Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Technology is ruining our society???

I think most people have heard this sort of argument, or something similar to it at least. There are a lot of people who look at how attached we are to our technology

and immediately come to the worst of conclusions. Technology is making us all anti-social, and as we stare down at the blinding screen we dismiss the presence of others to stay in our own technological bubble, and it’s ruining our society.

Take this example of an extreme argument, for example. One way to pull it apart is as follows:

Premise One: Technology is becoming an addiction in our society.

Premise Two: Our addiction is pulling us apart from each other.

Conclusion: Therefore, we need to pull away from technology and speak face-to-face

Or, in the words of the author themselves, “We need to try and go back to the good old days of people sitting down on porches talking to their neighbours.”

Now, lets actually look at the argument for Factual Correctness.

  • Premise One: Yes, and no. At least, according to the DSM-V. Under the DSM, Internet Gaming Addiction is categorized as a non-substance addiction, specifically separate from gambling addiction due to the lack of money on the line. (That is, money would be spent on games and micro-transactions – not on luck. Internet gambling is simply diagnosed as part of gambling as a whole.) However, there are three very specific points listed in the DSM itself that refute technology becoming an addiction to our society at large, and they are as follows:

“Note: Only non-gambling Internet games are included in this disorder. Use of the Internet for required activities in a business or profession is not included; nor is the disorder intended to include other recreational or social Internet use. Similarly, sexual Internet sites are excluded.”

“They typically devote 8-10 hours or more per day to this activity and at least 30 hours per week. If they are prevented from using a computer and returning to the game, they become agitated and angry. They often go for long periods without food or sleep. Normal obligations, such as school or work, or family obligations are neglected.”

“Excessive use of the Internet not involving playing of online games (e.g., excessive use of social media, such as Facebook; viewing pornography online) is not considered analogous to Internet gaming disorder, and future research on other excessive uses of the Internet would need to follow similar guidelines as suggested herein.”

  • From these quotes, it’s clear that the DSM only defines internet gaming as an addiction, (at least at the moment,) as there is not sufficient data yet to say that excessive use of social media or other forms of internet entertainment can be classified as addictive, despite the common myth that there is an agreed on criteria for diagnosing and evaluating them.There is also the criteria that normal obligations must be ignored. That is, there needs to be a lack of proper social functioning present to differentiate what is merely a strong passion, and an addiction. There also needs to be continued symptoms to count as an addiction – merely engaging in extended internet use once (say, for a friendly get-together,) does not count, even if it was for over ten hours per day.  And that does not even touch on the growing populace of people who have turned gaming into their job, through lets play commentaries, tutorials, speedruns, and other gaming based tournaments.

Gamebreaking has never been this profitable!

  • Context must also be taken into consideration, when agitation and anger are being assessed. Is this anger always present, and paired with a lack of the ability to complete obligations? Or, is it fair to assume that many people would be angry upon being forcibly removed from an activity they were engaged with.All in all, premise one is factually incorrect, as technology as a whole is specifically excluded from the DSM, and even if it was not, there are currently no consistent and factual studies to say that the majority of people are addicted – and going by the criteria for what an addiction must entail (irritability when separated from the object of addiction, increasing need to be exposed to more of the object of addiction, and an inability to keep up on other obligations,) most people in our society are not facing addiction at all.
  • Premise Two: Technology, social media especially, aredesigned as social. Their literal intent is to give people a means to communicate rapidly and comfortably. It gives users an outlet to connect with those that have similar interests, and gives them a social circle that understands them on a level those in their “real” life may not.The internet is also full of information, and with so much knowledge at the tips of our fingers, it’s not at all surprising that one would engage in technology during everyday life to enrich conversations or back up arguments. After all, that’s what we are doing right now with this project.
  • Conclusion: the conclusion is as limp as a wilted piece of lettuce when faced with all the things that keep people apart beyond technology. Work and school have people using the internet to do their work, people are enjoying their alone time by playing video games, people are using the internet to be social, and, frankly, if the people around you do not treat you fairly, there’s someone somewhere in the world who will. You don’t even have to buy a plane ticket to see them.

