes more technologically advanced, we see can observe many changes that have taken place. Music production is an area where this is just as apparent. If we look back just 100 years, more technologically advanced countries are almost unrecognizable from their dated counterpart. Music has almost fundamentally changed over the years. But, how has ever-advancing technology changed the core of music production? This paper sets out to observe the recording process to collaboration and the changes that have taken place as technology has advanced, beginning with the recording process.

One of the first and most fundamental changes that has taken place in music production is the recording process. When music was first being recorded and produced, the musicians all had to get together in one room and record their song until they all played their parts perfectly and with minimal error. The song structure was strictly limited to what the band had decided on, before any recording took place. The sound of the instruments and vocals were also pre-determined. A lot of thought and effort went into writing and practicing this so that their song would sound exactly as they had planned. The effort was all in the pre-recording phase. Today, most of the effort goes into editing in the post-recording process.

Unlike music that was recorded in the past, song structure and overall sound is developed after the recording has taken place. The pre-recording process still requires a certain amount of preparation and planning. However, the majority of the work takes place after the recording is finished. The artist is no longer limited by what the instrument or vocals sound like as they are being recorded. Any recording can be tweaked and altered to fit whatever sound they desire. If the artist or producer prefers a higher octave or a different note in the recorded vocals, they can simply edit it without needing the vocalist to come back in and re-record it. This opens up incredible possibilities of song structure and sound that can have an intense effect of the mood of the listener.

When thinking about how the song is to be structured and what mood the listener should feel, the artist is open to a wide variety of possibilities. In electronic dance music (EDM), the song’s structure plays a huge roll in the effect the song has on the listeners. There are many different techniques that are used in EDM specifically used to hype the crowd up. The techniques are used to give the listener to feeling of being lifted off of the ground, filled with anticipation, and then dropped back down to the ground. These techniques are analyzed and explained in an article called “Waiting for the bass to drop” by Ragnhild Torvanger Solberg. Solberg used commonly used terms such as “build up”, “drop”, and “uplifters” to describe the production techniques that are used. He also introduces a new term, which he calls the “drum roll effect(Solberg). The “Build up” refers to the part of the song that gives the listener an increased feeling of being lifted. “Uplifters” refer to the kinds of effects the artist will use to enhance a “build up” section. The “drop” is the part of the song, at the end of a “build up”, where the listener gets the sensation of being dropped back down to the ground after the feeling of being lifted. He describes the “drum roll effect” as “a frequently used technique in newer EDM where the prominent rhythmical pattern, often the snare drum, becomes increasingly divided until the return of the core, starting out with quarter notes and culminating in a drum roll right before the bass drops and the bass drum returns.”(Solberg) Solberg’s article goes onto explain the effects by using a spectrogram of a song’s (“Icarus” by ‘Madeon’) wavelengths to provide a visual of the production that takes place.

music

You can see from the image that the song’s frequencies show a clearly visual increase as it approaches the drop and into the core section of the song. These production techniques create an unmatchable mood shift that can only be achieved through modern, post-recorded editing techniques. This fundamental change in technology opens the artist up to be able to alter the sound bytes to intensify the emotion desired. This technology allows artists to move away from the idea of writing a song and recording the “one perfect take” to more compositional piece in which the artist has total control. This opens the floor up for an even greater element of creativity: collaboration.

With each artist’s album release, each album gets better, or more complex. This complexity can be viewed as the artist growing and mastering his or her craft. This is without a doubt a factor in the evolution of all artists during their careers. However, one big reason that the music becomes more complex and involved is the new people and technology that they are introduced to through the technology of music production and producers.

The average person does not give much thought into the amount of production and collaboration that goes into making this new album what it is, which is mostly done by relatively anonymous producers. In some cases, the original artist has little to do with the overall sound of the album. The record company will generally hire experienced producers and engineers to master and re-master the song ideas. The artist may have originally written the song on an acoustic guitar to plan out what chords, timing, and vocal melody he or she wants the song to incorporate. Then, the artist will sit down with a producer and begin to record. The producer, depending on the artist’s contract with the record company, has the final say in what chords to actually use and what lyrics to sing whether the artist wants this or not. Typically, it’s, economically, for the better, because the producer has a better feel for what demographic the particular artist is appealing to. Max Martin is a famed record producer with over 17 #1 hits that he either co-wrote and/or produced. Including: Katy Perry featuring Kanye West, “E.T.” 2011, Maroon 5, “One More Night,” 2012, and Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” 2012(Billboard). “He ranks behind only Paul McCartney, with 32, and John Lennon with 26(Billboard). This is an amazing feat in the field of music writing. That being said, it’s astounding to think that he is still relatively unknown to the average person. These top artists owe a huge debt to Martin for his expertise in writing and mastering their songs. His skill in appealing to the masses and, particularly, to the artist’s target demographic. In an interview, Martin said this, “I think the ‘target market’ and ‘audience’ tends to come with the artist. If I’m doing something with a young pop artist I may not choose to have a brass section in a song, for example. Sometimes you have to think about what the artist already is”(Ask Billboard). Although these producers work behind the scenes, popular music today would not be the same or, arguably, as good without their expertise and the technology they use to master the tracks. Technological changes and the exploitation of collaboration have no doubt changed the direction, style and execution of music. But, there is some controversy surrounding one element of collaboration. Often times, a less consensual form of execution. This is called sampling.

As one listens to popular music, whether it is on the radio or in one’s own personal collection, one cannot help but to hear a piece of another artist’s music embedded within. This can be subtle to the point that it goes unnoticed by the average person. It could be in the vocals, a guitar lick, or something as small as the drum kick that only comes in once every 3 bars of music. But it is, in essence, a rip off of the original artist. This technique is called sampling. The perspective of the original artist varies case by case. Some are ok with the idea of hearing their voice or drum beat incorporated into other songs. Others are furious that their work has been copied and pasted into someone else’s work for their own benefit.

