Research Nugget

MLA –

Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 01 Jul. 2008. Web. 30 Jun. 2014.

This article is from a past University or Focused Inquiry class which actually is very relevant to what I am researching for my inquiry project.

UNIV 200 - Yes

Anyway, the article is called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and it discusses the effect of the internet and online browsing being the media of choice for receiving information. The author, Nicholas Carr, is an author of more than one book and several articles on technology as well as other topics. He openly discusses the fact that he, as well as other noted peers of his, has been rendered incapable of engaging in a long, dense book, or even a lengthy article.

Carr argues that the reason for his loss in focus is due to the digital takeover which has seen almost all past media (Television, articles, discussions, and sometimes even books) being combined and digitized into the all-encompassing medium of the Internet. He continues to explain that all mediums have an affect on the way we process information. In the culture of internet browsing, texting, tweets, and more, this means no longer engaging in a text but simply glimpsing and skimming in order to get the big picture and that moving on. This means having several tabs open, jumping from one to another rather than having one big book in your lap. This should sound especially familiar after our own “As We May Think” concept experience. Carr says that this change in the way we process information goes much deeper than just changing our reading habits, it changes the way we think.

” The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level. 

I almost didn’t use this quote because it is so perfect for my purposes and I wanted to save it for my final…oh well, reinforcement never hurts I suppose. Putting the negative air in which the author discusses this topic aside, I have a source discussing ways in which the digital medium of the web not only influences the way we think but in fact alters the chemical makeup of the brain, changing it on a BIOLOGICAL level. The title of the book I am using for my research is subtitled When Humans Transcend Biology. My inquiry is both into the Technological Singularity, which is the topic of that book, but also into the ways in which digital technologies are already integrated into our lives and how their integration is already changing our essential existence. The article speaks of intellectual technologies, which are technologies that extend our mental capabilities rather than our physical ones. These are the technologies which I am interested in and this article provides an example of just how deep-seeded their integration can be.

Research Nugget

MLA –

Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Penguin Group, 2005. Print.

This book is my One-Stop-Shop for my final when it comes to discussing the ideas of the singularity. Well, at least along with the Singularity Symposium which I discussed in my last research nugget, and includes a profile of the author of this book,  Ray Kurzweil. The Website names Kurzweil the most famous and widely recognized ‘singularitarian.’ He has written more than one book concerning the rise of technology and artificial intelligence, but this book is certainly his masterpiece. It is extremely well-referenced and includes almost 500 pages discussing, in detail, all aspects of the coming Singularity, 100 pages of notes, and 50 pages of index to cite all of his countless references and sources. For anyone who has heard of the Technological Singularity and thinks it is a matter of Science-Fiction, Ray is here to set you straight. The Technological Singularity, as described by Ray Kurzweil and other prominent thinkers, is as much Science-Fiction as is virtual reality. And if you think virtual reality is science-fiction, I urge you to research Jaron Lanier as well as the Occulus Rift, which has recently been bought out by Facebook.

” Evolution is a process of creating patterns of increasing order. I’ll discuss the concept of order in the next chapter; the emphasis in this section is on the concept of patterns. I believe that it’s the evolution of patterns that constitutes the ultimate story of our world. Evolution works through indirection: each stage or epoch uses the information-processing methods of the previous epoch to create the next. I conceptualize the history of evolution-both biological and technological- as occurring in six epochs. As we will discuss, the Singularity will begin with Epoch Five and will spread from Earth to the rest of the universe in Epoch Six. 

These are the Six Epochs

The Six Epochs of Ray Kurzweil
The Six Epochs of Ray Kurzweil

In case I have not made it abundantly clear, my final has much to do with the Technological Singularity. My original inquisition was into the affect of digital technology on our essential human persona, which it is still is. But I am finding more and more that the Singularity has to do with exactly that. The Technological Singularity deals with the prospect that our technology will, or in fact is advancing faster than our biological selves, making it an inevitability that we will one day have to be conjoined with our own creations in order to ‘keep up,’ if you will. The Singularity was initially meant to be the backdrop to my inquiry but it is becoming more and more the center of attention because it so fundamentally deals with this question of the Human-Computer Interaction and our relationship with the technology we have created.

Research Nugget

MLA –

Danaylov, Nikola. Singularity Symposium. Nikola Danaylov, 2012. Web. 28 Jul. 2014.