It’s still up in the air if we as a society really are “addicted” to the internet, or if it’s just become a part of everyday life. Frankly, I feel like it’s just something that has become an integral part of life, and that’s not a bad thing. I mean, remember that large scale power outage in August? There was no internet, no power, no technology. And yet, people managed to entertain themselves. They went shopping, they went on drives or walks or hikes, they read and painted and did puzzles. Unless it was too dark to do things, people were functioning just fine. But if the choice is there to do something online, then why not do it? It’s fun!

It’s not like going hiking or reading a book is something that makes you an inherently better person. (And lets not even get into how much reading the average person actually does online – there’s a good reason that people are taking note of fanfics – they are LONG.)

Besides that, a lot of what technology is becoming is interactive, that is to say, where TV was once a soapbox for those lucky enough to get onto it, it’s much more viewer concerned now. Social media has as much of an influence on a show’s popularity as simple ratings do, and people have HUGE meta conversations about things they love. And people have power online! Anybody can say anything, which gives oppressed groups that were never given a chance on the soapbox the same grounds to speak on what matters to them as the historic oppressors do.

So because of all of that, and even more things, I really can’t bring myself to consider the internet (and technology in general,) something we’re addicted to. Because it isn’t a problem, it isn’t stopping us from living life. It’s just changing how we live life, and I don’t believe for a moment that it’s changed for the worse.

(Edited on 19/10/15)

 

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NSA Need Not Look Here

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower of the NSA, is arguably one of the better-known crusaders for privacy. When he talks, people listen, which is why Tech Crunch reports:

According to Edward Snowden, people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services like Dropbox, Facebook, and Google.

Anthony Ha “Edward Snowden’s Privacy Tips: “Get Rid Of Dropbox,” Avoid Facebook And Google”

The argument is made that those who value privacy ought to stay away from popular consumer Internet services. The argument can be broken down into this:

  1. Premise: People who care about privacy take measures to ensure their privacy
  2. Premise: Popular internet services do not ensure the privacy of their users
  3. Conclusion: Therefore people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services

First, to determine the soundness of Snowden’s argument, we must ensure that the arguments are true/accurate.

  • Premise 1 can be contested, though is mostly accepted.

  • Premise 2 can be contested. Popular Internet services may not have privacy as their highest concern, it may be argued that Internet services are not antagonistic to privacy. Companies like Dropbox actively encrypt files transferred from you to their servers, and are also encrypted while they rest on their servers as well.

Therefore, the flaw in Snowden’s logic lies in premise 2, stating that popular consumer internet services do not ensure the privacy of their users. Though the form of the argument may be valid, premise 2’s error in its contents damages the truth of its premises, and consequently the conclusion reached.

The reason why Snowden may have come to this conclusion is another argument in itself. Though his idea of ‘privacy’ may differ from those of a layman, he should be aware that not all popular consumer internet services disregard privacy, though many do. This misconception may have come from numerous sensationalist titles of news articles:

The Guardian – “Apple’s Tim Cook attacks Google and Facebook over privacy flaws”
BBC News – “Google urged to change privacy rules by data regulators”
Reuters – “German privacy watchdog tells Google to restrict use of data”
ABC News – “How Hackers Got Private Photos Without Ever Breaching Snapchat’s Servers”
Dailymail UK – “We’re not reading your email or your iMessages’: Apple boss Tim Cook hits out at privacy claims following iCloud hacks”

The links above are just a few examples of headlines denouncing popular consumer Internet services like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat so it’s very likely for people to assume that social media and Internet services don’t have peoples’ privacy in mind. However, because many of these companies’ backbones consist of users’ information, they put in place many privacy measures that users can utilize. Though not saints of any kind, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Snapchat servers themselves rarely get hacked. However, the average consumer does not put privacy as the highest concern, resulting in shared or week passwords for multiple accounts, or the usage of third-party apps resulting in privacy issues unconcerning the companies themselves.