There is a lot of gray area to this issue. There are laws in place to help rectify the matter. But, is this enough to keep all parties happy? Even in the event that strict permission is given, there have been parties that have felt wronged. An article by Molly Mcgraw helps shed some light onto this issue. She tells the story of David Johnson and Jan Hammer. “David Earl Johnson who allowed computer-keyboardist Jan Hammer to sample his drum sounds on rare, eighty-year-old Nigerian conga drums. Later, after Johnson recognized his drum sounds running through the entire Miami Vice soundtrack, he sought payment for what he perceived to be his contribution to the composition. He was told by Hammer’s manager that he wanted ‘money for doing nothing’ and the American Federation of Musicians refused to take his case.”(law.berkeley.edu) In this case, there was arguably nothing done wrong by Hammer. He asked for permission to use Johnson’s drums sample and Johnson gave it. Johnson could have been more specific about the limit of usage of these. But even the legal system has no test case that a court can use in a copyright case. Each lawsuit must be individually decided on a case-by-case basis based on whether the sample used is original to the plaintiff. The law states that “Originality denotes only enough definite expression so that one may distinguish authorship, i.e., there must be an identifiable element of personality.” (law.berkeley.edu) So, with these safeguards in place, it makes it easier for artists to win in a lawsuit against copyright infringement. However, the problem lies in whether or not the original artist’s music can be discernable on the track. Frank Zappa was the first to fully protect a full album from copyright infringement from sampling down to the wave pattern level. It requires more effort and money to get this type of protection than what is provided at default from simply recording and distributing an album. Should the law be changed to protect the artist further by default? This issue definitely deserves some more legal attention to decide what the limits should be in regards to sampling. However, this advance in technology has the ability to enhance the effectiveness that music has on mood the listener.

As music becomes more digital and become stored into massive databases online, it creates an incredible archive in which one can pick just the right elements to create a composition of emotion and intensity. In a book by Ann Cvetkovich called An Archive of Feelings she talks about an “archive in which my own feelings are deposited”(Cvetkovich) that the artist Le Tigre created with the songs they played at a live concert. This same concept can be applied to the archive of recorded music available online. Through the advances in technology, an artist can select and modify any one sample of another artist’s work and, with permission, can create an emotional masterpiece for the world to become engulfed by. This level of depth could not be achieved without the more recent advances in technology. And it is exciting to see what the future holds for musical technology and production.

Works Cited

“Ask Billboard: Max Martin Notches Another No. 1.” Billboard. N.p., n.d. Web.<http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6327746/ask-billboard-max-martin-notches-another-no-1&gt;.

Cvetkovich, Ann. Archive of Feelings. N.p., n.d. Print.

“Max Martin Interview – Popjustice.” Popjustice RSS. N.p., 27 Apr. 2009. Web.<http://www.popjustice.com/interviewsandfeatures/max-martin-interview/49884/&gt;.

“SOUND SAMPLING PROTECTION AND INFRINGEMENT.” SOUND SAMPLING PROTECTION AND INFRINGEMENT. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.law.berkeley.edu/journals/btlj/articles/vol4/McGraw/HTML/text.html&gt;.

TORVANGER SOLBERG, RAGNHILD. “Waiting For The Bass To Drop”: Correlations Between Intense Emotional Experiences And Production Techniques In Build-Up And Drop Sections Of Electronic Dance Music.” Dancecult: Journal Of Electronic Dance Music Culture 6.1 (2014): 61-82. Academic Search Complete. Web.

Apocalyptic Fears

There has always been a fascination with the idea of the apocalypse and what that would look like. Today, there is a significant focus on a zombie apocalypse, which is where a disease infects a human that kills the host but the disease lives on feeding off human flesh; however, when a human is bitten, this infects that human, and thus leading to a worldwide viral outbreak where everyone are zombies. This seems completely irrational; but yet, this idea has attracted a large audience. What makes people attract to this idea? It could be that it is very close to real factors. For example, the idea of “zombies” sounds too sci-fi, but the idea of a disease wiping out a large population is not so unrealistic. So, it could be a matter of how fear can effect how one views the apocalypse. Therefore, one can narrow their thinking in a way to relate to why people are attracted to these apocalyptic ideals; fear fuels the reality of an apocalypse in two ways: Through what is heard and through what is seen.

An example of how fear can fuel the reality of an apocalypse through what is heard is the radio broadcast of 1938. During the eve of Halloween October 30, 1938, Orson Welles, famous theatre director and radio actor, broadcasted a drama of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, in what seemed like a serious news broadcast. During this time, people would eat dinner and then sit down to an evening of listening to the radio. Turning the dial, listeners were scanning the stations to find something to listen to; however, most missed the introduction that included the disclaimer that the following broadcast was only a dramatization, where Martians invade earth and begin killing everyone in sight. Within a half hour of the broadcast, panic filled the streets and Orson Welles was being forced to take a ten minute break to reassure listeners that this was only a fake broadcast, but most listeners had already packed their bags and were trying to leave the city. It was a major moment in history because the fear and panic of what could be a real Martian invasion caused thousands to tremble and some to end their own life (War of the Worlds). People were enraged by this fake news broadcast. Later, listeners on that fateful night were interviewed to explain what was going through their heads at that moment. This is a real life example of how fear can impact the irrationality of emotion. The mind is able to play a role in manipulation of what is real or not. This example shows how one can take a simple act of trickery and impact the lives of many into believing something that is clearly fiction. One listener admitted that as he was in his car leaving the city, and because he heard this broadcast and it was late at night that he could literally see what looked to be Martians over the trees. Of course, it was a fiction of his imagination, but due to the realness of the broadcast, it caused his mind to see what was not there.

One view of the apocalypse that was popular during the mid-to-late 1900s was that a nuclear warfare would take place, resulting in the destruction of the earth. People were terribly frightened that the world was going to end because of the creation of Atomic Bombs. Cities were destroyed and many lives were devastated because of these acts of horror, and because it was so real, fear took hold of the minds of many. Thus, books and films were made to capitalize on this fear, to create an imaginary world after a chemical warfare. An example is the film, Book of Eli, in which the earth was scorched and in desolation because of a world war. The characters live in what looks to be a desert ruin, scarce food and minimal water cause many to resort to robbery and murder (The Book of Eli). This film shows the imaginative world in a post-war setting. While some might not think this is a valid outcome, this work of fiction can trigger fear in the lives of many just by the mere thought of it. This is an example of how fear can fuel the reality of an apocalypse. In the fact, during that time; people saw countries making these bombs and saw the test sites where bombs were tested. Less than a decade later after the Orson Welles broadcast, Hiroshima and Nagasaki became the first cities in the world to witness the power of nuclear weapons. Therefore, what one sees can dramatically effect how people react to these apocalyptic ideals.

Now that there is a baseline for this topic, it is important to know the application of fear. Fear can be a broad area to focus on because so many fears are associated with many different things for different individuals. However, it is important to know what fear is or is not. Fear is a cognitive perception of one thing or another. In an anatomy class, one can learn about “the flight or fight response,” which is induced by fear and danger to either run away or fight. The initial response is in the amygdala, located in the brain, that signals to the adrenal medulla, which is located just above the kidneys, responsible for hormonal secretion, including adrenaline. Furthermore, these organs result the natural response of fear in a given situation. Although, as mentioned previously, it is a perception issue, so a fear to one person may not be a fear to another.

