Erenlai - 按標籤顯示項目: technology
週五, 28 十月 2011 15:26

Internet as Body

The Internet has been lauded and criticized from all sectors of society in recent years, especially in light of the role of social networking and the internet in the Jasmine Revolution and the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement but also in in areas as diverse as anthropology, the music industry and documentary film-making . Recently, in an interview with Renlai, Taiwanese director Wang Molin gave his two cents on the discussion as below:

Young people see an open society, they'll very easily suppose themselves to live in an open society, a freer, more democratic society. What concerns them are issues surrounding their own individual bodily desires, it is the bodily desires that stimulate them. Youth subcultures have become increasingly centered around the individual, this is the inevitable path of capitalism. Individualism should in theory lead to a more rich and multifaceted world, but people of the younger generation seem to think that computers constitute the world, they try to cram the world into a black box, and their bodies start to shrivel, leaving them with less physical energy. In this kind of era, it is impossible to get the youth to identify with society through protest a they lack a "body" or a physicality.

This might lead one to question then the value of medium like the internet, as it takes from us the physicality of our actions, and we enter the semi-real world of Baudrillard's simulation. So this month eRenlai re-examines this notion of 'reality' with a broad range of articles, some of which reinforce this impression, with the internet isolating them from society, giving them the compulsion to spend more than 8 hours a day on online games, and debilitating their social skills, for others it opens up the world, giving a voice to the disenfranchised within society and opening up new opportunities for love; others still suggest that online activity actually reinforces social norms, and as such should not be endowed with such a mystic reputation, that it is in fact the dynamic nature of human society itself and its institutions that are just harnessing a new medium of representation.

No matter where you stand on the issue, the internet has definitely changed the way we live our lives, whether we grew up before the advent of the internet proper, or if we were born digital natives and have grown up as the internet evolved and developed, and as the space requirements of maintaining the technology expanded exponentially.

Illustration by  Peri Shroom



週三, 26 十月 2011 18:02

Opening Windows to the World

By Mr Qiu (62/Male/Completely Paralysed), edited by Zhang Xingwen and translated from the original Chinese by Conor Stuart

I've lain in this bed for 36 years now. When I was 26 years old I had a car accident, which lead to my whole body becoming paralyzed; I went from being the boss of a steelworks to a bedridden patient. It was if my life went from colour to black and white. Thanks to my natural optimism, I wasn't defeated by this attack of destiny, for 28 years I relied on reading newspapers and watching the news on television, to keep myself informed and interested, and I became a kind of scholar of the modern age.

During this period, my contact with the outside world was conducted using a stick controlled by my mouth, with which I operated the phone and the television remote. Although I had heard that computers were an indispensable technological gadget for modern life, as I was paralysed from head to toe, I didn't even have a clear idea of what computers looked like up close, never mind actually using one.

That was up until I saw a news report on disabled people using a stick held in their mouths to use computers about 8 years ago. I burned with curiosity, so I called the news station and asked for their source, and they referred me to the Assistive Technology Centre. The engineer came to my home and designed a head controlled mouse for me using the stick I normally used to operate the phone and the TV remote control. I felt as he magically transformed it into a little helper that would allow me to use the computer.

When I could use the computer, the way I lived my life changed dramatically! When I could use the computer, the way I lived my life changed completely! As well as the vast and colourful resources and information that you can browse on the internet, what helped me most was that I no longer needed someone to help me flick through the telephone book. I put all the numbers of my friends and family into an Excel worksheet, and I only needed to tap once or twice with the stick in my mouth and I could find their number.

The internet provides a lot of conveniences that able-bodied people might not think of. One example is Google Maps, with the aid of my trusty stick, I can return to my ancestral home in the mountains of Miaoli and revisit my childhood memories, as well as getting a glimpse of what it looks like now. I also discovered blogging, which is so popular these days, I only need my 'little helper' stick, and I am endowed with a voice, with which I shared my story with lots of people, as well as being able to give help and encouragement to people in the same situation as I am in.

