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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Technology VS Play

In our modern day society technology and all its devices are a common place. We all use them in our daily lives, even our classroom is equipped with surround sound and a projector screen that’s over 20 feet long. The question many people are asking, however, is what age children should be actively using technology devices such as IPad’s, cell phones and computers.  Just recently, my cousin bought her five year old daughter and IPad for her birthday, a boy I babysit is 7 years old and plays a mass amount of video games, a friends younger sister is 8 and just recently got an IPhone 5c, all this has shown me that clearly many people are not opposed to allowing children to use technology in their everyday lives. Logically thinking, what effect does technology have on children and how young is too young?

It has been shown through many studies and written about in many articles, such as The Impact of Technology on Huffington Post, that technology has many more negative effects on children than positive ones. Many argue that the amount of technology a child is exposed to should be limited. This argument can be broken down through logically thinking as follows:

  • Premise one: A 2010 Kaiser Foundation study showed that elementary aged children use on average 7.5 hours of entertainment technology per day.
  • Premise two: Children need physical play that involves creative thinking to ensure the healthy development of their bodies as well as their minds.

    2013-05-27-buildingFoundationstransparent.jpg

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cris-rowan/technology-children-negative-impact_b_3343245.html

  • Premise three: Sedentary children exposed to frenzied sensory stimulation are resulting in delays in achieving child developmental milestones as well as negative impacts on basic foundation skills for achieving literacy.
  • Conclusion: Thus, the amount of technology a child may use per day should be limited.

By evaluating the premises the soundness of the statement can be determined through the following:

  • Premise one: can be accepted as true for it has been discovered through reasonable research
  • Premise two: Is accepted as true because of observation and scientific facts of child development that have been studied and accepted for years
  • Premise three: can be accepted hesitantly. It has been observed only, and in terms of science, is a very knew development. However, it still has been proven

    2013-05-27-virtualFuturestransparent.jpg

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cris-rowan/technology-children-negative-impact_b_3343245.html

As we can see, the argument is sound because it is both factually correct and valid. It is factually correct because all the premises are true and it is valid because its conclusion follows from its premises.

The effects of this argument, if shared, will hopefully show parents that the amount of time they allow their children to use technology should be limited. A child should spend more time in physical play then technological play for the sake of their health. In our modern day society as the articles author Cris Rowan writes:

“Technology’s impact on the 21st century family is fracturing its very foundation, and causing a disintegration of core values that long ago were the fabric that held families together. Juggling school, work, home, and community lives, parents now rely heavily on communication, information, and transportation technology to make their lives faster and more efficient. Entertainment technology (TV, Internet, video games, iPads, cell phones) has advanced so rapidly, that families have scarcely noticed the significant impact and changes to their family”

By allowing children to spend all their time with electronics we are impairing their development, health and social dynamics. Let’s focus on “Building Foundations” limit “Virtual Futures” so that we keep the positives of technology because there are so many. Too much of a good thing can, in this case, have negative side effects.

 

 

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Emily: Putting All Your Eggs in One Freezer

Meet Louise Joy Brown.

Louise with her parents.

She was born on July 25th, 1978. She was the first ever baby to be conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF). By 2006, over 3 million babies had been born worldwide thanks to assisted reproductive technologies (ART).  And some 60,000 babies are born every year thanks to IVF.

In IVF, eggs are removed from the woman and fertilized in a lab, then implanted in a uterus for gestation. Of the eggs fertilized, the doctors pick the “best” of the lot, then usually implant around two or three so as to have a higher chance of pregnancy without risking many multiple births.

If there were enough “good” eggs, then the non-implanted ones are often frozen and cryopreserved. This allows for the couple (or woman) to try again for another pregnancy if they want another child or if the first time around didn’t take.

But problems can ensue. What if the couple doesn’t want any more children? What if they separate or divorce? This is a major ethical issue currently being fought in many courtrooms. Should the eggs be saved if one of the parents still wants to have children? Should they be donated to another couple trying to have children? Or should they simply be discarded as medical waste?

Many, many court cases have been and are being fought over frozen embryos. In many cases, the couple has split and only one of the two wants to keep the frozen embryos. Perhaps one still wants to use them to have children, or to donate them, while the other doesn’t want to become a parent. How should the court rule? First of all, how can the court classify them? They are not legally persons yet, so it’s not the same as a custody battle over a couple of toddlers. But the embryos aren’t property either – they contain the genetic material of the parents and have the potential to be life. Many U.S. court cases have resulted in the parent demanding their right to privacy and to not have their genetic material used for procreation against their will winning the case, leaving the parent still wanting to have children or donate the embryos left behind. Most times, it is the ex-husband or ex-boyfriend who doesn’t want to have the responsibility of a child, while the woman wants to keep the embryos, often because she can no longer produce eggs likely to result in a healthy baby. Cases such as increasing age or certain types or cancer are common.

If the court rules with the parent in favour of not keeping the embryos, if the couple signs an agreement or if the frozen embryos themselves are abandoned, then the cryopreserved zygotes are destroyed by being placed in water. But is it even right to so simply destroy these pieces of pre-life?

First of all, many couples don’t have the money available for ART, so the donation of unwanted embryos or eggs would be put to good use. Or the embryos could be donated for research, particularly stem cell research. Also, while many compare the process of discarding the embryos to abortion, I feel like it is something more.

Imagine first a couple who froze several extra embryos after they had a successful pregnancy. However, later, one or both of them decide they don’t want the remaining embryos and have them destroyed.

Now, imagine a second couple. They are able to naturally get pregnant, and do so with the full intention of starting a family. However, during the pregnancy, the couple decides they no longer want kids and have an abortion. Or perhaps they separate and maybe the father demands that the mother has an abortion because he doesn’t want a biological child that he would have to provide care or money for.