Depending on how one is raised can determine how one perceives the application of fear what is important to be afraid of or restrain from. Religion is one building block of how this can be viewed. According to Richard Eckersley in his essay about apocalyptic fears, he illustrates that “fundamentalism refers to the retreat to the certainty of dogmatic beliefs, whether secular or religious. In an extreme form, this is ‘end time’ thinking” (Eckersley 37). Here, Eckersley shows a view from a Christian standpoint that this belief is to illustrate the fear of the Rapture taking place. So, depending on family belief systems, it can influence how one perceives the apocalypse to take place.

Fear is always a response to a situation or in anticipation of that situation and has many responses including freezing, chills, sweating, and screaming. When presented with a frightening situation, the body’s response could include, but not be exclusive to, what is listed above. Fear is closely associated with anxiety too. One can physically feel the response of anxiety: heart rate increase, overwhelming feelings, depression of what might happen. So, with fear being so closely associated with anxiety, it can effect how one handles a situation, whether they dwell on it or let it go. A lot of depression issues are due to anxiety, which can be a response to how one handles fear. Depression is a big issue in the U.S. along with many other countries, but one could argue that it is due to the fear of the unknown. Fear tactics have been placed on every person in one way or another. In Christianity, the fear of the Rapture is always in the forefront of people’s minds. When Year 2,000 came, many people believed that the Rapture would take place, but it didn’t. People actually committed suicide or caused violence in response to what they believed to be an apocalyptic time. It’s interesting and scary to see how far people will go if they think it is the end of days.

In Naomi Oreskes’ essay, “The Collapse of Western Civilization: a View from the Future,” Oreskes says, “dislocation contributed to the Second Black Death, as a new strain of the bacterium Yersinia pestis emerged in Europe and spread to Asia and North America…disease also spread among stressed nonhuman populations” (Oreskes 9). Here, Oreskes is discussing events from the future but looking in the past and is referring to a widespread disease that affected not only humans but animals too. This essay is interesting because it ties in factors that lead to other problems. For example, Global Warming was an issue that was mainly discussed in this essay, but here Oreskes illustrates that other factors are at play. The point is that when examining one apocalyptic ideal, one can easily jump to a different world epidemic that is still related in terms of apocalypse. Thus, increasing one’s anxiety about how an apocalypse could take place.

Throughout history, one can see how people can plant the seed of manipulation and let the mind come up with its own agenda through fear. Is a Zombie apocalypse possible? No. However, it links closely with real life issues. For example, diseases have always been a threat to populations. The Black Death was a disease in the 1300s that killed nearly one-third of Europe’s population (Black Death). Disease is nature’s way of reducing the population, and while a Zombie apocalypse is fictional, the idea of diseases is not.

It is scary to think how far people’s minds will go into believing certain things, but one must keep their thoughts at bay as to what is true and false. It is hard to say what kind of apocalypse is more possible than others, if any is possible, but fear is the major tool in capturing attention to these ideas. If someone has the power of manipulation and forces fear on others, then it is hard to say what kind of world epidemic could come of such power. One reason why people are attracted to these fictional apocalyptic ideas, is not only because it is based off of something slightly true (like disease is to Zombie), but also because some people want to feel the fear and excitement of a need for survival, to prove that they have what it takes to survive.

Therefore, it is important to keep in mind what fear can do, and how it can manipulate one’s thoughts and actions. Knowing that fear can fuel the reality of an apocalypse through what is heard and seen can help people recognize when they are being manipulated. When listening, not letting those words influence an action. When seeing, making sure what you see is real and not letting what you see entirely influence actions. Use both tools, seeing and hearing, to come up with the hypothesis that what is seen and heard, together, is real. When separated, these tools can lead to a factor of manipulation, which is not the best way to take action.

Works Cited

“Black Death.” History.com. A+E Networks, Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Eckersley, Richard. “Nihilism, Fundamentalism, Or Activism: Three Responses To Fears Of The Apocalypse.” Futurist 42.1 (2008): 35-39. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future.” Daedalus 142.1 (2013): 40-58. Web.

The Book of Eli. Dir. Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes. Prod. Joel Silver and Denzel Washington. By Gary Whitta. Perf. Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis. Warner Bros., 2010. DVD.

War of the Worlds. Orson Welles. American Experience. PBS, Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

A Powerful, yet Simple Discovery

One of the greatest scientific facts ever discovered has to be Albert Einstein’s Equation, E=mc², because it led to a new discovery in classical physics as well as advancing technology for the better and for the worse in which it was indirectly used for killing of thousands of innocent people. Albert Einstein was one of the, if not the greatest scientist to have ever lived, and his amazing theories of the universe will always be remembered as greatly as him. I believe E=mc² is a great scientific fact solely due it being such a powerful equation, but yet so simple. It has allowed mankind to advance in knowledge of the universe and has allowed to better technologies, whether it be good or bad. E=mc² is a brilliant discovery that has led to great advancements in technology, but it also was partly responsible for one of the most horrific incidents in history, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To understand the power of E=mc², it is critical to analyze the equation itself. “It says that the energy (E) in a system (an atom, a person, the solar system) is equal to its total mass (m) multiplied by the square of the speed of light (c, equal to 186,000 miles per second)”(Jha). In laypersons terms this means that energy and mass are related and can equal each other, therefore being the same at times. The speed of light is just a constant which never changes and is used in the equation because it is one of the three critical parts of nature, the other two being energy and mass. It is much more than a mathematical equation, akin to other equations, it very profound and led to the realization of measuring the same thing but with two different ways. For example, a person can weigh himself through their mass, but can also be weighed according to energy by measuring the amount of joules. Joules is just a subunit of energy, just as mass has a subunit of grams. The significance of E=mc² is that it led to the realization of converting mass into energy, and energy back into mass. Which led to other discoveries in physics, as well astrophysics, where it was learnt that when a sun emits energy its mass is being converted into that energy and is being emitted. As one can see the equation is so powerful because it led to other discoveries to be made because of its simplicity and power.

