Reading Response 8

Gear heads

Technology enables people to connect in ways that would have been impossible just a short time ago. From blogs to message boards, people have the ability to share ideas at an incredible rate of speed. This ease of communication creates amazing possibilities and is altering the intellectual landscape. People now have the ability to collaborate and add to each other’s ideas, creating digital think tanks from thousands of miles apart.

In an interview conducted by McKinsey & Company entitled “The disruptive power of collaboration, and interview with Clay Shirky”, Shirky, a professor of new media at New York University explores the effects of collaborative technology. According to Shirky the easy of communication granted by technology has created a division of labor of ideas, allowing people to individually contribute small pieces of information to collectively complete a project. This “collaborative penumbra” has caused a paradigm shift where demand creates supply and communication is so inexpensive that it may as well be free (2014).

Not only is the technological revolution changing the way we collaborate, but also the way business is conducted. As processes become cheaper and easier to complete, businesses have less of a competitive advantage. More people are able to compete with existing businesses, lowering profits. Shirky states that we are moving from an era of scare resources and abundant profits to an era of abundant resources and scare profits (2014).

With information so easily accessible, problems also arise in academia. Hollis Phelps a professor at Mount Olive College delves into this issue in his article “Zizek, plagiarism and the lowering of expectations”. In his article Phelps relays the story of Slavoj Zizek, an author who he admires greatly due to his immense breadth of knowledge. Unfortunately, it is uncovered that Zizek is using other authors’ work without proper citation and he is accused of plagiarism. Phelps does not seem surprised with this revelation due to the large work load that Zizek carries. He also states that ““Real” scholarship places a value on uniqueness and novelty, which requires a careful balance when it comes to the citation process” (2014).

This statement is particularly relevant in the current climate of collaboration. How will scholars differentiate themselves in the era of massive collaboration? Is the academic division of labor preferable to traditional methods if it yields greater results? Currently the answer to these questions are unknown, but the process of finding the answer has already begun. Although the way we collaborate is changing at an incredible pace, we must rely on the existing frame work of academia and provide proper citation when necessary. Everyone who contributes to a project deserves recognition, no matter how small their contribution. With the increase in the number of people collaborating, this is even more important. The bibliography may be twice as long as the text, bit it is still necessary.

McKinsey & Company. (2014, March 4). The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky. Retrieved November 22, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxJ-g7y1uSw

Phelps, H. (2014, July 17). Žižek, plagiarism and the lowering of expectations (essay) @insidehighered. Retrieved November 22, 2014, from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/07/17/%C5%BEi%C5%BEek-plagiarism-and-lowering-expectations-essay

Biotechnology literature review

Rat

Moore’s Law states that computing power doubles every two years. Although not a physical law but rather an observation, it demonstrates the tremendous speed at which technology is advancing. Advancements in technology are not limited to computing. Biotechnology, or the manipulation of living organisms or their components to produce useful usually commercial products, are also advancing at a dizzying pace.

The United States has embraced this new technology enthusiastically. Although these new foods present exciting possibilities, some question the safety of genetically modified crops. This raises a very important question; do genetically modified organisms in the United States food supply pose a risk to the population, or is there use results in a net benefit.

David Zilberman, Professor and holder of the Robinson Chair in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California at Berkeley is a proponent of genetically modified crops. In his journal article Biotechnology and Food Security (2014) published in the Journal of International Affairs, he explains the benefits of genetically modified crops. According to Zilberman (2014) the population of the world has increased by seven hundred percent since 1850. Although agricultural processes have increase in this time frame, the exponential population growth leaves many areas of the world vulnerable to famine. Biotechnology gives us a way to end this hunger.

By utilizing biotechnology, scientists are able to manipulate the genes of crops. These manipulations can increase crop production in several ways. One technique is to make the crops less water dependent. This enables farmers to plant in more arid areas as well as make their crops draught resistant. The most prevalent technique is to make crops that are resistant to pesticides, thus reducing or even eliminating damage from insects. A similar process is used for herbicides. By making crops resistant to herbicides such as Roundup, farmers are able to apply extensive amounts of chemicals to eliminate weeds without damaging the actual crop.