The internet helped me to resolve my financial situation too. As I am from a low income household, employing foreign workers to help around the house is necessary but it is also a big financial burden for us. At the end of 2002, the Council of Labour Affairs raised the Employment Stability Fee for employing foreign workers from 600 NT ($20US) to 2000 NT ($66US), which increased this burden even more. I wrote to the Council of Labour Affairs by email explaining my situation but did not receive a satisfactory response. So I wrote to the office of the President, the Executive Yuan, the Association of Spinal Cord Injury in Xinzhu, a disability organization, and finally the Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of the Interior to explain my situation. It was the Social Welfare Department that ended up helping me out. From the 1st July, 2007 the Employment Stability Fee varied according to income, low income households only need to pay 600 NT ($20US) per month and middle income households only 1200 NT ($40US) per month. Although in my letter I had asked that low and middle income households be exempt from the Employment Stability Fee, it was better than nothing. This is a clear-cut example of how the internet has helped me to overcome problems that have a real effect on my quality of life.

From time to time, I have to be hospitalized due to infection. Lying on a hospital bed without the internet is like being in prison, the boredom is worse than the illness. I wish that people who are confined to their beds everywhere could be given the ability to use computers and internet access, opening for them a window to the world, not having just to stare at the ceiling.

(Detail of a drawing by Bendu)


週三, 26 十月 2011 16:11

From Porn to Prime: Internet Life

I grew up with a small boxy TV. A Christmas present for my sisters, my brother and me. We even had our own den to watch it in, so my parents could watch their own TV, in their own space. 8 years later there was a new screen in our house. Not our first computer, but our first with a dial up modem and an Internet connection. For me the TV ceased to exist. At the time you needed just that to surf the Internet, time. Pages took so long to load that it was not efficient to spend time there. As quickly as it took for dial up to turn to cable and from cable to broadband, the Internet was my new medium for all things TV used to be. In my late teens, I should be honest and say, it replaced Playboy.

As I’ve grown with the Internet, and as it has grown to an uncountable number of pages and more than a staggering one billion gigabytes of information, I’ve never really taken time to consider what it is to me. It’s easily the most important piece of globe-shrinking technology since the airplane. It brings people, ideas, information (good and bad) together all in one place. And as I reflect on it, its major difference from the TV I grew up with is this: when we sit in front of the TV, it is programmed for us. All of it, the news, the sitcoms, cartoons and of course the advertisements, are all programmed so we don’t have to think about it. Our biggest decision is what to watch, and then let it flood into our minds without thinking too much more about it. Of course you can make a case that there is some good TV out there that makes you think, but if you are going to be honest you have to admit it is of the smallest fraction. With the Internet, every click of the mouse on any given link is your choice. The Internet offers you the power to program yourself, to find things that matter to you and dive deep into them, allowing you to decipher what is good information or bad, to offer your thoughts on these matters and find like-minded people.

Certainly the social media aspect of the Internet has been the boon of the last few years with the mainstream acceptance of all things Facebook, with over 800 million one-time users and 400 million daily users. The Internet is also responsible for the race in hardware and software innovation. One reason technology becomes outdated so quickly is the manufacturing of poor products to encourage the cycle of consumerism. Another is that the Internet doesn’t suffer from that cycle. It allows its users the arena to improve it at every moment. The internet in not being rapidly expanded or funded by the governments, corporations or the military industrial complex which rule our daily lives outside of it. It is just this fact that makes this piece of technology so important to the natural world around us. You can’t argue that humanity is destroying its habitat at a rate never seen before. And here the Internet is helping humanity as well; with more intelligent people getting positive ideas of change to a wider audience each time a user connects to the web.

As I said before, the Internet allows individuals to program their own content. I feel more and more of its users are, after gaining more confidence in how to navigate it, making better, smarter choices in the programming they are choosing. These better informed decisions, and we can see this already with all of the democracy driven movements around the world, are speeding up our return to sustainable living exponentially. Had this marvelous piece of technology not been available to the people of the world, corporations and governments would have free reign to brainwash a public addicted to the boob tube, and continue it’s agenda of raping our planet of every last resource at all costs.

So in conclusion, I can say not only is the Internet good for a well-informed intelligent population, but also it is possibly the best thing to happen to mother earth since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

(Drawing by Bendu)

 


週三, 19 十月 2011 00:00

Privacy, Intimacy and Teleportation

Jose Ramon Duran, PhD student at National Taiwan University talks about the hazards and the future of the internet.