To have a better understanding and to try to grasp the power of this equation, it is valuable to see how it has affected other technologies. This equation led to advancing physics, by helping to discover a new branch of physics, high-energy particle physics. Particle physics is concerned with the microscopic properties of matter and energy such as the very particles that create everything like protons, neutrons, and electrons. Particle physics consists of a technology known as a particle accelerator. Which is just a machine that collides sub atomic particles at incredible high speeds. An article written by Peter Tyson, “The Legacy of E=mc²”, suggests that “proper design of particle accelerators, as well as analysis of the high-speed collisions within them, would be impossible without a thorough comprehension of the equation”(Tyson). Tyson is referring to E=mc² as the equation, and this makes sense because within the particle accelerator only energy and new particles are left as a byproduct of the colliding particles. The mass of the old colliding particles transitioned into new energy, which are “constantly transmuting into newly fashioned particles”(Tyson). So again, as stated before, it is direct use of the equation because mass is transferred into energy, and then to a new mass, creating new particles. Tyson realizes this and he quotes another man named Grant, who brings more attention to the equation when he says “ ‘our species has repeatedly used an understanding of the equation to convert E into new forms of m that had never previously been seen’ ” (Tyson). This quote proves how mankind continues to use E=mc² in advancing science, and in this case, creating particle physics as well as advancing it.

After analyzing the effects of E=mc² on advancing the field of physics, lets analyze more familiar objects in our society. Many things used in hospitals are directly linked to he discovery of E=mc², for example a PET scan. Positron emission tomography uses radioactive substances to detect anomalies within the body. Positron is a unique sub-atomic particle which is the opposite of electron, used a lot of the time in either high-speed particle colliders, or even radioactive machines to detect diseases in the body. In the article by James Tyson, Sylvester James Gates, a physicist at the University of Maryland was quoted stating, “ ‘whenever you use a radioactive substance to illuminate processes in the human body, you’re paying direct homage to Einstein’s insight’ ”(Tyson). This is directly linked to E=mc² because as particles move within the body, their energy can be converted to mass and allow machines to detect any sort of abnormality within a patient. Another advancement of E=mc² is radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating is a method archaeologists use to date ancient substances. Has allowed mankind to date back ancient civilizations, and has allowed us to date back how far the Earth has existed. Tyson quotes Grant again in his article, and Grant states, “ ‘The decay products that we see in carbon dating—that energy is directly obtained from the missing mass that you see in E = mc2’ ”(Tyson). As stated before, mass can be converted into energy, and over the time of hundreds or thousands of year we can detect that energy through radiocarbon dating. There are many other great advancements through the use of E=mc² from everyday objects like smoke detectors, exit signs, to even advancing astronomy, and overall spawning the advancement of radioactive sciences, but through radioactive science the equation appealed to a more nuclear world.

E=mc² can now be understood as to why it such a great equation, but it is also important to know the capacity of this equation that can elicit a great deal of destruction to the world. Francis Fukuyama wrote a book entitled, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. Fukuyama writes about biomedical advancements and argues manipulating genetics will have negative consequences even if thought to be used for good intentions. Many of his points can be linked to E=mc² because although the equation led to many great advancements the world has ever seen, it has also been key to the one of the most horrific incidents in history, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During World War 2, humans created the atomic bomb, the most devastating weapon in human history. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent people dying in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities in Japan. All this was done to shorten the length of World War 2, and scare to the Japanese into surrendering as well as to shock the Germans. Reading Fukuyama’s book, his ideas can be linked to this devastating attack when he says, “science and technology, from which the modern world springs, themselves represent our civilization’s key vulnerabilities” (Fukuyama Preface). This is an accurate description of most technologies, but specifically for E=mc² it can be rightly assumed that the description is relevant to this particular scientific fact because even though it has allowed for many great advancements in the modern world, it is also key to having the power to eliminate civilization and has the power to destroy the world.

Upon writing this paper, I believe it is necessary to give my own perspective on E= mc². Coming from a scientific background and the appreciation of new scientific advancements, many which are spawned from E= mc², I believe the equation is a great invention used to advance human knowledge. It has allowed humans to become better astronomers, understanding laws of the universe, creating new branches of science like particle physics, allow humans to treat patients better, and overall a general understanding of energy. With almost every technology it is rational to assume it has excessive positive features, but also has defects. There will always be a good and a bad. For E=mc² it has brought very positive results through many advancements in society, and to give a better understanding of the universe. However, it has also led mankind to wield such a power where it can kill millions of people with a nuclear bomb, directly linked to the fundamentals of E= mc². I believe this discussion is linked to the discussion in class about gun laws, simply because E= mc² can be used as a weapon. This scientific fact should not be considered a weapon merely due to having the potential to create weapons of mass destruction, but seen as a great scientific fact which has the potential to further advance society, and if willed can be used as a destructive force by someone. It is not the equations fault that hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese citizens died, but rather the people who are using the equation in what I would consider a negative manner. Overall, it has been a great discovery to enlighten humans more about the laws of nature, but it should not be at fault for resulting in weapons of mass destruction.

Through this paper I hope it has allowed people to see why E= mc² is a great and powerful equation. Not powerful in the sense that is has the power to spawn weapons that can cause a great amount of destruction, but rather powerful in the sense that it has the power to lead to better advancements in science. Which is why I believe it is Einstein’s most accomplished work, and evidently most of his theories are built upon this concept like relativity. Not only were his theories better resulted through the understanding of the equation, but also others theories of creating new advancements, and to create new branch of sciences simply due to the existence and understanding of E=mc². It is a great equation in magnitude, and it is only about an inch long in length, it truly is a remarkable scientific fact.

 

Work Cited:

Fukuyama, Francis. Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. Print.

Tyson, Peter. “The Legacy of E = Mc2.” PBS. PBS, 11 Oct. 2005. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.< http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/legacy-of-e-equals-mc2.html>.

Lasky, Ronald C. “What Is the Significance of E = Mc2? And What Does It Mean?” Scientific American. N.p., 23 Apr. 2007. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.< http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/significance-e-mc-2-means/>.

Jha, Alok. “E=mc2: Einstein’s Equation That Gave Birth to the Atom Bomb.”Theguardian. N.p., 5 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/apr/05/einstein-equation-emc2-special-relativity-alok-jha&gt;.

Picture:

“E=MC2.” Fine Art Print by Unknown at FulcrumGallery.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.fulcrumgallery.com/EMC2_700663.htm&gt;.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding Our World, Limiting Our Experiences?

