For the Sake of Convenience

Recently, something very dear to me suffered a severe injury. Aside from prompting frequent mental debates about the frailty of human existence and other subjects of that ilk, I find myself frustrated more than anything else. This frustration bothers me. Yes that may seem a bit redundant at first, but my problem is not so much the actual frustration, more so the fact that this event cause me to get frustrated so easily. Which is frustrating. I suppose I should start at the beginning…

About a week ago my friends and I were watching a wonderfully brilliant show starring world renowned actor Zach Levi (if you don’t know what show he is in, look it up, and then thank me later). At the very end of the show, I pull out my phone to text my sister. However, for some reason my phone remains dark. I press the home but again. Nothing. I’ll admit, I got a bit panicky. This was a relatively new phone and I rely on it heavily for college life. After a few minutes of button mashing, I realize I can use the button on the top of my phone to start my phone back up. After a few searches on the internet, my friend discovered how to indirectly fix my home button problem by adding a virtual button to the screen at all times.


Now sure, this may seem like a trivial little problem. My home button no longer works, big deal. Yet, it’s incredibly frustrating to reflexively use the home button, have nothing happen, realize it doesn’t work anymore, and press the onscreen button. This finally brings me to what has been bugging me.

People these days hate the inconvenient. We are so used to instantaneous gratification that when something forces us out of our routine, we blow a gasket. BOOM. What does this mean for us as a society? If we continue to grow and become more and more reliant on technology and it’s convenience, what will separate us from the machines that regulate our lives?


*the unmodified image is from:


Writing of Tomorrow

The other day I was having a conversation with one of my friends. Someway or another we found ourselves discussing the book she was working her way through, and she mentioned that she was reading about how computers were beginning to write journal articles.

I found myself unnerved by this idea. Sure, the concept of having computers being able to take data and assemble well written articles is a huge step for A.I. (artificial intelligence). However, once again we find ourselves in a situation where computers and automation are beginning to threaten human jobs. The replacement of humans in the workforce is always a dangerous prospect. Pretty soon we all may find ourselves “out of the job”. So what do we do? Do we stop trying to advance technology?

At the moment, these computerized journalists are only working on articles that otherwise wouldn’t be written. The vast majority of the “big league” writing still falls into the arms of flesh and blood people. Yet, how many times in the past has something started small, but eventually grew to uncontrollable proportions… *cough-cough* -smartphones- *cough-splutter-cough*. Do we have the capacity to say “no” to something that could potentially put us all out of the job in the long run? I guess we will find out.

Wouldn’t it be funny if I actually took the day off today and just let my computer back-up write for me today? Haha… yeah…


*Unmodified picture from: 12875607484


Designing our Future

The funny thing about IDEAS seminar is that you really have no IDEA (bad pun) what to expect. I mean, sure, you know that you’re going to walk out with more questions than you walked in with… but still. The last seminar I walked into, I fully expected to discuss a play called Enemy of the People. Lo and behold, that discussion was postponed and instead we watched what was supposed to be an inspiring video on design.

For an hour and a half we were lead through the long design process and we saw how people work in the “real world”. Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly intrigued by what was being shown to me (I mean, I knew a lot of stuff happened in the design process, but gosh golly gee whiz, I was still blown away by its complexity). Everything was happy-dandy until a designer from Japan threw in his two cents. At first, he was just describing a little flip phone (you know, the phones from the Dark Ages) and why it was shaped so uniquely. It had jagged edges that he described as being freshly-skinned-potato-shape. The thought behind this was that people seem to be instinctively drawn to fiddle with odd shapes, and he was hoping that people would grow more attached to this phone through this extra contact. This bugged me.

I don’t like doing what I’m told. I’ll do what I have to to succeed professionally, but in my daily life I want to do my own thing. The idea that something was designed to inherently modify human behavior disturbs me greatly. If something as antiquated as a flip phone can mess with our heads even a little bit, imagine what more complex technology can do to us.

Look at this phone: This little thing can mess with you head. Picture from:
Look at this phone: This little thing can mess with you head.
Picture from:

Science Fiction

In my spare time, I was rummaging through the little nooks and crannies of the internet and stumbled across a place called Masdar city. Here is a city that seems to have been dragged out of the pages of science fiction. In the year 2006, someone thought it would be a good idea to plan out a completely green city with no carbon footprint. Funny story, they actually managed to translate this dream to reality. Masdar City is an $18,000,000,000 example of the future for humanity. It is located near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates with a current population of about 1,000 people.  Over the next few years it is estimated that the population will rise to near 10,000 people. A small number compared to other major cities, but in the same way that a tortoise will outrun a hare, Masdar will endure.

What does this mean for the future of humanity? There has been growing concern about our reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable resources. This city is proof that there are effective alternatives. Conversely, this city is also shows the steep cost behind such a venture. $18 billion is not exactly pocket money and with the general crowd opposed to excess expense, a shift to these cities is still distant. Masdar City is like a star in the night sky; it is a bright glimmer in an ever-expanding sea of darkness.

This unmodified picture is from: "Abu Dhabi City vom Fort Qasr Al Hosn" by Bernardo Löwenstein - Bernardo Löwenstein. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - Author: Bernardo Löwenstein
This unmodified picture is from: Author: Bernardo Löwenstein

Explorations Beyond Campus

Jessica Hicks '19 and Adam Finke '19 look at a piece of art Sept 04 2015 at Banana Factory. The Art, Architecture, and Design Club of Lehigh University brought students to a nearby art gallery to expose students to local artists.
Jessica Hicks ’19 and Adam Finke ’19 look at a piece of art Sept 04 2015 at Banana Factory. The Art, Architecture, and Design Club of Lehigh University brought students to a nearby art gallery to expose students to local artists.

Hello, my name is Casey Urban, and I am a first year student in the IDEAS program at Lehigh University this fall, and will be making frequent blog posts about my experience. For my major I will likely be integrating chemical or biological engineering and something in the natural sciences arena, yet that is all subject to change. The benefit of being in this program is that the options for integration are endless, so thankfully no one expects an IDEAS student to know for sure what they want to do just yet.

The club selection at Lehigh seem limitless and overwhelming—at the club fair students sign up for groups that catch their eye, and afterward students can decide the degree of involvement that they wish to have. One group that caught my interest was the Art, Architecture, and Design Club; in high school I had taken many art classes and for a while considered minoring in art in college (the option for which is still open of course). Keeping up with individual passions outside of the academic curriculum is encouraged, especially as an IDEAS student; with so wide a range of interests, and so many avenues available, it is important to not get stuck in one train of thought and activity.

The club hosts group art projects (fun things like painting and tie-dying), as well as takes trips to art museums, sculpture gardens, and other areas of artistic interest. There is a “First Friday” event on the first Friday of every month at the Banana Factory Arts Center in South Bethlehem (a short walk off campus), which is a free open house of the art galleries of local artists. Visitors are welcome to walk through the three story building at their leisure, and have the opportunity to meet the artists in person, stepping into their studios and discussing their passions with them firsthand. It is a nice opportunity to venture off campus with a group of people from Lehigh who enjoy similar things and to see a part of Bethlehem that might otherwise remain unknown. This was the trip taken on Friday September 4, and the students really enjoyed being able to take part in this outing. Each club at Lehigh offers many ways to get involved in and off campus, and serve as ways to make students feel like not only a part of the Lehigh community but of the Bethlehem one, as they simultaneously involve themselves in an area of life that they have an interest in.