I’m not quite sure if the Singularity Symposium meets all of the requirements to be considered a scholarly source, but it should! It is a personal page created by Nikola Danaylov, although it is open to user-input and content and involves dozens upon dozens of links to outside sources. As implied by the name, this website contains everything Singularity. From profiles of those most influential on the topic of the Singularity, including the author of a book I will be using for my project, Ray Kurzweil, among others. It involves important vocabulary, important ideas, etc. It really immerses you in the open discussion of the Technological Singularity and equips you with the basic understanding you need to participate. Anyone with the slightest interest in knowing what the technological singularity is should check it out! As a not-so-scholarly article, it is very light-hearted and appealing to all. I intend on linking to different pages of this websites throughout my final, because as I said it acts as a sort of Singularity Encylopedia, even including recent films about the subject, of course including the classic, The Matrix.

The website’s most fundamental page is its definition page for the word ‘Singularity.’ It contains a great deal, you can follow the link to find out more, but the most useful definition I found was this quote by John Von Neumann, who of course has a profile on the website.

” John von Neumann was quoted as saying that “the ever accelerating progress of technology … gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” His definition of the Singularity was that the Singularity is the moment beyond which “technological progress will become incomprehensively rapid and complicated.” 

 

Research Update

My last research nugget was on an article which offers more of a framework for my research rather than more substance. My hope is that the framework provided will allow me to break down my inquiry into the affect of digital technology on our essential biology. The article we read by Doug Engalbart, “Man-Computer Symbiosis” discusses humans use of tools and ‘artifacts’ using the H-LAM/T system. This breaks down the use of tools as a means to improve and enhance one’s own ability. The article I discussed in my last research nugget provides a framework for digital technology as a tool to enhance our abilities.

My inquiry will be aimed at discussing how digital technologies essentially change who we are by affecting our abilities and extending our capabilities. I plan on research yielding more and more examples to discuss, but I plan on discussing texting, spellcheck, Google, GPS, and more. The idea is that when we are in the presence or have access to a digital tool such as a phone, we are instantly able to converse with anyone on the planet who has the same and even nowadays see them face to face. When thinking about the way that we employ technology, we began to see something like this as an extension of ourselves. Which leaves me with a question, are we the same with technology than without it? The obvious answer is no but try to understand that I am not just merely looking at if there is a difference, but if technology makes us fundamentally different than from who we are without it. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

I will be using the idea of the Technological Singularity as context to my inquiry, which is the idea that at some point in time computers will surpass human intelligence and basically become their own being, their own species. It might sound like Science Fiction, which is where the idea comes from, but it is being discussed more and more everyday, not just as a reality, but as an inevitability. I have found this site which is not scholarly but has everything to do with the Singularity. It is a great starting point for any of you who are unfamiliar with the idea. There is also this very light-hearted video which gives a good introduction to the significance surrounding the Singularity, but be warned that this is one side of the spectrum on the issue, the other side of the spectrum is The Terminator…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTPAQIvJ_1M

Research Nugget

MLA Citation –

Korn, Kim C. and Pine B. Joseph II. “The Typology of Human Capability:  A New Guide to Rethinking the Potential for Digital Experience Offerings” CreativeAdvantage. Creative Advantage Inc., n.d. Web. 22 Jul. 2014.

This article by Kim Korn, which is directed toward business organizations trying to get ahead with technology, actually serves as a perfect springboard for my research as a whole. The article discusses the ‘Typology of Human Capability’ which endeavors to categorize humans capabilities and explain how technology, specifically digital technology, extends those capabilities. My aim in my inquiry is to explore these extensions and what they mean. This article does not quite do that but it provides a perfect framework to shape my research and break down the complexity into simple parts.

The authors of this article break down human capabilities into four basic categories: Sensing, Performing, Organizing, and Linking.

Typology of Human Capability

 

They have also split these categories up in between connecting and doinggroup and individual. All of these categories refer to the ways in which in the presence of digital technology, our capabilities are extended. Having this framework to refer back to throughout my research will allow me to discuss in detail how technology affects us in different ways and leaves us with something more than what we started.

This should look familiar –

What’s Unique about Digital Technology
In 1984, pioneering computer scientist Alan Kay recognized the unique power of the computer’s digital technology to embody what he identified as ”the first metamedium, and as such it has degrees of freedom for representation and expression never before encountered and as yet barely investigated.”(4)” 

My research overlaps with much of the courses content that we have already been made familiar with, Alan Kay is a familiar name and along with that we have had several readings that refer to the ways in which digital technology will enable us to do more than we ever dreamed of doing.