If you ask me what I want to do with my life, I will say that I want to be in a position where I am lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time traveling. Travel has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I believe that it has been the single most important thing that has shaped who I am today. Travel makes me happy, as it is both a way that I inject change into my life and a reminder of something bigger than myself, both key aspects of happiness that were discussed in the movie “Happy” (1). That being said, travel, and the way that I experience it, has changed as dramatically as I have. For example, I remember when I was around eight or ten, I would take stacks of books on family road trips out West. Even more recently during high school, I went on two service trips during which I did not have access to the internet for two weeks. These experiences are completely unimaginable today. During the most recent spring break, I went to Madrid, Spain. I had several movies downloaded onto my iPad, and rarely was without Facebook at my fingertips. Even on the eight hour plane ride, I didn’t read, like I would have done in the past. Instead, I watched movies. Furthermore, while I was in Madrid, I was lucky enough to experience many aspects of a different culture, from things as simple as eating lunch at three in the afternoon, to bigger things such as a different language. (Which, luckily, I spoke.) However, my culture that I had left an ocean away was never truly more than a few taps away on my iPhone. I believe that technology has had an irrevocable effect on travel, and though many of its effects are positive, there are many negative aspects what we may tend to ignore. These negative aspects are something that we need to have more awareness of, in order to truly appreciate our surroundings.

When I talk about technology and its effect on travel, I wish to refer to its ability to affect the way that we experience a place. Of course, to analyze this, it is important to consider what it means to experience while traveling. Does it mean interacting with those who live there, making an impact, leaving a footprint? Or, does it mean keeping our distance, taking photos, looking through museums and leaving without a trace? I tend to lean towards the first option. Travel is a way through which we access new perspectives and expand our horizons, something that can even be scary at times, perhaps because “in our culture of simulation, the notion of authenticity is for us what sex was for the Victorians – thread and obsession, taboo and fascination. (2) However, as I (and I am sure many others) travel in search of connection despite our initial reservations, I cannot forget the ways in which we are already connected through technology. After all, it may even be possible to say that “what people mostly want from public space is to be alone with their personal networks. It is good to come together physically, but it is more important to stay tethered to our devices.” (3) This tethering from technology affects many aspects of our travel experience. After all, what do we need to do in order to fully experience a place? Do we see as much as possible? Or do we find a place where we can watch people pass by and go about their days? (In this case, I tend to split the difference and do a little of each.) Technology can help us to accomplish both of these tasks, but what effect does this have on our trip, and furthermore, ourselves?

Of course, technology is not all bad, and in many ways it is a resource as vital as oxygen when it comes to moving throughout the world. In this day and age, “the family circle has widened. The worldpool of information fathered by electric media – movies, tel-star, flight – far surpasses any possible influence mom or dad can now bring to bear.” (4) This globalization has been ushered in by technology that quickly becomes more and more advanced, and overall I view it as a privilege to have access to fast and efficient methods of movement. For example, the airplane, something that we perhaps take for granted, or even as an annoyance, is something that did not even exist one hundred years ago. Yet, this technology is indispensable when planning a vacation overseas. It enables me to travel from Ohio to Europe in less time than it takes to drive to Florida. Without the plane, the train, the car, or even the bicycle (for the more intrepid among us), travel would be dramatically different, and perhaps a foreign concept for the average individual.

It isn’t just the “vital” technology that improves the travel experience these days. There are countless new web-based technologies that allow us to tailor our vacation to our preferred specifications, and help us to simply do more, connect more, and live more. At the very basic level, wi-fi gives us internet access everywhere, which permits us to harness the internet’s many resources. (At least, it’s available in most “American” restaurants overseas -I have noticed a distinct lack of free wi-fi in Europe.) Beyond wi-fi, Websites such as Google Flights make traveling to our destination cheaper, which in turn permits us to spend maybe another night there, or take the short day trip to a little town about an hour away. Other technologies such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing combine cost savings with enhanced connections. Both provide relatively inexpensive lodging for the average traveler, while at the same time facilitating connection on both ends – the traveler is often able to stay with someone who lives in the place they are visiting, giving them deeper roots in the community, and the host is able to interact with someone from a completely different area, allowing them to see their home through different eyes. Furthermore, social media, something often decried as a destroyer of true connection, can be viewed as a technology that has had a positive impact on travel in the modern age. Instagram allows one to share photos of your experiences with those who may not have the same opportunity to travel, or those that want to see reminders of a place they have been to. People even use social media to plan vacations, getting inspiration for upcoming journeys, sharing their plans with their friends for suggestions, or using sites such as Tripadvisor to find activities (5) Facebook, Whatsapp, and other similar communication tools make it easier to stay in touch while out of the country, with 74% of Americans using social media on vacation (6), even though most cell phones do not work internationally, at least not without paying exorbitant prices. This, however, may even be changing for some – the European Union wants to end roaming charges for its citizens as they travel throughout its member countries. (7)  This change is not uncommon with travel technology. New frontiers are being explored with wearable technology and travel, automatic payments, and translation software. (8) As technology changes, travel will change with it, and in my eyes the vast majority of these developments and changes are for the better.

That being said, technology has also brought about many negative changes that take away from our experiences while traveling, either overseas or domestically. Even looking at the way we plan vacations with sites like Tripadvisor, we may put too much stock in negative or positive reviews, and forget to consider what we expect from a destination. See, for example, this one-star review of the Grand Canyon, titled “Grand Canyon is Crap!” – “I’ve been to a number of so called landmarks in my time – but what the hell was this? Just an overblown sandy ditch. Really don’t get the fascination! Took two hours to get there – should’ve stayed in my hotel and watched a DVD instead…” (9). Clearly, perception is everything, and this perception can skew experiences if we put too much weight into others’ experiences.

Photography, something generally considered as a great way to make our own mementos of our vacations, can also impact travel in a negative way. In “Alone Together”, Turkle discusses the possibility that “archiving might get in the way of living” (10). In the case of travel, photographing might get in the way of experiencing, and might even allow us to mislead those who see our archives. See once again the Grand Canyon (11):

Beautiful, right? Serene, peaceful, empty. Exactly what one might want from a National Park. However, other photographs tell a different story. (12)


There are typically many tourists at places such as the Grand Canyon, and while tourists are obviously unavoidable, people may tend to forget about their presence when they see pictures such as the one above, and be disappointed when they show up expecting solitude. Beyond the potential misleading nature of photography and post-processing (something I am admittedly guilty of myself), the entire action of viewing our surroundings through a lens, or through a phone screen, takes us out of our environments. After all, McLuhan declares that “media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of  sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act – the way we perceive the world.” (13) It would be foolish to say that photography has no impact on our travel experience. We may spend more time searching for the perfect shot, the perfect filter to maximize likes on Instagram, instead of letting our mind be the camera, and preserving what we see in our heads for recollection on a day when we feel a little bit more wanderlust than usual. It can even be asked, “if technology remembers for us, will we remember less? Will we approach our own lives from a greater distance?” (14) Social media’s negative effects, and the way that “life in a media bubble has come to seem natural” (15) may even be considered an extension of those from photography, with archiving getting in the way of experiencing, and true face-to-face connections being rejected in favor of those that come through a screen.