Contrary to Zilberman’s view, there are many organizations that are firmly against the use of biotechnology in the food supply. The Organic Consumer Association (2014) and the Non GMO project (2014) are two organizations who hold this view. These organizations, along with a growing list of citizens and celebrities feel that biotechnology presents a great danger to the food supply. One of their main arguments is that no long term testing has been performed on crops that have been genetically modified and that the dangers are unknown. They also argue that the current regulatory agencies in the United States are comprised of former executives from large agricultural corporations, thus creating a conflict of interest.

Dhan Prakash, Professor at Amity University, Amity Institute of Herbal Research and Studies examines the various risks associated with biotechnology in his article Risks and Precautions of Genetically Modified Organisms (2011). Prakash states that the introduction of genetically modified organism can create hazards for ecological stability (2011). Genetic contamination, competition with natural species, and the inability to control genetically modified organisms once they are released into the ecosystem all present potential problems. Prakash sees biotechnology as a paradox, “The use of genetically modified organisms is important in order to meet increasing demands and improve existing conditions prevalent in our environment. We are at an anxious juncture where, on one hand, we are faced with unprecedented threats to human health and environment, while on the other hand we have opportunities to change the way things are done” (2011). While Prakash states that there are potential human health risks associated with biotechnology, he does not elaborate.

In contrast to Prakash’s lack of information regarding the detrimental effects of biotechnology in the food supply, Gilles-Eric Seralini (2014) explores them in great detail. Seralini, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen conducted a long term study of the effects of genetically modified crops. Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize (2014) analyzes the effects of genetically modified corn fed to rats over a two year period. This is the first long term study every conducted, much longer than the ninety day studies conducted by Monsanto to analyze the safety of genetically modified maize (2014).

Seralini’s (2014) study greatly contrasts Zilberman’s view of biotechnology. The group of rats that were feed the Roundup-tolerant maize were found to have mortality rates two to three hundred times that of the control group. Chronic kidney deficiencies, sex hormone imbalance, and liver congestion were also found in the group that were fed the Roundup-tolerant maize. In addition to these deficiencies, the group feed biologically modified maize grew large tumors (2014). Interestingly, Seralini has a measured conclusion stating: “Our findings imply that long-term (2 year) feeding trials need to be conducted to thoroughly evaluate the safety of GM foods and pesticides in their full commercial formulations” (2014).

Prakash, D., Verma, S., Bhatia, R., & Tiwary, B. N. (2011). Risks and Precautions of Genetically

Modified Organisms. ISRN Ecology, 2011, 1-13. doi: 10.5402/2011/369573

Organic Consumers Association. (2014, November 1). Retrieved November 1, 2014, from http://www.organicconsumers.org/

Séralini et al.: Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup

tolerant genetically modified maize. Environmental Sciences Europe 2014 :14.

The Non-GMO Project. (2014, November 1). Retrieved November 1, 2014, from http://www.nongmoproject.org/

Zilberman, D., Kaplan, S., Kim, E., Sexton, S., & Barrows, G. (2014). Biotechnology and food

security. Journal of International Affairs, 67(2), 91.

Reading Response 7

Paul Revere

            There has always been a delicate balance between the need for privacy and the societal use of personal information. With no privacy, usually due to tight state controls on thought and speech, great ideas may never be heard because people are not free to explore them. Conversely, if everyone in society has total privacy with no personal information to analyze, businesses will be unable to determine the credibility of potential customers and nations will have more difficulty identifying potential threats. As technological advancements grow and people become more reliant on the internet and social networking sites, the balance is being drastically shifted away from personal privacy.

Kate Murphy (2014) explores the ramifications of our diminishing privacy in her article “We Want Privacy, but Can’t Stop Sharing”. The article brings to light several effects that are often overlooked in our new online Orwellian world. For many years privacy equated status. Criminals and the mentally ill were often denied privacy as a measure of protection for society at large. Murphy states that not only being watched, but the mere perception of being watched lowers self-esteem, limits creativity and individuality, and elevates stress levels (2014). What was once only a concern for a specific minority of the population, now effects everyone who chooses to participate in the modern world.