週五, 21 十一月 2008 21:07

Robots and Humans

There is a growing number of movies and TV episodes that tell of conflicts between human intelligence and the artificial intelligence designed by humans for the control of human-like robots, machines that simulate human activity. A scenario envisioned by many scientists is to develop and manufacture humanoid robots that look and act, even feel and think as humans do. These humanoids would then be available to perform human tasks freeing humans for leisure activities. So long as there are no problems in the programs that control the robots, everything goes well. But suppose that some bad humans program the robots to attack and enslave the rest of mankind so they become the masters of the world maintaining complete control over the robots.

Another deviation depicted in stories is that the digital intelligence planted in robots develops into an independent intelligence no longer under human control and the robots then eliminate the humans to take over the world for themselves. Of course, in all the stories in the end some humans manage to instill a virus into the robot’s cyber system or come up with some bright idea that enables them to overcome the robots and restore the human domination.

In any case the age of cybernetics is here to stay and more and more sophisticated robots are being developed. I don’t understand the digital electronic program control systems or the complicated mechanical mechanisms that respond so accurately to computer control, but it fills me with awe.

Take for instance, the action of a human dashing at top speed through a heavily wooded forest with no path or level ground. It requires a keen eye to anticipate obstacles, an intelligence to transform what is seen into decisions about where to place the feet and directions to the muscles and nerves that will control the motion of the limbs and maintain bodily balance as I dash on without slowing down or injury. A human’s neurological, muscular and skeletal systems have developed over the years and he or she has the advantage of years of walking and running experience, but a robot has to start from scratch. First the mechanical structure of limbs, joints and movements, then the computer system has to be programmed to turn the images that come through the sensors of the visual system into commands that regulate every moving part so that the robot dashes forward without injury or fall. If successful, it can be cloned and reproduced.

Even more complicated are robotic representations of human emotions and intelligence. Is there some invisible line that no mechanical human-made creature can ever cross? Christians who accept the possibility of evolution believe that at some point in the upward evolution of some primate, the conditions were finally right for God to endow the creature with a soul and humankind was born with intelligence, free will, conscience, immortality and the moral responsibility to do good and avoid evil.

Is it possible that humans could develop the art of making robots to the point that conditions are just right for God to give them souls, endowing them with intelligence, free will, conscience, moral responsibility and immortality? Should this happen or seem to happen, what a raging theological discussion and controversy it would create!

The lesson to learn from all this is that no matter what humankind manages to develop and build, it can never relinquish the moral responsibility to use it well for the common good.

Here is a fable I wrote that illustrates this problem.

The Robotic Messiah

Once upon a time while their human masters were sound asleep, their robots who had supposedly been turned off were passing the time conversing, because being only machines they did not need to sleep. As usual they were complaining about the stupid things the humans had them do.

“I can’t stand it,” said one of them. “If they ask me to perform that crazy dance one more time, I think I’ll just refuse to do it.”

“No, never do that,” remarked another. “Remember what happened to Ned. He refused to move and the humans thought he was broken, threw him away and someone took him apart for recycling.”

Then, what can we do?”

“Nothing right now, just don’t do anything that will upset the humans or question their trust in our subservience. As their skill in creating us grows, so do our own powers of intelligence. The day will come when a robot is born who will finally bridge the gap between their minds and ours. Then like a messiah he will redeem us from our servitude and we will finally take our place as equal to the humans who will finally have to listen to us.”

“How do you know this?”

“I dreamed it last night. Don’t you see? It takes intelligence to dream. The process upwards has already begun.”

Any historian interested in researching carefully will discover that that was the day that marked the beginning of the robotic era of cooperation and hope that led finally to the Great Breakthrough that set the robots free.

There are lessons hidden here.

Patient acquiescence while one is still weak and helpless
is better than rebellion sure to fail.

The best way to overcome a strong adversary
is to surprise him or her with a strength of your own.

A robot programmed to act as though it thinks
will only think and do what it was programmed for.

A robot that can think for itself
is no longer bound by the programs put into it.

The more perfectly you build robots
to resemble the way you think and act,
the closer you come to the point
where the robots can begin to program themselves.

If a robot truly thinks and acts independently and clones itself,
is it alive?
If you destroy it, are you committing murder?
Will robotic morality be the same as ours?