It is obvious that technology has had a far-reaching effect on travel, both enabling its existence and limiting the experiences possible while on the road. For me, the important thing to remember while traveling and harnessing this technology for my own use is awareness. I believe that through being aware of our actions we will more easily be able to see their potential consequences, and make decisions based upon what our desired outcome is. Technology can be so useful while traveling, making us safer, helping us communicate, and helping us explore. In fact, it is even hard to scratch the surface of the tools we have available to us while traveling, the number of resources is so vast. However, as we have seen with new technologies in the past, there may often be outcomes from the use of technology that we don’t realize until it is too late. Therefore, when it comes to travel and technology, I preach being aware of what we use on a daily basis. Maybe, you can even put the Google Maps away for a little while and just walk and see what you find. After all, it is okay to rely on technology, in this day and age we all do to different extents. However, as in all things in life, we need to seek balance, and seek to be aware of the choices we make, even unintentionally, and their consequences.

Endnotes:

(1) Happy. Dir. Roko Belic. Wadi Rum Productions, 2011. Netflix. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

(2) Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Perseus Book Group, 2011. Print. (4)

(3) Turkle, 15.

(4) McLuhan, M. (2001). The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press. (14)

(5) “The Impact of Social Media on Travel and Vacation Planning | Vacationing the Social Media Way [Infographic].” MDG Advertising. N.p., 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.mdgadvertising.com/blog/vacationing-the-social-media-way-infographic/&gt;.

(6) MDG Advertising.

(7) Strachan, Donald. “How Technology Will Change Travel in 2015.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travel-advice/11316023/How-technology-will-change-travel-in-2015.html&gt;.

(8) Strachan.

(9) H, David. “Nature Is Crap!” Rev. of The Grand Canyon. n.d.: n. pag. 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g143028-d103752-r248232755-Grand_Canyon-Grand_Canyon_National_Park_Arizona.html#REVIEWS&gt;.

(10) Turkle, 305.

(11) Grand Canyon Sunrise. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. <Happy. Dir. Roko Belic. Wadi Rum Productions, 2011. Netflix. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.>.

(12) Mandel, Pam. Pictures of People Taking Pictures of People at the Grand Canyon. Digital image. Nerds Eye View. N.p., 4 June 2014. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3864/14158297779_0473c8ce5f_b.jpg&gt;.

(13) McLuhan, 41.

(14) Turkle, 300.

(15) Turkle, 16.

The Impacts of Corporate Farming

An essential part of survival for all living animals is the need to consume some sort of food source; human beings are no different in the fact that we need to consume food to function.  Human beings may need food to survive, however the consumption of food has taken on a much larger role in human society than just mere survival.  Humans eat to celebrate, to socialize, as part of religious practices, and even out of plain boredom.  So much of the human lifestyle is centered around the consumption of food.  In the past in order for humans to consume food, the food must have first been collected and prepared.  Many people still prepare a large part of their own food but understandably there are very few people in today’s modern society that actually grow, collect, or hunt their own food.  People simply don’t have the time, it is much more convenient and efficient for people to obtain food through markets and restaurants.  Even though markets and restaurants have been around for quite some time they have evolved into new modern versions known as super markets and fast food restaurants in order to keep up with the demand of society.  In the modern day super market every type of food a person could imagine is conveniently available year-round and at an affordable price to most.  The emergence of the supermarket truly is an amazing feat of human evolution but what price comes along with the gained convenience.  Most people when sitting at a gathering eating food, most likely bought from a super market, ever stop and question where the food they are consuming actually comes from.  The majority of society today does not realize what all goes into having a vast array of food available at all times, anywhere in the country at the local super market or fast food joint.  The demand super markets and fast food restaurants have imposed on farmers has completely changed the way food is farmed in the United States; and these changes come with a great deal of social, health, economic, and even political impacts in modern society.

 

A major question that must be understood before the repercussions on society can really be analyzed is of course; what has caused the farming industry to change more in the past fifty years than it has in the past thousand.  The answer is actually much simpler than most would imagine, and that answer is consumer demand.  Troy Roush, the vice president of the American Corn Growers Association, said it very well in the documentary Food Inc; “You have to understand that we farmers… we’re gonna deliver to the marketplace what the marketplace demands. If you wanna buy $2 milk, you’re going to get a factoryfarm in your backyard. It’s that simple. People have got to start *demanding* good, wholesome food of us, and we’ll deliver; I promise you. We’re very ingenious people, we will deliver.”(Roush, Food Inc)  The major supermarket and fast food companies are the ones that are dealing with the farmers directly and indirectly forcing the farmers to implement new factory style farming techniques in order to keep up with the increasing demand.  However those major supermarket and fast food corporations are only doing so because the increasing demand for incredibly wide varieties of food at very cheap prices is created by the consumer.  The consumer is who holds the real power in this predicament, and the consumer is partially the cause of the issue of corporatized farming.  On the other hand the supermarket and fast food companies are still at fault, it was those companies that did implement the idea of having so many foods available at a very cheap price and look the same every time everywhere.  These companies did not intend to change the farming industry and impact society the way they have, they simply just wanted to make money off of selling food at cheap prices to people.  Once the idea of buying any food regardless of season at a cheap price was made a reality more and more people began to buy their food at supermarkets which caused the demand to increase rapidly.  To keep up with the consumer demand, much more food needed to be produced than ever before, food needed to be grown faster, and it needed to last longer on shelves.  In order for this to be possible the way food is produced had to be changed and these changes occurred so quickly that things like quality of the food, health of the consumer, and safety of the workers were neglected.  The consumer could have demanded for high quality, healthy food but because the consumers had become accustomed to the cheap prices they valued the priced over the quality of the food.  In conclusion the farming industry has become such a corporatized industry due to the consumer creating more demand for convenient, cheap food than for quality, healthy food; and the supermarket and fast food companies responding to this demand.