In light of these disturbing findings, one may ask why we seldom hear criticism of our diminishing privacy. On reason is that critics of technology are often dismissed. Evan Selinger (2014), an associate professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology and a fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology examines this dismissal in his article “Why It’s Too Easy To Dismiss Technology Critics: Or, The Fallacies Leading A Reviewer To Call Nicholas Carr Paranoid”. Selinger states that critics of technology are often invalidated by framing issues in terms of overly simplistic comparisons. By doing this, the argument is diminished and the actual issues are never explored.

Another reason we do not see more backlash can be attributed to the length of time our privacy has been diminished. Far from a recent occurrence, the tracking of person information has taken place in various forms since the 1800’s. In the podcast “Keeping Tabs: Data & Surveillance in America”, historian Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh (2013) review the history of privacy, or the lack there of, in the United States.

The tracking of data began as a necessity in the 1880’s. As the young United States expanding, people were conducting business from far greater distances. With the prevalence of scam artists and confidence men, the nation was in need of a way to determine someone’s credit worthiness. This lead to the creation of credit reports. Tracking was further expanded with the invention of J. Edgar Hoover’s cross reference index card system (2013). Few would argues that these systems are unnecessary.

Although a certain amount of personal information is necessary, our current lack of privacy would be unfathomable just twenty years ago. Our personal information is not the only information that we share, but also our social networks. The troubling aspect of this is that algorithms are able to analyze our data from the outside in. In a study conducted that analyzed data from the Revolutionary War, the algorithm was able to identify “terrorists” by examining the social connections of an individual. The key terrorist was found to be Paul Revere.

This is extremely troubling if we frame this in a modern context. Will the next great thinkers be suppressed before they are able to express their ideas if those ideas do not conform to governmental standards? Although many would say that this argument is farfetched, our increasingly apathetic view of privacy and willingness to disclose all facets of our lives make this a distinct possibility in the not so distant future.

Ayers, E., Onuf, P., & Balogh, B. (2013, July 19). Keeping Tabs.

Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://backstoryradio.org/shows/keeping-tabs/

Murphy, K. (2014, October 04). We Want Privacy, but Can’t Stop Sharing.

Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/sunday-review/we-want-privacy-but-cant-stop-sharing.html

Selinger, E. (2014, September 19). Why It’s Too Easy To Dismiss Technology Critics: Or, The Fallacies Leading A Reviewer To Call Nicholas Carr Paranoid.

Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/privacynotice/2014/09/19/why-its-too-easy-to-dismiss-technology-critics-or-the-fallacies-leading-a-reviewer-to-call-nicholas-carr-paranoid/

Annotated Bibliography

Biotechnology

Erik Roth

Knowledge Management

October 20, 2014

Biotechnology: An Annotated Bibliography

Isaac, G. E., & Kerr, W. A. (2003). Genetically Modified Organisms and Trade Rules:

Identifying Important Challenges for the WTO. The World Economy, 26(1), 29-42. doi: 10.1111/1467-9701.00508

This scholarly article from a credible economics journal examines the hurdles in GMO labeling. The implementation of easier international trade creates many problems when attempting to identify genetically modified foods and crops. This reference will be valuable in the government oversight section on the paper.

Mchughen, A., & Smyth, S. (2007). US regulatory system for genetically modified [genetically

modified organism (GMO), rDNA or transgenic] crop cultivars. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 0(0), 071024233955001-??? doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00300.x

Various elements can be used from this source in both the Government oversight section of the paper as well as the labeling and testing sections. The source in neutral and offers insight into the various test and labelling processes.

O’brien, J. (2003). Biotechnology and Food Safety. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 14(9), 390-391. doi: 10.1016/S0924-2244(03)00055-4

As a book with a neutral perspective, it will be useful throughout the paper. O’brien examines biotechnology in-depth and examines both sides of the argument. Topics covered include benefits such as insect resistance, herbicide resistance, enhanced nutritional quality and density, enhanced freshness, improved flavor, and reduction of allergen content.

Gunn, M. A. (2007). Welcome to BioTech nation: My unexpected odyssey into the land of small     molecules, lean genes, and big ideas. New York: AMACOM.

Although published in a scholarly book in nature, Gunn offers a very basic overview of biotechnology. This will prove to be very useful in the introduction as well as various other sections of the paper. Crops and food are not examined in great detail, but the overall concept is laid out very well. Gunn leans toward being pro GMO.