Though Snowden brings up a good point that those concerned with privacy should be more vigilant when approaching social media and internet services, privacy is not always in the hands of the company that holds the information. Though hacks on servers are not unheard of, many times the user themselves are what cause privacy-related problems. And because of that, not all people concerned with privacy should stay away from popular consumer internet services.

 

 

 

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Ethics Discussion Schedule & Posts

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 12.46.29 PMAbove you’ll find our rough schedule for discussions on various ethical topics we plan to address in the coming days. In addition to being able to join our class proceedings via #ds106radio, or Google Hangout (stay tuned to the #Philosophy12 hashtag on Twitter or @bryanjack’s account to find links to these talks) beginning at approximately 10:20am (PST) on the days listed, Philosophy 12 invites you to engage in dialogue around these topics on posts coming across the course site as of today.

Here are links and brief excerpts of the ethical issues we are investigating:

I have the Right to Die – Andrea R. and Ramona K.

Immanuel Kant believed that the moral rules can, in principle, be known as a result of reason alone and are not based on observation. He believed that reason can be revealed in the basic principles of morality. These principles are goodwill, duty and categorical imperative. His categorical imperative states that we should act in such a way that we can all will the maxim of our actions to become a universal law. An objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of the command is called an imperative. All imperatives are expressed by the word ought, and indicate the relation of an objective law of reason to a will which is not necessarily determined by it. They say that something would be good to do, but they say it to a will which does not always do a thing because it is conceived to be good. “What makes a moral act right?” And this happens to be what we are looking for, in the sense of what makes euthanasia right?

The Ethics of Voting: Not Efficient, Not Ethical, What’s the Point? – by Aidan C. and Lazar A.

The problem is, that we, as members of a democratic system cannot view voting as an ethical task. It must be an act which is performed at the out-most interest of oneself, so that the leaders of our country can take action as our representatives. We ask, that shouldn’t the very foundation of a democratic system be ethically correct towards its people, since the system itself is made upon ethical views? No, it does not, because the second you begin voting for the wants and needs of those around you, a) you cannot know what they want, and b) which person’s wants and needs do you vote for? For instance, what everyone votes for the wants and needs of one person…that does not bring a greater good to the most people either, therefore, once again at an ethical stale mate. Concluding, although unethical, voting is the key to a system which strives to be ethical.

Wikileaks vs. the Government – by Julian P. and Imtiaz P.

“Big brother is always watching you” is a widely used phrase that was written by George Orwell, to emphasize an omnipresent, seemingly benevolent figure that represents oppressive control of individual lives, who is absent in the believe of morals and or ethics…

Online Piracy – by Dylan A. Cassidy P.

Is piracy actually theft? Technically speaking, theft happens when person A takes something from person B. Person B now does not have that thing which they originally had and person A now has that thing which person B had. Because this object is not being physically stolen from anyone, is it truly considered stolen? This isn’t the case for Internet piracy. When you download something online, you aren’t taking that thing, you’re making a copy of it. The original author hasn’t lost their work, there’s just more of it around now. Now that’s not to say that if the author didn’t originally put their work up for free online that they aren’t getting the money that they asked for, so in that way people would argue that it is stealing. So that’s when online piracy becomes very messy, and we’re stuck in between two sets of views that are both agreeable yet can’t exist together within the current ways that copyright infringement is dealt with.

The Ethics of Animal Experimentation – by Katherine B. and Jessica P.

Mill’s utilitarian ethics would agree to medical animal experimentation, as we see an exponentially greater amount of “good” brought into the world from the harms we committed in order to bring about that good. Animal testing for medical research and drug development also satisfies a higher level of utilitarianism. The “good” (of progression in medical research), brought about by the “harm” (of testing on animals) is being created for an altruistic reason; to benefit and improve the health of all human lives. In contrast to cosmetic animal testing whose purpose is to satisfy debateably superficial wants, scientific animal testing is being used to grant people a higher quality of life.

