Lifesavers

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.

 

 

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Technology Addicts

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.

Mobile Phones And Abercrombie
Documenting life in 2010.

*This unmodified picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/4888370567

The Tipping-Point

creativity-819371_960_720In 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.

 

The Cost of Efficiency

Time for a little story,

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. maxresdefault

 

Hierarchy of Needs

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.Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

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?

Social Studies

No. Starting things off, this is not a blog about middle school geography. This is a discussion (albeit one-sided) of how we define what it means to be social.

Last time on IDEAS Seminar, our young hero (me) mentioned that in this day and age he felt that we were becoming less social as a people. To me, it seems that through technology we’ve grown more distant from one another and our social skills as a whole are on the decline. Rather than going to talk to someone face to face, mano a mano, we can just call someone on the phone… but who am I kidding? No one actually calls anyone anymore, now we just text each other back and forth maniacally. How much information can you really gather from a series of acronyms followed by an emoji? I mean really? To me, social relationships are cultivated when in physical contact and texting/ social media is just a method to arrange these “get-togethers”.

Yet some would argue that what it means to be “social” is now changing. Some say that through our technological revolution, our definition of social is changing. Perhaps, in modern times, the most social thing you can do is to update your status on Facebook. Admittedly, texting may not be as informational as physical contact, yet the shear amount that most people participate in may make up for this. If you’re texting someone all day, in some ways you’ve been interacting with that person for hours on end. This is especially true of two people who are in a relationship. I dare you to try and take away either person’s phone. You will lose more than just a few limbs.

Perhaps it isn’t fair to say that we are becoming less social as a whole.But who really knows? All I know, is it’s time for your hero (me) to sign out for the day.

social_longshadow_icons_by_aha_soft_icons-d7ynkqo

*This unmodified picture is from: http://aha-soft-icons.deviantart.com/art/Social-LongShadow-Icons-481470144

Corn on the Cob

So today I basically became aware of the fact that everything in the world is corn. That burger you ate last night, yeah, probably some corn in it. Chicken nuggets? Mhmm. Even some soda’s contain that lovable little yellow vegetable.

Why do I want you to care about corn? Well, I’m less concerned with the fact that we are eating vegetables and more concerned about how this vegetable came to be. Back in the earliest days of people corn was minuscule. So how did corn get to be to the delicious size that it is today?

Presumably, one day someone decided to eat a piece of this tiny corn. Like all corn, he failed to completely digest it, and that little hunk of corn was planted in a pile of “enriched soil”. Over the years, people continued to snack on the larger hunks of corn and the smaller pieces slowly faded away. Fast forward a ridiculous number of years and poof, corn on the cob.

However, this new corn suffers from a fatal flaw. In all our efforts to create the David Hasselhoff of corn, we overlooked something significant. It’s only one vegetable. One crazy bug or insect could severely damage corn production and leave us in a very bad, very awkward situation.

It seems that in many cases with advances in technology (in this case corn technology) we don’t always think in the long term. Sure, eating an entire large pizza from Dominoes seems like a chance to achieve Nirvana. Yet, I’m almost certain you’re stomach will be throwing a tantrum the next day. When will we stop looking for short term answers to long term questions? maiz-y-teosinte1

Unmodified picture from: http://lacienciaysusdemonios.com/2009/10/06/el-huerto-evolutivo-4-del-teocinte-teosinte-al-maiz-la-evolucion-es-la-repanocha/