Prakash, D., Verma, S., Bhatia, R., & Tiwary, B. N. (2011). Risks and Precautions of Genetically Modified Organisms.

ISRN Ecology, 2011, 1-13. doi: 10.5402/2011/369573

The article presents a good counter argument to the pro GMO consensus in the United States. Prakash examines the various dangers of biotechnology and questions the decision making in its implementation. The article is scholarly and will be useful in the potential dangers section of the paper.

Weasel, L. H. (2009). Food fray: Inside the controversy over genetically modified food.

New York: Amacom-American Management Association.

Although this book is less scholarly than most of the other sources used, it examines various countries viewpoints of genetically modified crops very effectively. It will be useful in several areas of the paper including potential dangers, government oversight, testing in the U.S., countries banning GMOs, and countries labeling GMOs.

Zueghart, W., Beismann, H., & Schroeder, W. (2013). Tools for a scientifically rigorous and

efficient monitoring of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – VDI Guidelines to ensure high quality of GMO-monitoring data. BIORISK – Biodiversity and Ecosystem       Risk Assessment, 8, 3-13. doi: 10.3897/biorisk.8.4036

This source in not extremely extensive, but does offer a view of European oversight. It examines the various methods for testing GMOs that are used in European countries where these modified crops are less popular. Several items found in the article will be useful throughout the paper.

Reading Response 6

big brother

With modern society’s inundation with technology and social media, many people feel more at home while sitting in a public place on their smartphone than they do at their house with the absence of technology. This creates a unique problem when we examine the saying “a person’s home is their castle”. The Fourth Amendment of the Unites States Constitution guarantees a person’s privacy in their home, as well as privacy of their papers and effects. With most people storing their papers online, where does this leave their privacy? In the words of Scott McNealy, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

Kieron O’Hara (2013) examines this lack of privacy. He states that the traditional theory of privacy as seen by John Stuart Mill is that its loss is justified if it prevents harm. O’Hara labels this the Mill test. Unfortunately harm is not defined in this theory. O’Hara does go on to describe the possible adverse effects of the loss of privacy. He outlines various ways that the loss of privacy hurts society as a whole stating “The gains of privacy accrue to the individual, while its costs are felt by wider society” (2013).

One of the damaging effects of the loss of privacy is the loss of personal accountability. O’Hara rationalizes this by stating only an autonomous person can be accountable, with the loss of autonomy society also loses individual accountability. The negative impact of the loss of autonomy not only harms greater society, but also extends to the individual. “Loss of autonomy might be compensated for by increased control over identity and self-presentation” (2013).

The loss of privacy clearly presents challenges, but are there any benefits to the loss? If we revisit the Mill test, there would certainly be situations where privacy should be lost to forgo harm. But what if we take this a step further and replace harm with evil? Certainly evil should be prevented.

This would be a very interesting change of semantics in our secular society. In Ian Bogost’s (2013) examines Google’s corporate culture. Google’s company slogan is “Don’t be evil”. Interestingly the company never defines what exactly is evil. In the corporate view of Google, evil would be something that would prevent a program from being effectively created and maintained. This is the extent of Google’s philosophical view on evil. There is no definitive culture that would prevent the company from taking certain actions; “in place of a broadly constructed set of sociocultural values, Google relies instead on the edict of the engineer” (2013).

Bogost’s argument revolves around Google’s decision to take user’s web activity and use them as unauthorized endorsements for paid advertising. Although this may be alarming to some, it should be no surprise. As a publicly traded company, Google has no social or moral responsibility aside from operating within the rule of law and providing shareholders with the most profit possible. If part of Google’s user agreement states that they are able to use a person’s information, then they have every right to do so. This is also true for social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. There is a tradeoff when using these site, convenience for privacy. The question is which is more important?

Bogost, Ian. “What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.

O’Hara, Kieron. “Are we Getting Privacy the Wrong Way Round?” IEEE Internet Computing 17.4 (2013): 89-92. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6547595.

Digital Scholarship

Although technology effects almost every aspect of modern life, one area that remains unaffected is scholarship. This is very counter-intuitive considering the immense possibilities that are created with the numerous advances in technology. Dr. Ayers examines the current lack of digital scholarship, or discipline based scholarship produced with digital tools and presented in digital form, in his article “Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?”