Ethnics: Get Out! – by Julie, Aman & Emily

…citizens are wondering if multiculturalism is a failed experiment but Habermas disagrees and states that they should continue to embrace multiculturalism and not resort to tactics such as relying on the support of right-wing populists like the Netherlands or having a ban on building minarets like Switzerland. Although xenophobia seems to be spreading in some areas of the world Habermas believes that if we get to know people from other countries and we get to experience their culture, then we will realize that this is the best way to live.

Power: State vs. People – by Jade, Ayden & Deion

Questioning the government seems to be somewhat of a common thing amongst the population. We criticize the amount of power that our state has, yet we do nothing to make a change. The idea of having no control in our own society enrages many of us. If this is a fear that we all have, why don’t we step up and take the power?

Democracy gives us of legal age and registration the ability to vocalize our preference in political leaders. But with the ability to control the majority in government, what do we do with it? Sheep give their trust to their herder in where they choose to guide them. Similarly, people invest their trust in an elected leader. Ironically, people can be lead to ignorant knowledge.

Stay away from the Bacon! – by Heather M. and Kristina S.

Pigs are the 4th smartest animal (excluding humans.) They are only outranked by elephants, dolphins and chimps (and humans.) They learn as quickly as chimps. They can recognize their own name within only a week of being born. Guess how long it takes a human baby.

HALF A YEAR.

And their names are probably called a lot more than these piglets, so consider those implications. They continue exceed the capability of any 3 year old child, and most toddlers speak by then. They are far more intelligent than your cat or dog, too.They can recognize and remember up to 30 other pigs.

Capital Punishment – by Tyler L. and Leon C.

“As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated” said Amnesty International. In 1973, over 140 people had been released from death rows in 26 states because of innocence.  Hugo Bedau, a philosopher, who’s most ambitious work was “The Death Penalty in America” and took up the issue in “The Case Against the Death Penalty” which was a pamphlet distributed widely by the American Civil Liberties Union. He was the first to make general empirical argument against the capital punishment as said by Michael Radelet.

Safe Injection Sites – Ashley A. and Sophie T.

Many argue that providing a place for drug addicts to continue using is logically and ethically wrong, as it is encouraging illegal activity with no legal intervention or consequences. People who oppose these safe injection sites also believe that it isn’t right to enable these people to continue using, rather than helping them decrease the amount of drugs they are taking or getting off of the drugs all together. To some people, giving addicts a place to consume illegal, dangerous intravenous drugs is equal to giving people with chronic depression a place where they can “safely” kill themselves. The only safe place that these people believe that drug addicts belong is in jail and/or a rehabilitation program.

Economics, Inequality & Enlightenment – by Mr. J

…should the goal revolve around creating *enough* social cohesion to bring about greater justice than presently experienced? I was watching another talk hosted by Sandel the other night (about the moral justification for wealth-redistribution) where someone in the audience said that those in favour of redistribution don’t put their best foot forward when they present the “selfish” argument for paying higher taxes: “You will have a better healthcare system if we all pay.” The more powerful argument, this person posited, was that members of a community (family, province, nation… planet?) have an inherent obligation to one another. We are all members of the same family, in other words, and thus taxation for the benefit of all not so much a case of taking from one to give to another, but something we all do for the good of all (which includes each of us).

 

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The Evolving Social Contract

Bonnie Stewart has written eloquently this week about the idea of the social contract in online spheres:

The idea of the social contract originates with political philosophy. Philosophy’s finer points aren’t exactly experiencing what you’d call a cultural heyday, at the moment, but suffice to say the idea’s a relic of the Enlightenment, with earlier origins in the Biblical covenant and in Greece and Rome. It connotes the relationship we all have to the structures of power and order in our societies.

