The Working Machine

It’s the middle of exam season and everyone is stressed. Like most sane people, I’ve been clinging to the idea of “a better time.” To me this is my summer break and all that glorious relaxation. Yet, the other day I realized, I’m going to need to get a job over the summer. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about what it will be like working over break, and I can’t help but make parallels to some things from seminar.

In the last movie we watched, we got a great look into industrial China. The first 8 minutes of the movie is just the camera slowly panning across the massive factory. We watched as hundreds of people did tiny, insignificant jobs in quick succession. Tightening a wire here, bolting something there. All in all, it was like watching the golf channel… literally, anything else would have been more interesting.400px-Seagate_Wuxi_China_Factory_Tour

Watching these people doing these tedious, machine-like functions got me thinking. Why don’t we just have a machine doing this? It’d be faster and more efficient. So why is it R2-D2 isn’t doing this for us? Well, ignoring the exuberant cost of the machine, we probably just want to keep people in the workforce and with jobs. That being said, the way capitalism works, all those jobs will most likely vanish in the near future so some big business hot-shot can make a “pretty-penny”?

At a certain point industry will likely be completely dominated by machines. As it stands, there is already a significant demand for jobs and this will only make that demand grow. As much as I love capitalism as a whole, I feel like it’s going to run us into a very thick, very brick, wall. That will hurt. Do we need to re-evaluate our current economic/industrial system? Which leads me to the point of all of this: Will I be able to get a job over summer break?

 

*This unmodified picture is from:

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The Fine Art of Cramming

Guess what season it is? You’re right! It’s exam season. Just around the corner are the first round of “four o’clocks” for this semester. To the students here, that means burying our faces in the dusty pages of old textbooks. To the good student, this isn’t a problem. We’ve been studying all semester and doing our homework. Yet… then we have those people who always insist on cramming. Personally, I don’t have a problem with people who do this, it’s their call. But let me just say, if you’re going to cram- do it right.
The first mistake is that most people cram the night before a test. No. Just no. You can’t stay up all night packing your head full of luggage and expect to be able to unload it all the next morning. Your brain is not a 24/7 bellhop. Sadly, your brain isn’t on par with the Energizer Bunny, it eventually gets tired. That being said, study the night before… the night before.

The second biggest mistake, most people try to memorize their notes verbatim. Unless you have a photographic memory, are a child prodigy, or just downright inhuman, you’re probably going to fail at this. Most people struggle to remember to floss.Trying to remember everything will simply break you. To get around this, prioritize. Not everything is important to pass this exam. Sure, your chances of getting a perfect score get sucker-punched, but we are cramming after all. Also, if you are struggling at remembering a definition, come up with an unusual phrase or story summarizing the key points. Oddly enough, most of the information in our heads is boring. Attaching a story to something makes it more memorable in the short term. Sure, next week you won’t even know how to spell “Epigenetic,” but the test isn’t next week, it’s tomorrow.

Lastly, the worst thing you can do before going into an exam is panic. When you show up at the exam, you’ve done all you can. Panicking at the last second just makes things worse. Walk into that exam room, regurgitate everything you know, and walk out. That simple. Either you know the content or you don’t, that’s it. You got this.

Exam
Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

This unmodified picture is from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Exam.jpg

Thinking ahead

There are so many opportunities at Lehigh to get involved over the summer, it is difficult to decide what to do! Do I participate in research, go abroad, work… and how do I fit all of these things I want to do in the limited summers I have here? I feel like I would have to plan all four (five?) of my years here at once.

But that would be illogical- really no one knows what will happen in the future. I think its all about being open and prepared and excited for new opportunities that may come your way, and not be objected to being at school for a month in the summertime.summer Because looking back, that time is what you’ll remember and grow from. It may be viewed as a “waste” to spend one of the last summers of your youth not in your hometown with your friends and family, but it can’t be called a waste if you’re abroad helping people somewhere or at Lehigh helping people in the community. It not only makes you grow as a person, but actually makes a difference.

Kindness at its Finest

Last week was Kindness Week here at Lehigh. Strangely though I didn’t hear about it until it smacked me in the face… with kindness…

Every Tuesday I get to sleep in. It’s quite wonderful really. Every other day of the week I have to get up at 7:00 A.M. which is death. Needless to say, my Tuesday’s always start on the right foot. After I grab some breakfast I stroll down to my Personality Psych class. As I’m partially a psychology major, this isn’t a problem. I love that class. Typically, I then stroll off to my Anthro class (another class I enjoy) and then my Tuesday is basically over.

Sadly though, this Tuesday was a bit different. That Monday I had been working on an Anthro essay (the first of the semester) so I was a bit stressed. Just before going to bed I realized that I made the mistake of writing my essay almost like a speech. Which, admittedly was a mistake that is easily avoidable… except when I am passionate about something, I feel like I need to tell people about it. In that way my essay became the awkward love child of a informative essay and upbeat speech. To restate, I was stressed.