When it comes to putting the framework into practice, the authors have this to say

Second, discern the way and the relative magnitude that sensing, linking, organizing, and performing have each been extended, amplified, or enriched by the innovation. What does this reveal about the essence of the value created? Specifically, how does this innovation change how an individual or group connects with or affects the world around them? How does the value created in one dimension relate to another?

Hopefully this gives you a glimpse of how I will use the typology to discuss and break down how certain technologies affect our capabilities and where they leave us to stand in a before and after scenario. The article already begins to discuss the monumental impact digital technology has had on our ability to perform as well as reaching into a whole new realm of possibilities such as seeing things we have never been able to see before. (GPS, etc.) It will serve as the skeleton of my inquiry when it comes to understanding the difference that is made by employing digital technology.

Inquiry Proposal

Area of Inquiry

When I was a kid, I used to dream of having telekinetic or telepathic powers. At the age of 15 or 16, I realized that I had the power of telepathy, through texting. Maybe it’s not full-fledged telepathy but the fact that, as long as I have my phone on me, I have the ability to reach anyone, anywhere with the same and share with them my thoughts and ideas, was enough for me at 16. Technology has been extending our capabilities since the dawn of our species; in fact, it is in the definition of technology that it be applied to solve problems. All technology includes anything from a stick to an iPhone 5, as long as the stick is being used as an instrument for some other purpose. But there seems to be a peculiarity about digital technology and how it extends our capabilities. From spellcheck to texting, which certainly are not the same thing, we find ourselves with new abilities by simply having access to these services. So my interest is, not altogether like the “wearable computers” suggestion for this assignment, but not unlike it either. My interest is in digital technology, specifically computers, extending and even adding capabilities to the human persona, and where that leaves us as a species.

Direction of Inquiry

To the Singularity. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Singularity, I’ll give this quick run down. The Singularity refers to a few different things in the maths and sciences, I am referring to the Technological Singularity. There are a lot of preconceptions surrounding the Singularity, but basically it refers to the point in time in which computers will intellectually advance past human beings. The general belief is that one of two things will happen at this point in time, history will repeat itself and the dominant species (now the computers) will find some reason to extinguish the inferior species in order to achieve some goal, or humans will merge with this superintelligence and become a new species. So in ways the direction my inquiry will be going is anthropological in some sense, biological in some sense, and sociological and others beyond that.

My idea is not solely to research the Singularity and its likeliness or the date of doomsday, because my idea is that in a way we are already transformed by technology into something we were not before its creation. It is hard to draw the line between the affects and benefits of simple technologies and digital technologies that I am interested in. But the technologies I am considering are not ones that extend any physical capability but technologies that, in access of their usage, affect our mental capacities. I plan on focusing in on digital technologies and how they change the very essence of who we are. If you heard of a person that knows of everything known to man, you’d be hard-pressed to believe it, but this could very well be said about anyone with access to Wikipedia and the internet.

My Inquiry in Concept Space 

I believe that my writing will probably be my strong suit in this project when it comes to using the medium of the Web. However, in brainstorming this project I have already found many interesting articles and videos related to the topic. Naturally hyperlinks will be in abundance and there will be many other media to augment the inquiry. Luckily as well I have the fortune in discussing the Singularity, which has been in the limelight since its creation and even more so recently. Movies such as The Matrix and The Terminator have a lot of substance to offer and will create a lot of space for gifs and pictures that will be widely recognizable. Also the idea of the Singularity and those who fostered it are very much intertwined with the people we have taken interest in throughout the course of this class. Because of the similar forum that these topics come in I plan on finding a lot of common ground and place to tie in earlier discussions and assignments.

 

Conceptual Network

Creative problem solving is the basis for our continued survival and existence, and improvement thereof. Throughout the years, my mother taught me that without knowledge and learning, a person is and always will be useless. This post by chartmann discusses the connection our own associative thinking and the algorithms used in search engines, which seem to mirror each other in a way. This explores the idea of where the split between the realm of technology and the realm of the human mind lies. I have always thought that this split is already visible within our own brains, something that should fit with Bush’s own thinking since he seems to consider much of human technology to be a sort of reverse engineering of our own biological functions. It is funny to think that almost his entire dream is realizable through the use of a personal computer, which I assume all of us have at our disposal. So the brain does a lot more than just thinking but it seems like my thinking is the only function I can perform within it…my thoughts are me. And I began to think about the somewhat paradoxical connection between the two. As I have said before, looking on the term with fresh eyes we can see that the seemingly obvious is actually filled with ambiguity.