As President of the University of Richmond, Dr. Ayers has positioned the institution at the forefront of digital scholarship. Beginning with the Valley of Shadows Project in 1993 which uses digital media to document the experience of Civil War soldiers, Dr. Ayers has been able to recognize the value of this emerging form. He argues that digital scholarship is largely underutilized and that this trend should be reversed in the future. Many other prestigious universities are begin to explore digital scholarship, but this new disciple still faces many obstacles.

The majority of current scholars simple do not see the value in digital scholarship. This many be caused by and aversion to change, or perhaps the fear of misinformation. Technology gives the world the ability and ease to share information, but with this it also presents a unique set of challenges. Currently, scholars go through a rigorous process of peer review and need a publisher to present their work to the world. Digital scholarship may enable scholars to circumvent this process and simply present their work to the public without venturing through the current system of checks and balances. While the increase of available information has a positive effect on society, it could create a challenge in finding information that is actually factual.

Monographic scholarship has been the standard for such a long time that many scholars do not think that it is worth the time to learn a new process. With the lack of desire to learn more about the process, many are unable to integrate their current work. This is extremely short sighted. Past generations have been comfortable with the traditional process, due largely to the fact that this was the way that every aspect of life was presented. As the digital age progresses, we risk the alienation of current and future generations by not moving toward digital scholarship. Most students are digital natives, born within the computer age. These students will want to study within a medium that  is familiar. If scholarship fails to adapt, they will feel like they are navigating in a foreign land.

So how then does digital scholarship move forward? Funding is always an issue of concern. Past projects have proven that funding agencies will back large projects. The key to the success of digital scholarship depends on current and future scholars envisioning dynamic projects and exploring larger possibilities. Although digital scholarship faces certain challenges ahead, it will clearly be a larger part of the academic community in the future.

Book Review

images

            With technology playing such a large role in the everyday lives of most people in the world today, it is easy to forget that it is present. We may take for granted that we have the knowledge of the world at our fingertips by accessing the internet with our smart phones.  But the world also has access to our information. Almost all that we do while online or on smart phones is collected, from Google searches to Twitter posts. This constant collection of extremely large amounts of information is known as “Big Data”.

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and Kenneth Cukier, data editor for The Economist team up to write Big Data. The authors delve into the subject of big data in a manner that is very easy for the average reader to comprehend.  The book begins with an explanation of big data and quickly transitions into collection methods and applications.

Big Data goes into great detail explaining the benefits of this unprecedented collection of information. According to the authors, the more information that is collected, the more enhanced our power of prediction will be. These predictions can range from valuing the future price of an airline ticket, to predicting where crime is more likely to happen. They also state that our decision making will be improved due to an increase in data.

Datafication, or reducing everything to small pieces of information is also discussed. This process started with objects and prices, but is quickly evolving to the datafication of people and relationships. This is possible due to the large amount of information about social connections and relationships that people reveal on websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Data that people give freely is a huge asset to these businesses, and is creating new markets.

The reuse of data exhausted is explained, which is quite interesting. Not only are our searches collected, but also our mistakes. This collection of data has enabled the improvement of programs such as autocorrect and Google’s voice recognition software. The various uses that have been developed with the collection of data are incredible, and they will continue to advance.

In a much small section of Big Data, the authors touch on the potential dangers of big data. Their presentation of the potential pitfalls is very underwhelming. Privacy is mentioned in passing, almost as if it is a given that this right will be given up for the wonderful power that big data offers. One point that was quite interesting was the discussion of MacNamra and the Vietnam War. As a numbers man, he had managed the conflict much as an accountant would manage a business. Success was measure by body count. Unfortunately these numbers were often inaccurate, cause poor decisions to be made because of bad information. This is known as garbage in, garbage out.

The authors fail to connect this issue with the potential benefits of big data. If our power of prediction and improved decision making is based on the data that we are analyzing, what kind of mistakes will be caused by poor data? Overall, Big Data provides a great deal insight into this ever increasing field, even if it is a bit one sided.

Mayer-Schönberger, V., & Cukier, K. (2013). Big data: A revolution that will transform how we

      live, work, and think. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.