When I finally finished it, I couldn’t get any sleep that night. It was just a restless night. When morning finally came I got an email announcing a two hour delay! Yet, as I mentioned I don’t start classes until late Tuesday anyway (10:45) so my excitement deflated quickly. When time came to go to class, I walked outside to be greeted by a disgusting amount of rain and slush everywhere. Only a handful of paths were nicely cleaned off at this point, so my journey to psych was fraught with near death slipping incidents. To summarize, this is basically how my entire Tuesday went.

When I went to dinner at Rathbone I wasn’t exactly over excited about my chances at getting something I liked. However, when I walked in the door, the monitor who swipes our I.D. cards refused to take mine and handed me what looked like a business card. I was a bit flustered, so it took me a minute to realize it was a kindness week card and that she gave me free dinner. From that point on, my day looked a whole lot brighter. Thanks monitor lady, you saved my Tuesday.

So, moral of the story is… well… even though walking around campus is full of people staring at there phones and avoiding eye-contact; there are still moments of kindness. So go out and be nice to people!

Engineering Responsibility

We recently watched a movie in the first-year seminar called Manufactured Landscapes, showing the destruction of 13 historic cities in China in order to build the Three Gorges Dam. In my opinion the worst/most bothersome line in that film was “I’m not in charge of this”, which was a worker’s annoyed response when asked if the citizens cared about their homes being destroyed. In order to complete this great technological feat, the homes of a million people got destroyed and those people had to be relocated.

Was that worth it? What is the cost of progress?

And even if the feat should be completed just for engineering’s sake, shouldn’t the workers at least acknowledge or take into account the implications their actions have for the average person? People shouldn’t all have to be survivors of technology, and maybe this cost of progress should have been a discussion.

As aspiring engineers, these are the types of questions and subjects that we need to think about, as that could be us doing this to people. And for what? What kind of progress and impact do we wish to have as engineers, and how can we make sure that we understand our responsibility?

The End of Reality

For the next thirty seconds I’m going to pretend to be the host of a wildly successful game show and you will be my honored guest.*Ahem*

“Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome back to ‘would you rather?’ the best game show of 2016. I’m your host, Dan the Fantastic, and standing beside me is <insert your name here>. Will you all please greet our guest of honor?”

*Massive amounts of loud clapping ensues*

“Alright, I think that’s enough. Let’s get this started. As you know I’m going to ask you a question and you have ten seconds to answer it. During this time, the crowd will also select their answer and if you agree with them you win a brand new <insert generic car brand name here> ! Doesn’t that sound wonderful?”

*More frantic clapping*

“Without further adieu, here we go. ‘Would you rather: spend your days toiling about in a generic office setting, filing paperwork, or *pause for dramatic effect* would you like to pilot a spaceship into the heat of a battle where the fate of the known galaxy relies on your skills, and your skills alone?”

–End Game Show Section–

Now, that was a bit excessive, I’ll admit it. Yet if you stuck with me and answered that question, you probably chose the latter of the two options. Now sure, working at a desk and having a steady job is incredibly respectable, so if you chose that, you probably made the smart choice. Yet, there is a growing number of people who would pick the second choice simply because of a desire to escape mundane reality.

I recently became aware of the existence of something called the Oculus Rift. This new gizmo is placed over your eyes, like a large awkward pair of glasses, and pulls you into a pseudo-virtual world. It’s not perfect, but from my experience, the visual sensations are pretty convincing. As much as I love technology and this new advancement in general, I once again find myself hesitating slightly.

In my experience, I’ve found that there are a growing number of people who dedicate a significant portion of their lives to certain video games. They’re the people who will spend weeks living inside a game. They will spend days cultivating relationships, friendships,
and even romances in the virtual world with computer generated characters. Now, there isn’t really anything inherently wrong with this. The problem arises from a fact that I find indisputable for a person like this. At a certain point, this person is more living their virtual life than there physical life. Doing so undoubtedly throws there perspective on reality into question. So what will happen to these people when a new technology exis
ts that allows for an even more immersive experience? Trying to live in this world is hard enough. Trying to live in two… well… I don’t know if it can truly be done. When the lines between fantasy and reality become indistinguishable, what will our world look like?

The Oculus Rift headset is tested by attendees at the Eurogamer Expo at Earls Court in London.

This Unmodified Picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/13944710577

Spotlight shines light

I attended a screening yesterday of the movie “Spotlight”, a great film that chronicles the investigative journalism done at The Boston Globe in order to uncover the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The film itself was moving and altogether important for people to see, if not only to understand the role that media play in society but also to understand the betrayal of the Church.

Spotlight_(film)_poster

It was even more relevant because Martin Baron, portrayed in the film by actor Live Schreiber, was the editor of The Boston Globe at that time, and is a Lehigh Alumnus. After the movie, Professor of Journalism Jack Lule asked Baron questions relating to his movie and career. He discussed journalism as a whole and the changing role of it in society as we grow more technologically advanced. Large portions of the population get their information from false sources, and believe untrue things. What kind of society or world is that where the “truth” is unknown or just unheard? We have great access through the internet and social media to all types of information, but we are careless with screening it and checking to make sure that the information is actually valid. We need to be careful, because we could easily be tricked.

This is why journalism is still important and influential in our day to day lives, and why Baron says he loves doing this kind of work. He is able to look back and see how his work to uncover the truth helped those around him and through that he knows he is doing the right thing.