 

However, the computer has many other capabilities for manipulating and displaying information that can be of significant benefit to the human in nonmathematical processes of planning, organizing, studying, etc. Being able to see my thought process in the form of my internet history gives me a chance to analyze and, if necessary, change the way I think. Of what lasting benefit has been man’s use of science and of the new instruments which his research brought into existence? Individuals who operate effectively in our culture have already been considerably “augmented.” It truly inspires me and leads me wondering what the future will bring for us, maybe I should start fantasizing now.

We are more and more committed to the world wide web everyday and everyday we dedicate more and more of our old systems of records and accounting to its prowess. Hundreds of books can now be right in our pocket. Something that is now completely computerized or at least mechanized. The internet has connected the entire world and practically the entire world is logged on. Some have likened finding relevant information on the web as similar to drinking water from a fire hydrant: messy and not a very efficient way to get what you really want. Many rules apply and conditions change with every move, there are many routes to success, none the same as another. Even if utterly new recording procedures do not appear, these present ones are certainly in the process of modification and extension. Men will set the goals and supply the motivations, of course, at least in the early years. In general, they will make approximate and fallible, but leading, contributions, and they will define criteria and serve as evaluators, judging the contributions of the equipment and guiding the general line of thought. The only way to avoid being stumped by simplicity that I can see, is being open to complexity, and always be aware of your line of sight. Maybe it is because of this trend that I feel the freedom to discuss other topics pertaining to the internet and global communication and collaboration, but in the future I am going to try to stick more directly to the topic discussed.

‘Research Reflections’ Week 2

Well…it has been a long week. This is obviously way overdue but I want to get situated in the course in order to move on so I have been working myself up to date. I have truly enjoyed many of the assignments we have had thus far and even though I have been trailing along behind the pack so far I have tried to keep up to date and comment on others’ work.

So far my struggle to publish assignments on time and stay on take has left me feeling like I’m constantly missing something, like there is a magic link that explains everything that everyone besides me has access to. But that has finally and thankfully come to an end. I am working my way back up to date as I have said, and by the end of today I should be back on track and ready to truly participate in the current happenings of this class.

As for this week’s work, week 2, it consists of, since many of you probably need a reminder, the “Man-Computer Symbiosis” article and ‘Analyzing the Obvious” concept experience. I have a love-hate relationship with these dated articles on the potential of computers and their authors’ dreams of a bright, connected future. I love them because they bring to light the true power of what we have in front of us, at this very moment. They are truly visionary in their scope and it is amazing to see how someone 40-50 years ago had a detailed fantasy of what has come to be reality today. It truly inspires me and leads me wondering what the future will bring for us, maybe I should start fantasizing now. But as far as their prophetic visions go, it can leave me restless at times reading through paragraphs and paragraphs of explanations of how a combination of several outdated technologies ‘could’ come to form something like that of a personal computer today.

Many of my responses to these articles have been somewhat tangential to the main topic of the article, of which I sense a bit of a trend. Maybe it is because of this trend that I feel the freedom to discuss other topics pertaining to the internet and global communication and collaboration, but in the future I am going to try to stick more directly to the topic discussed.

“Analyzing the Obvious” Concept Experience

UNIV 200 - Optical Effect

For my obvious statement I decided to go with the king of all statements “The sky is blue.” For those of you who already finished this assignment, you can probably see passed the obviousness of the statement, but I thought it was a good one to stick with since it is such a paradigm of obvious statements yet it just takes one curious kid asking you “why is the sky blue” to stump you and leave you feeling totally unsure.

My research began with that very question, and quickly led me to many more. Already the question “why is the sky blue” is enough to leave many stumped, but in light of this assignment it becomes apparent that ‘sky’ is more ambiguous than we usually tend to think. My research definitely helped me clear up some of the ambiguity and led me some new discoveries as well.

Screenshot 2014-06-30 23.41.44

As I have said before, looking on the term with fresh eyes we can see that the seemingly obvious is actually filled with ambiguity. The Wikepedia page for “Sky” defines the sky as a space a certain distance above the Earth and beyond into space. This is sometimes called the ‘celestial dome.’ This is certainly a loose definition but it should be added that by celestial dome, or this usage of the word ‘sky’ we are talking about the visible half-sphere that we see above us at any given time and all that it contains. So this does not extend to all of space outside the Earth, which would be 99.9999999% of the universe. Obviously the sky is not the universe, so basically the sky is the half-dome which we find above us while we our on the Earth’s surface, and more specifically, we are usually talking about the Earth’s atmosphere.