The social contract, at its simplest, is about what we expect from others and ourselves: the deal we believe we’re in regarding the give and take of rights, freedoms, and responsibilities. Most forms of the social contract, historically, argue for the giving over of certain freedoms – though what these are and how they are expressed can vary – in exchange for protections of the state or the civilizing influence of society.

We used to, in short, make those deals with some kind of monolithic power – a God or a state or what have you. That was the old school social contract. At some level, most of us are still kind of inclined or trained in this direction, and the divide between God and state – or least interpretations of what ‘state’ means and what rights and freedoms are involved – may serve to explain the increasing partisanship and vitriol in contemporary postmodern politics. Red states and blue states aren’t necessarily in the same social contract.

But it’s even more complex than that. We now live in some crazy kind of incarnation of McLuhan’s global village: the world’s biggest small town. Most of us are wired into some kind of relationship with our capitalist, consumerist, media society, by our bank cards and our status as citizens of postmodern globalized nation states. Our society operates – as do an increasing number of us at the individual level – more on network logic than on the one-to-many logic of hierarchical monoliths like religion and the state.

So we are, in our day to day interactions as humans in the 21st century, constantly trying to establish and operate within the terms of unspoken and often hugely divergent social contracts. We are no longer just entering into an implicit deal with the powers-that-be. We are each others’ powers-that-be.

And we need to learn to navigate those negotiations openly and explicitly; to own the power we have and not wait for the big and mighty to make it all better for us.

What struck me about Bonnie’s post is not only the future-application of the discussion to our philosophy class’ Social & Political Philosophy unit, but also what it lends us in attempting to address the recent tragic death of Coquitlam resident Amanda Todd. As local, national and international media has focused largely on the cyber-bullying aspect of the story, I have been reluctant to ascribe to this lens that seems to view our online and physical environments as distinct separate spaces. Bonnie says it better:

Make no mistake, Amanda Todd was cyber-bullied. Her network of peers appear to have contributed to her shaming via Facebook. But if a kid were stalked by a pimp on a school playground and the pimp then manipulated the playground gang into participating in the abuse, we wouldn’t frame the story as a bullying story, first and foremost.

This is a story about abuse of the power of the internet, first and foremost. It’s about the ways in which anonymity enables people to prey on the vulnerable, and about the ways in which our social contract has not yet worked out the lines between the right to free speech and the ways in which anonymous speech *can* bring out the absolute worst in those who want to exercise more power than their embodied lives necessarily afford them.

Not only do the online and physical interact, they are facets of the same reality. “We are all bodies somewhere,” Bonnie says. Indeed, and wherever it occurs, a hurt is a hurt is a hurt.

As I mentioned, we will be addressing the idea of the social contract as we move through our ethics, social and political philosophy units, but I wanted to share Bonnie’s post with you lest more time pass between what is in the transitional phase – for us especially here in Coquitlam – between a raw and open personal wound in our community and a more global political, journalistic and cultural spectacle (another hallmark of the Internet era). Because for those of you taking this course – face to face, especially, but those of you in our wider circle as well – we are exploring this online terrain and applying our philosophical lens to the nature of knowledge and the communities we can create together, and I am curious to hear your thoughts as inhabitants of this/these worlds who likely don’t feel that they are altogether separate.

I’m chiefly interested (though this list isn’t exhaustive) in:

  • How does the anonymity of the Internet create a challenge for our existing idea(s) of the Social Contract?
  • How might we address the problems created by an anonymous web that maintains our sense of freedom that not only created the Internet, but which it was created to enable?
  • Will events like these create the necessity that begets the articulation of an evolved Social Contract that is able more explicitly to make “this giant small town where we all live” more livable?

While we might not get ‘there’ in the curriculum for another few weeks, consider these questions and Bonnie’s post, as open for discussion in the meantime. I don’t expect us to reach much in the way of a concrete understanding. But I do heartily believe that this discussion is one of the first steps toward creating that place where we all might belong.

 
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