I feel like abortion should be legal in some cases (but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss my exact views on abortion), but I hardly think it should be allowed if a woman or couple decide that they want to have children and start a family, then decide to abort the baby partway through the pregnancy because they changed their minds. And I think that the destruction of frozen embryos (while not a perfectly similar case) is also like this.

From my research, I know at least these things about IVF: it is generally uncomfortable to stimulate and extract the eggs, and it can cost up to $15,000 for the original treatment plus up to $600 per year for embryo storage. Then I really don’t think most people would go and freeze their embryos just for kicks and giggles. So, I will assume that they created and froze these embryos with the intent of using them to have children.

If you created these embryos with he purpose of using them to have children, then I view their destruction the same way I would view it if you got pregnant to start a family, but aborted the fetus at some point during the pregnancy.

While I know that the doctors usually take more eggs than are necessary when going through IVF, I still don’t think their destruction should be undertaken so lightly and nonchalantly. At the very least, why not donate them for research? If you’re discarding them, you surely have no use for them.

My suggestion for a solution to the problem is fairly simple. I would have the eggs and the sperm frozen separately, so that in case of divorce or some other circumstance, each partner could take their own donation and be on their merry way.

I read an article recently about a court battle over some embryos. A woman and her boyfriend had frozen some embryos, but ended up splitting up. Now, the woman has had ovarian cancer and the eggs in storage are the only she’ll ever be able to have. However, since her ex-boyfriend’s sperm was also frozen with her already-fertilized eggs, he also had a say in their fate, and he did not want to have a child from his own genetic matter without it really being his kid.

I see both people’s sides here. While I can imagine the woman’s desire to have kids that were actually her own, I can also see the man’s desire not have a child out there that was half him but really not his, not to mention probably having to pay child support or something of the like.

Again, abortion enters heavily into this discussion. For those who believe that life begins at fertilization, the destruction of frozen embryos would be no less than murder. For people like Plato, who believe that  “the human soul does not enter the body until birth”, then it is very much the same as doctors discarding any other medical waste. So, as Mariana said, “Ethics are very personal.”

So, basically, here are the problems that surround frozen embryos and their fate:

  • Do embryos count as people? Are they legally property?
  • Which is more valued: a parent’s right to have their own children (whom they paid for with a lot of money) or a parent’s right not to have their genetic material taken and used for a child that is not really theirs?
  • Is it ethical to give parents the resources to have a family without ensuring they plan ahead in case of divorce, separation or death?

I hope I have made this clearer, even though I am still not entirely sure what to think. Oh, ethics.

 

My slew of sites used for information may be found at Delicious.com

 

 

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Radiolab & other Ethical Supplements

http://jephmaystruck.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/radiolab-logo.jpg

Some Supplemental Reading & Viewing for our Ethics Unit

Radiolab | The Good Show
“The standard view of evolution is that living things are shaped by cold-hearted competition. And there is no doubt that today’s plants and animals carry the genetic legacy of ancestors who fought fiercely to survive and reproduce. But in this hour, we wonder whether there might also be a logic behind sharing, niceness, kindness … or even, self-sacrifice. Is altruism an aberration, or just an elaborate guise for sneaky self-interest? Do we really live in a selfish, dog-eat-dog world? Or has evolution carved out a hidden code that rewards genuine cooperation?”

Radiolab | The Bad Show
“We begin with a chilling statistic: 91% of men, and 84% of women, have fantasized about killing someone. We take a look at one particular fantasy lurking behind these numbers, and wonder what this shadow world might tell us about ourselves and our neighbors. Then, we reconsider what Stanley Milgrim’s famous experiment really revealed about human nature (it’s both better and worse than we thought). Next, we meet a man who scrambles our notions of good and evil: chemist Fritz Haber, who won a Nobel Prize in 1918…around the same time officials in the US were calling him a war criminal. And we end with the story of a man who chased one of the most prolific serial killers in US history, then got a chance to ask him the question that had haunted him for years: why?”

Justice: What’s the Right thing to Do?
Justice is one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history, having taught more than 14,000 students over the course of two decades. In this course, Sandel challenges us with difficult moral dilemmas and asks our opinion about the right thing to do. He then asks us to examine our answers in the light of new scenarios. The results are often surprising, revealing that important moral questions are never black and white. This course also addresses the hot topics of our day—affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism and rights—and Sandel shows us that we can revisit familiar controversies with a fresh perspective. Each lecture in this course has two parts as well as related readings and discussion guides.

Thinking Ethically: A Framework for Moral Decision Making (from Santa Clara University)
Dealing with these moral issues is often perplexing. How, exactly, should we think through an ethical issue? What questions should we ask? What factors should we consider?

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
“The IEET’s mission is to be a center for voices arguing for a responsible, constructive, ethical approach to the most powerful emerging technologies. We believe that technological progress can be a catalyst for positive human development so long as we ensure that technologies are safe and equitably distributed. We call this a “technoprogressive” orientation.”

 

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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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Open Online Participants Invited to study Philosophy 12!

Image courtesy of @cogdog

As Philosophy 12 is being conducted as an open-online course, you are able to enroll as a non-credit learner in the community. Like it sounds, being a non-credit student means that you will not receive any institutional credit for your participation in the course, but are invited to read and view along with us, post your own thoughts as posts and / or comments on the blog site, or submit assignments for any of the corresponding units. There are no minimums, and no apologies for open-online learners in Philosophy 12: do as much or as little as you like.

Help us keep you in the loop by entering a few details in the form below.

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