However I digress, as you can see in my browser history, my research began with the question “why is the sky blue?” The first site I stumbled on was quite informative on that question and even asked new questions pertaining to similar optical effects in regard to the sky. Because after all this is an optical effect, having to do with both our vision and how we see, and how light is transferred through the Earth’s atmosphere, or the ‘sky.’ The color of the sky is determined by the scattering of light from the sun, which contains all colors of the visible spectrum. So when our line of sight is facing toward the sky, we are seeing the light which is being scattered the most and quickly, which, big surprise here, turns out to be blue. When our line of sight is facing more or less straight towards the horizon, as we would see a sunset, we see a redish glow because red light is scattered much less than the other colors. It has to do with wavelengths. If you can remember the mnemonic device ROY G. BIV, or Red Orange Green Blue Indigo Violet, then you’ll understand red is scattered the least and violet is scattered the most. The reason the sky isn’t violet is because violet and indigo are scattered so much that they are either absorbed or lost by the atmosphere. This diagram from the site I mentioned before was very helpful for me, if you don’t want to be stumped the next time a kid asks you why the sky is blue, I suggest you take a look.

 

Thinking in terms of the optical effects that these seemingly obvious things are truly formed from, I begin to see how obvious statements are much like their own optical illusions. Seeming to be the end of the trail, appearing as a brick wall when in fact there is a whole other world behind them. Sometimes our line of sight leads us to believe that what we are seeing is simply what meets the eye, but a sudden shift and we are suddenly aware that it is an entire phenomenon in it’s own right. The only way to avoid being stumped by simplicity that I can see, is being open to complexity, and always be aware of your line of sight.

“Man-Computer Symbiosis” Nugget

Traffic Light Tree

 

2) Computer-Posted Wall Display: In some technological systems, several men share responsibility for controlling vehicles whose behaviors interact. Some information must be presented simultaneously to all the men, preferably on a common grid, to coordinate their actions. Other information is of relevance only to one or two operators. There would be only a confusion of uninterpretable clutter if all the information were presented on one display to all of them. The information must be posted by a computer, since manual plotting is too slow to keep it up to date.

– Man-Computer Symbiosis, J. C. R. Licklider

This paragraph, or subsection of the Input Output section of Licklider’s Man-Computer symbiosis reminded me a lot of traffic signals and the act of directing traffic. Something that is now completely computerized or at least mechanized. Licklider even uses the word ‘traffic’ once or twice to describe this display of direction. I think it is also relevant that we often talk of ‘internet traffic’ when we talk about the traveling of information through the worldwide web.

UNIV 200 - Internet Traffic
Fraction of the World Wide Web

 

Internet traffic flows through the web through streams and is directed by way of serial numbers, something discussed preemptively by Licklider. However there are many problems that are arising the more the internet grows and the more we dedicate personal and sensitive information online. The internet was launched just over 20 years ago and in its creation, although many saw its potential, it was hardly  designed for such widespread usage. The internet has connected the entire world and practically the entire world is logged on. Many foresaw the rising significance of the computer and one monumentally important figure, Arthur C. Clarke, even predicted that a satellite would deliver information to our fingertips, which is exactly what has happened. But even with such skilled prophets, few could foresee all the complexities the digitalized age has given rise to.

We are more and more committed to the world wide web everyday and everyday we dedicate more and more of our old systems of records and accounting to its prowess. As more technology comes forth that is connected with with the World Wide Web and everything that it inherits, there is more room for hackers and others to work with to gain sensitive information. This article shortly describes just one of the issues with these new technologies leaving gaps in web security, explaining how hackers can use mobile devices to connect to wifi networks that reveal more than one might think.

Going along with the ‘internet traffic’ analogy, the way we can conceptualize information and data traveling around the world on the web is much like a highway system. Basically, things go from general to specific, much the same way mail would be handled. All mail coming from California to Virginia would be driven on a huge carrier carrying all outgoing mail from California headed eastward. Continuing in this fashion until all mail headed to the east coast arrived there. Then a carrier in Virginia would pick up the mail and take it to Richmond, or wherever. The internet works in the same fashion, programs allow data to search for the quickest route from one place to another, going from general to specific. West to East, London to France, to Paris, etc. One GIGANTIC gap in web security was outed when certain people began to forge a port for information to head through, allowing information to travel through and advertising it as the best route to get the program’s attention. So the information, much of the time sensitive information, could be picked apart and looked at and then sent along its way without anyone ever knowing.