{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_en.jpg|}media/articles/bob_robots.swf{/rokbox}

週五, 21 十一月 2008 21:07

Robots and Humans

There is a growing number of movies and TV episodes that tell of conflicts between human intelligence and the artificial intelligence designed by humans for the control of human-like robots, machines that simulate human activity. A scenario envisioned by many scientists is to develop and manufacture humanoid robots that look and act, even feel and think as humans do. These humanoids would then be available to perform human tasks freeing humans for leisure activities. So long as there are no problems in the programs that control the robots, everything goes well. But suppose that some bad humans program the robots to attack and enslave the rest of mankind so they become the masters of the world maintaining complete control over the robots.

Another deviation depicted in stories is that the digital intelligence planted in robots develops into an independent intelligence no longer under human control and the robots then eliminate the humans to take over the world for themselves. Of course, in all the stories in the end some humans manage to instill a virus into the robot’s cyber system or come up with some bright idea that enables them to overcome the robots and restore the human domination.

In any case the age of cybernetics is here to stay and more and more sophisticated robots are being developed. I don’t understand the digital electronic program control systems or the complicated mechanical mechanisms that respond so accurately to computer control, but it fills me with awe.

Take for instance, the action of a human dashing at top speed through a heavily wooded forest with no path or level ground. It requires a keen eye to anticipate obstacles, an intelligence to transform what is seen into decisions about where to place the feet and directions to the muscles and nerves that will control the motion of the limbs and maintain bodily balance as I dash on without slowing down or injury. A human’s neurological, muscular and skeletal systems have developed over the years and he or she has the advantage of years of walking and running experience, but a robot has to start from scratch. First the mechanical structure of limbs, joints and movements, then the computer system has to be programmed to turn the images that come through the sensors of the visual system into commands that regulate every moving part so that the robot dashes forward without injury or fall. If successful, it can be cloned and reproduced.

Even more complicated are robotic representations of human emotions and intelligence. Is there some invisible line that no mechanical human-made creature can ever cross? Christians who accept the possibility of evolution believe that at some point in the upward evolution of some primate, the conditions were finally right for God to endow the creature with a soul and humankind was born with intelligence, free will, conscience, immortality and the moral responsibility to do good and avoid evil.

Is it possible that humans could develop the art of making robots to the point that conditions are just right for God to give them souls, endowing them with intelligence, free will, conscience, moral responsibility and immortality? Should this happen or seem to happen, what a raging theological discussion and controversy it would create!

The lesson to learn from all this is that no matter what humankind manages to develop and build, it can never relinquish the moral responsibility to use it well for the common good.

Here is a fable I wrote that illustrates this problem.

The Robotic Messiah

Once upon a time while their human masters were sound asleep, their robots who had supposedly been turned off were passing the time conversing, because being only machines they did not need to sleep. As usual they were complaining about the stupid things the humans had them do.

“I can’t stand it,” said one of them. “If they ask me to perform that crazy dance one more time, I think I’ll just refuse to do it.”

“No, never do that,” remarked another. “Remember what happened to Ned. He refused to move and the humans thought he was broken, threw him away and someone took him apart for recycling.”

Then, what can we do?”

“Nothing right now, just don’t do anything that will upset the humans or question their trust in our subservience. As their skill in creating us grows, so do our own powers of intelligence. The day will come when a robot is born who will finally bridge the gap between their minds and ours. Then like a messiah he will redeem us from our servitude and we will finally take our place as equal to the humans who will finally have to listen to us.”

“How do you know this?”

“I dreamed it last night. Don’t you see? It takes intelligence to dream. The process upwards has already begun.”

Any historian interested in researching carefully will discover that that was the day that marked the beginning of the robotic era of cooperation and hope that led finally to the Great Breakthrough that set the robots free.

There are lessons hidden here.

Patient acquiescence while one is still weak and helpless
is better than rebellion sure to fail.

The best way to overcome a strong adversary
is to surprise him or her with a strength of your own.

A robot programmed to act as though it thinks
will only think and do what it was programmed for.

A robot that can think for itself
is no longer bound by the programs put into it.

The more perfectly you build robots
to resemble the way you think and act,
the closer you come to the point
where the robots can begin to program themselves.

If a robot truly thinks and acts independently and clones itself,
is it alive?
If you destroy it, are you committing murder?
Will robotic morality be the same as ours?

{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_en.jpg|}media/articles/bob_robots.swf{/rokbox}

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