 

The corporatization of the farming industry is not just another normal part of human evolution with no consequences, this drastic change is affecting society in a number of crucial ways.  One of the major effects of this dilemma is the staggering decrease of family owned local farms.  There are very few privately owned farms that sell their food to their local communities in existence anymore.  It’s not that the smaller farms are going anywhere; what is occurring is major agriculture companies with immense amounts of money are coming to smaller family operated farms and forcing them to sign contracts to grow food or livestock for the company.  The companies can do this because they threaten the small farmers with running them out of business because the small farmer simply can’t compete without the technology the corporate farms have to offer.  If the thought of not being able to compete isn’t enough to get a farmer to sign with the corporation many times the corporations will even use their money and contacts with organizations such as the USDA and FDA to get the small farm such down on some sort of health hazard.  Once the large agricultural company gets the farmer to sign a contract the farmer is forced to upgrade his or hers technology in order to keep up with the contracts production standards.  The local farmer may still be the technical owner of his or her farm but they are essentially enslaved by the company they have a contract with by being forced to go way into thousands of dollars in debt to purchase the new farming technology from the companies to produce more food for the companies.  This is bad for local economies, even discouraging farmers from continuing producing food and discouraging to new farmers that want to enter the industry.

Another major impact of agriculture becoming corporatized is the diminishing quality of life of farm animals.  A great quote from PETA’s official website that summarizes what exactly these animals are going through is as follows:  “On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds and stuffed into wire cages, metal crates, and other torturous devices. These animals will never raise their families, root around in the soil, build nests, or do anything that is natural and important to them. Most won’t even feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they’re loaded onto trucks headed for slaughterhouses.”(PETA)  These terrible living conditions are a direct result of major corporations being in control of the farms these animals are raised on.  Because a company is making all of the decisions and not a farmer the animals are looked at as a product not a living creature.  Cuts are made and new processes are introduced to improve production efficiency and the animals are the ones suffering the consequences.  For example, many different processes have been introduced to raise chickens in much less time, to make chickens grow larger breasts, and to raise as many chicken as possible in the smallest space as possible; while the health and wellbeing of the chicken are completely neglected.  This is due to the fact that these major corporations value profit margins over the lives of the animals, and the people making these executive decisions on the animal’s behalf are not ever directly dealing with the animals themselves.  That is why decisions such as how farm animals are raised should be being made by the farmers that actually do and see the work take place not by people in an office somewhere.

 

Corporate agriculture is not only negatively effecting the live of the farm animals but it also has rather significant negative impacts on the environment as well.  As mentioned before when people in an office that are not actually out working the farmland are making the executive decisions certain things are neglected.  The center of concern for economic and social justice says that corporate agriculture “creates environmental disaster through excessive pesticide use, soil erosion, genetic engineering, monoculture, and concentration of animal waste”(coc.org).  The companies are so concerned with temporary gains that long term environmental impacts are often ignored.  This is truly the core of what is so wrong with the farming industry being taken over by large agricultural companies.  Agriculture is being treated as any other business when it is much more important than that.  The agriculture business does not just produce another product it produces the food that feeds the world.  Without agriculture and the farming industry human life as we know it would exist no longer.  In the farming industry things like quality and sustainability need to be the priority in order to not only feed ourselves today but to feed future generations to come.  Thankfully steps are being taken to address these issues today and the future is beginning to look a little bit brighter where food production is concerned.  Organizations like PETA are improving the lives of farm animals, demand is increasing for more locally grown organic foods, which is more farmers markets sprout up all over the nation.  It truly does boil down to what we as the consumer and more importantly citizens of our society want out from our food, if we start to value and demand high quality food and farming conditions than the farming industry will provide.

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

 

  • Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Magnolia Pictures, 2010. Netflix.

 

 

Interesting Findings from Free-to-play Games

During my leisure time, I often play some video games. I have a game console (Nintendo 3DS), but I like games on PCs and smartphones as well. Some games on PCs and smartphones are like games on other consoles such as PS4: if you want to play, you need to pay at a store and get the copy of these games. Although many games still have more contents which are available for purchasing, you can just enjoy most of the contents in these games. A typical example is the PC version of the popular video game, Grand Theft Auto 5. No matter what platform the games is on (game consoles, PCs or smartphones), if you want to play these games, you need to pay for the copy first. They are “pay-to-play” games on PCs and smartphones.

 

I think the many of these games are worth purchasing. However, these games are expensive. Pre-owned copies can be found in stores because they are much cheaper than new ones. Not everyone can afford to buy a lot of games—that will cost hundreds of dollars. So the amount of users is limited. In order to enlarge the group of players, some companies created another category of video games: “free-to-play” games. “Free-to-play” means you have the access to the play these games without paying and you will pay for some items (or contents) in these games. They are available on smartphones and PCs. With the expansion of the group of players, even if many players pay a little (even 1 dollar), these games can still generate much revenue. Now this sort of games have dominated the video games market in some countries like China: one of the main companies which offers many free-to-play games, Tencent, announced “net profit rose to 5.86 billion yuan ($937 million) from 3.91 billion yuan a year earlier” (Osawa par. 4). As for free-to-play games on smartphones, we can also find some successful examples. For instance, Supercell Studio’s very popular free-to-play game, Clash of Clans “raked in $892 million in revenue, and the app can bring in up to $5.15 million per day (in 2013)” (Tweedie par. 3).

I’m not a “hard core” game player (who usually have a large collection of various categories of video games), so free-to-play games seem like a good deal for me. I intended to have some fun without paying (although sometimes I paid for some pay-to-play games). When I was at home in China, I often played free-to-play games from the large company, Tencent (which I mentioned previously). I remembered my experience from playing one free-to-play game from Tencent. This game is called “Crossfire”. It was a game just like the famous FPS (first-person shooter game), Call of Duty. I enjoyed this game at the beginning when I opened an account. Although its definition was like the original version of another FPS called Counter-Strike (it’s not with high definition), the free FPS was not bad for me. But the situation gradually changed as the release of powerful items (of course, in a FPS, these items are guns). These new items were very expensive and powerful. You could win the game easily with more reliable and powerful weapons. And because of the release of these items, I thought that this game became a “pay-to-win” game. In fact, players who didn’t pay at all like me were not many. Many players paid a little, and they could enjoy this game. That was reasonable. But with the release of expensive and powerful items, “arm race” appeared. Players who could pay more to buy expensive items got advantages and won more games. In other words, people who could pay more money than the average could win games easily. Players were divided into different “social classes” based on how much they paid. I felt depressed and didn’t play Crossfire any more since then.

