As an environmental engineer, a huge issue to tackle is getting clean water to people in other countries. So many people do not have access to something that most Americans take for granted. It seems like an issue that is impossible to solve, but Michael Pritchard is his Ted talk (link below) talks about how he has solved this problem. He has invented a Lifesaver water bottle that would enable people to clean their own water, instead of delivering the water to them through expensive and inconvenient means.
This Ted talk is from 2009, and over three million people have viewed it. My first thought was why doesn’t everyone have one of these yet? It would cost money to make and distribute, and it is still not understood that this is a problem that could be fixed with a little bit of help and coordination.
He stresses the use of this during times of disaster, but I think that it could really be useful for everyday and long term usage. Even water in America has been found to have lead (Flint Michigan? Woburn Massachusetts?) and been harming people here. Clean water is a world-wide issue, one that affects all of us, and one that is within our ability to solve.
There is a new breed of addict on the street, the breed that can only exist in a world full of technological marvels. These are the people who never make eye contact with you; they stare at their phone. These are the people who wait in line to buy the next Apple product at midnight, right as they’re stocking the shelves. And these are the people who insist on turning every activity into a selfie.
We all know people like this. They coexist with us in the strange world. In fact, you might even be in a room with one now, whether or not you know it. There is even a small chance, you might be one too.
But that is okay! In the world we live in, we all rely on technology for certain events in our lives. We’ve all been guilty of binge watching shows on Netflix, immersing ourselves in a video game marathon, and losing ourselves in the vast nothingness that is YouTube. These types of behaviors have become socially acceptable (for the most part) because we’ve all been caught doing it. Yet, does that truly make it right to do?
Even though we are all guilty of giving into our technological desires, there is still a stigma around these activities. Technology has begun to take on a very complex mantel. On the one hand, we love it. It helps us with daily activities and provides us with a form of relaxation. Yet, in stark contrast to this, we all fear technology. We’ve all seen those generic sci-fi films with the robots who take over the world and end humanity. So truly, between technology and people exists a love-hate relationship.
So how do we deal with this? We can’t exactly go completely towards or away from technology; we need it (this is somewhat debatable). Well, once again I don’t have a perfect answer. However, if you’ve read this blog, it’s a start. At the very least, by acknowledging this complex situation we can better acclimate to the world we live in.
In one of my recent blogs I used the phrase “Tipping-Point” to describe the moment when the division of labor between humans and machines reached a critical point. When I wrote this I was thinking when there was an even 50-50 between people and machines. Yet, I’ve recently been thinking that maybe it doesn’t even have to reach that point to become irrevocable. In many cases, simply by creating a technology the harm is already done. Technology is a fine example of the idea behind Pandora’s box. Once a certain technology is “let-out” there is no going back. And perhaps this is the actual “tipping-point” that I’ve been trying to identify.
This brings up the question that Professor Best loves to ask. “Will we know we’ve gone too far, before we’ve gone too far?” (or something to that effect, the exact words escape me). The problem is, every time we invent something, there is a risk that it may be one step passed what we can manage, and we can’t seem resist temptation. So as an engineer what do we do? Do we stop inventing? To site Best once again in regards to the Brooklyn bridge, “the Brooklyn bridge was not built to cross the East river, rather simply because it had to be built.” I think this encapsulates part of the essence of humanity. We have a drive to invent, to achieve, and to understand. In this way, we struggle to resist these core desires. So if we deny ourselves invention, are we not denying an integral part of our humanity? Yet, if we keep inventing without reserve, are we setting ourselves on a collision course with our extinction?
As soon as I figure out this problem, I’ll let you all know. Right now though, I’ll just focus on passing my finals.
Perhaps I’m being a bit premature, but with only a month left I find myself reflecting on my first year at college. Technically, yes, I’m still a freshman. However, after seeing all of the new candidates sitting in on classes, and carrying their little white bags around, I realized I don’t really fit in with that class anymore. I’m in the puberty phase of college. It’s that awkward phase where you transition from “high-schooler” to full fledged university student.
