Journal #5

This Thursday, we discussed the role femininity played in The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov. There are very few female characters in the book overall, but the author has made a point to emphasize stereotypes that are still pervasive till this day. For example, females are categorized as hysterical and weak.

Jessie, Elijah’s wife, is the most substantial female presence throughout the story. She is introduced as a submissive housewife who quit her job right after getting pregnant. Often Elijah even disregards Jessie by abruptly hanging up on her whenever they spoke on the phone. This kind of disrespect was something that almost never occurred between men.

Elijah’s bias towards women almost cost him the whole case. Jessie was hesitant to reveal how she discovered that Daneel was a robot. Finally, she provided a lame excuse about it being a topic of conversation in the female Personal. Elijah easily accepted this and proved to the audience that his bias toward women was so deeply ingrained that he did not think to question her honesty. In his mind, he probably that women were only good for spreading rumors. But Jessie acquired the information from an underground anti-robot group she was affiliated with and not from gossiping. If it was not for Jessie’s lie, Elijah would have cracked the case earlier on in the story.

When femininity is imposed onto a male character it is used to convey weakness or stupidity. When Elijah was expressing his idea that Daneel was Dr. Sarton he was referred to as hysterical. Hysteria is something usually only attributed to females and to refer to Elijah that way was a method of revealing his weaknesses.

At times, it seems that Asimov is playing with our own gender biases to make us feel a certain way. The argument can also be made that he is playing into his own biases. The rise of Feminism come after this period and it is possible that he was simply responding to what was already bubbling in society.


Journal #4

This past Tuesday, we were introduced to a scenario having to do with facial recognition via police cameras. The cameras were initially just used to hold those exceeding the speed limit (by at least 5mph) accountable. Upon becoming aware of this, the FBI asked for and received real time access to the system. Their intended use of the system was to identify and arrest members of terrorist organizations.

The primary objective of any nation is to protect the people on their own soil from any potential dangers. Based off this it is easy to conclude that the state police were adhering to utilitarianism. The “utility” of their actions will benefit most of the population. I guess we can assume that the “War on Terror” will have stepped one foot closer towards victory.

After further consideration, I must question if the police made the right choice. The obvious benefit is to those who live on American soil. But what about those Americans who also fall under the stigmatized category of “Muslim” or just possess stereotypical characteristics attributed toward terrorists? When only concerned with traffic violations, the system’s prime objective is to match license plate numbers and pictures to people. Under the use of the FBI, the system will filter through all the amassed data with the goal of locating “potential” terroristic persons.

Computers are useless on their own. They are solely composed of inorganic materials that are then assembled by humans and then powered by electricity. We have yet to perfectly incorporate artificial intelligence into computers. So, my point is that any computer program is an extension of the programmer and there is a probability that it too possesses biases. Regardless of bias, we should also expect a percentage of failure. There will be those who are falsely accused of terroristic crimes and/or affiliations. It wouldn’t be the first time. And yes, I understand that decisions of this magnitude are complex. The judicial system is a perfect example. Would you rather let loose murderous criminals or put someone innocent behind bars? I would not have the answer to that. What I do know is that this system does not have all the information necessary to make just decisions.

The bottom line is that there is a deprivation of freedom in this case. A group of people will be unjustly surveilled and categorized so that the freedoms of another group (the majority) will remain intact. To infringe on the freedoms of any citizen is immoral. It just seems convenient when we get to choose which freedoms to protect and which freedoms to stomp on.

Journal 1

Technology is everywhere. Without it what would we become? Imagine a world in which some of the most impactful technological advances just vanished. We’d feel less complete without it. For example, for us millennials a day spent without our “smartphones” is almost equivalent to the sensation felt by amputees – phantom limb. We might as well have legitimately lost an appendage. The euphoria one feels once reunited with their beloved “smartphone” is worrying to say the least. Instant gratification in the form of “text messages” and “social media” has overrun our lives. Human communication has become a farce of what it once was. But don’t get me wrong I am a supporter/optimist when it comes to the advancement of technology. I would go as far as to say scientific literacy should be demanded of all our politicians. But it isn’t. How can someone truly exercise their “power” fully without a true understand of the world around them? I believe you can’t.

The first week of class felt as if I was being called out for a crime I committed subconsciously. New technologies are introduced into our lives on a regular basis. No one questions it and sort of just go with the flow of things. Why would anyone reject an easier way of life? Our world is obviously based on commodity. The less we struggle the more we are willing to pay. But what is the actual price that we are paying? We usually aren’t worried about the side-effects technologies have on our lives until it’s too late. I personally feel addicted to my “smartphone”. I periodically find myself in this back and forth with my own mind. I notice I spend too much of my time on “social media” or texting those who aren’t even in my vicinity. Then I tell myself I need to make a change and try to be more present. Swiftly I delete every social media app on my iPhone. Sometimes I last a week without re-downloading these apps. Most of the time I can only hold off for a day or two. Why do I succumb to my urges so easily? Well, my generation suffers from something called “the fear of missing out”.

The crime I’ve committed is allowing technology to shape me instead of using it to shape the world around me. What it means to be human is rapidly changing alongside technology. Should we remove ourselves from technology altogether in hope of preserving our “humanity” as the Amish do? Or should we embrace all baggage technology comes with and enjoy the ride redefining humanity on the way?