Some people may think free-to-play games are not worth playing at all just like what I felt when I played Crossfire. Nonetheless, not all games are like Crossfire. In some free-to-play games, paying more money is not the only option to have advantages. Last year, I started playing Hearthstone, a free-to-play collectible card game. I should say in some aspects, what I saw in Crossfire also exists in Hearthstone. Players will have some kind of advantage if they buy some rare cards. And they are randomly given when players buy card packs. So if a player can buy more card packs, they will have a higher chance to get more rare cards. But if you don’t want to pay much to buy a lot of card packs, Hearthstone offers other options for these players. They may “get 10 gold for every three games you win, up to a maximum of 100 gold per day” and “get a daily quest which is usually worth either 40 or 60 gold. You can save up to three daily quests at once, so you can complete all your daily quests even if you don’t have time to play every day. Expert packs cost 100 gold each.”(Friedman par. 12). Not bad. Players like me still have a chance to obtain rare cards. While I was playing, that was what I always did. Actually, I got some rare cards by finishing these quests. Although I still cannot be as strong as some players who paid a lot, I had an opportunity to beat more average players who paid little or didn’t pay. After all, not every players will pay a lot of money. But I didn’t think anyone could be masters without paying till I met some players during the spring break: I coincidently found that some players became masters without paying much. They built great card decks and won by their interesting strategies with very limited amount of rare cards. According to the amount of rare cards in their card decks, I was pretty sure that they were not players who paid much money. Obviously, limited number of rare cards meant less purchases, otherwise, they might have more rare cards than I saw in their card decks. A good deal, isn’t it? But… Wait a minute! In this case, in order to have more good cards, players need to spend more time on Hearthstone. If do so, Players don’t have to pay much money to win games. They spend much more time than average players. So I think free-to-play games like Hearthstone are still “pay-to-win” games somehow: the cost is not only money, but also time.

Now even free-to-play games like Hearthstone which offers other options for players who don’t want to pay much money do not seem good. If so, we wouldn’t see them in the market of the video games. Who will play games which are not worth playing? But the reality is opposite. Many companies developed this kind of games and earned a lot of money from them. The reality seems weird in facade: many people pay for free-to-play games. Why do many players pay money or spend more time in these games? What’s their motivation?

When I see the word “motivation”, I come up with another one, desire. People are driven by some kind of desire. So there must be something appealing in these free-to-play games. In order to find these appealing features, I think I should see what’s in the accounts first. In free-to-play games, each account represents a virtual avatar. Some items such as cards and golds in Hearthstone belongs to these avatar. The status of a personal account is determined by the personal skills, the amount of money paid, and time spent on games. Many people think they will enjoy these games if their accounts can have better statuses, in other words, be stronger avatars. So they continue to search for some methods to make these avatars better. That’s a common idea. A good avatar can bring satisfaction. Avatars could be a better representation of these players themselves. Here I want to quote something from another article, “Studying the Digital Self” to make further discussions.

In “Studying the Digital Self”, the key term “digital self” is very important. Actually, I think it’s the key to answer why people want to pay for these free-to-play games. “The self becomes a commodity to be packaged and brokered on media sites such as YouTube and on product-related sites” (Smith and Watson par. 7), and I think similar things happened in free-to-play games. Many people tend to think their accounts are very important and tried to make them better. Their accounts became their personal brands. If people can be masters in a game, no matter how they approach this level, they may be tagged by others with something like “having prowess in games”. I think no one doesn’t like the praise when others see the record in a game and say “wow, cool”. So one reason why many people want to pay for free-to-play games is clear now: people wants to be praised or at least complimented by others for their prowess in games, especially when they play a popular game. Free-to-play games make many people feel comfortable and satisfied when they think they can do better in games than others.

Another reason is also relevant to “Studying the Digital Self” and its key term “digital self”. I think people don’t only feel satisfied when they compare their avatars with others, but they also feel satisfied when they compare the avatars with themselves. In “Studying the Digital Self”, I found a sentence: “however malleable and interchangeable identities are online, they are qualified offline by the complexity of embodied social identities” (Smith and Watson par. 8). Indeed, no matter how a person wants to manipulate “digital self”, the “digital self” can still be a reflection of his or her social identities. People cannot avoid expressing their social identities even when they use their avatars. In free-to-play games, the situation is pretty similar. For instance, in many games, the masters will be professional players. Their skills reflect their identities in the society—professional players. “Identity ‘play’ cannot erase the intersecting, historically specific aspects of offline social identities” (Smith and Watson par. 8). It seems that according to these claims in “Studying the Digital Self”, the “digital selves” match social identities or classes of these players because the inevitable intersection between them. But I don’t want to interpret these claims in that way. Actually, I deem these claims in “Studying the Digital Self” as an explanation of the other reason why people pay for free-to-play games: the mismatch between status of avatars in games and social identities in the real world.

Indeed, “digital self” can be a reflection of social identities. So it seems that there’s a contradiction between what I said and claims in “Studying the Digital Self”. But that’s not what I mean. Just like what I said, these claims in “Studying the Digital Self” is an explanation of my argument. Now I want to make analysis about that.

In many free-to-play games, more money or time is the key to get a stronger avatar. People who pay much money or spend more time can have better statuses in these games, that’s what I described in the previous paragraphs. If evaluate the cost of these free-to-play games, I should say whether they are much or not depends on the criterion of the evaluation. For games, the cost is pretty high. Many people pay more money than “pay-to-play” games like Grand Theft Auto 5 in free-to-play games. And some others spend much time in finishing a lot of tasks with rewards. But when I replace the criterion by something in the real world, the costs become pretty low. Comparing with the cost to be at a higher social class in the real world, the cost to be powerful in free-to-play games is way too low. For example, if a person wants to be a successful CEO, he or she may need opportunities, money, specific social networks, diploma, knowledge, and so on. And in these free-to-play games, by paying money and “paying” time, many people have better avatars in these games with better statuses, and their “digital selves” may be at a higher “social class”. And if they think about their position in the real world, they may feel satisfied because their avatars have high classes in games (a virtual world) relative to their social classes in the real world. So now I can draw a conclusion: the most important reason why people want to pay for free-to-play games is the mismatch between the “digital self” and social identities (classes). And this phenomena reflects the social identities of many players—they are not as successful in the real world as they could be in these free-to-play games.

Work Cited:

  1. Osawa, Juro. “Tencent Earnings Rise on Games Business.” WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  2. Tweedie, Steven. “Why ‘Clash Of Clans’ Is So Incredibly Popular, According To A Guy Who Plays 16 Hours A Day.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  3. Friedman, Daniel. “Is Hearthstone Pay-to-win? We Find out.” Polygon. Vox Media Inc., 09 May 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
  4. Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. “Studying the Digital Self.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 Apr. 2014. Web.27 Apr. 2015.