Recently, while grabbing lunch at Hawks Nest, a woman walked up to me and asked how I was liking my time here at Lehigh. She proceeded to bring over her son, and they asked me a few more questions. I didn’t realize the significance of this moment immediately. Sure, it felt really nice that I could help this family out. Yet, more profoundly it finally hit me that I knew Lehigh. Not the “I know of Lehigh” or “I know my way around campus”; but a genuine understanding of how things work here. I know what it’s like to spend a day playing Frisbee on the lawn in front of Dravo. I know what it’s like to stay up for hours with a bunch of friends building blanket forts in each others rooms. I also know what it’s like to spend a day cramming for an exam, and the painfully restless night that ensues. So yes, I know Lehigh. And yet, there is still so much more to learn.
No, I don’t know what it’s like at other colleges. Yet, I know Lehigh and that is a truly blessed feeling. So again, maybe this a bit premature, but I wanted to get this out before finals came around in full swing. Lehigh is a wonderful school, and I’m glad to be a part of this community.
*This unmodified picture is from: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/21684795@N05/sets/72157607381004126/
Once upon a time, my sister and I were given some money to spend on some food. So of course, the question became, “Where do we go?” As soon as I heard there was a Red Robin in the area, I knew my destiny. So we drove twenty minutes off campus and parked in the signature Red Robin parking lot. When we got inside, a waitress took us to our seats, prompted us to order our drinks and then pointed to a little contraption sitting on the table. This little black tablet was designed to take our orders without waiter assistance. We could order our food at the literal press of a button (Yes, I’m counting touch-screens as buttons for the sake of that phrase). Of course, we didn’t really like that, so we tried to call her back whenever we could. Finally, after finishing our meals we decided to get desert and we flagged our waitress down. After telling her what we wanted, she reached over, and plugged our order into that little machine.
Before I start pointing out why this bothers me, let me just acknowledge that this piece of technology isn’t a bad idea. To be fair, in a busy restaurant like Red Robin, to have a server available at all times just isn’t feasible. However, my concern stems from when people start opting to only interact with the machine. Look at grocery stores, those new self check-out machines are growing in popularity (to my knowledge) while cashier registers gather dust. What will people do when technology replaces them in the workplace? We are growing ever closer to this “tipping-point” and I don’t think people have realized it. I site the waitress using the very technology that makes her obsolete to support this obliviousness.
Now I’m not arguing to remove this technology. I personally like having the option to order without having to flag someone down. I also understand the practicality of this piece of technology. Yet, I find it hard to believe that both of these options will be able to coexist for long. What does this mean for my dream of being a cashier at my local grocery store? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Lehigh has had an Ethics Speakers Series for a little while now, and it is concluding this fall. One of the last people to speak was Dr. Ed Freeman from the University of Virginia, speaking of business and its reputation and place and future within society. He discussed the bad reputation that business has had, and explained how in actually it serves a greater positive influence within society. It has to power to do a lot of good, but also a lot of bad, and some companies are really trying to enhance the good.
He discussed future business leaders, and the goals and passions that they may have within their company.
Business was never an area that I was particularly interested in, partially for the reputation of it being competitive and sneaky, but also just because it was out of my interest. It allowed me a better view of business in society and of the positive power it may have, which is something everyone should know about. Whether you’re in the business school or not, his ideas and arguments are influential for anyone living in our capitalist and business driven society.
It’s always interesting to see how your courses overlap even though they may seem unrelated, and even though I’ve only been here two semesters it happens all the time. Right now I am in a Psychology class, and of course the IDEAS seminar, and in the seminar we talked about an idea in psychology that I just heard about earlier that week in the class. It was on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and the idea that there is a pyramid of needs that humans wish to fill, starting from the base level of food, shelter, water and working up to the peak of is self-actualization.
It was brought up that technology is being used as our companions and friends as an attempt to fill our hierarchy of needs, beyond the physiological base, in order to reach self-actualization. This was brought up as being an issue if people start to try and fill the levels of belonging and esteem before they meet their physiological needs. Also, people now aren’t looking to human friendships and interactions to fill those higher levels, but to technology, and does that pose an issue for the future of our social world?
In what ways should our needs be met, and should we make sure they are in the order that Maslow created?