Blog Post 5 (5/24/2019)-Gabriel Garcia

WIthin the lab, Logic Gates and Digital CIrcuits, we focus on the matter of creating sample circuits of which represent the concepts of input and output, as well as how Logic Gates have an effect on such matters.

Of the lab, the most definitive sections within are the Logic Gates: AND Gates, XOR Gates, and NOT Gates. Beginning, a NOT Gate allows for the input to be reversed (1 to 0, 0 to 1). AND Gates requires two inputs to be of high value (1), or else the output will be of 0. Finally, the XOR Gate allows for the addition between two inputs(0+1=1, 1+1=0).

Throughout the lab, these are the main factors towards the experiment, in which test the possible forms of output when these three logic gates are used. These include the binary adder and flip flop circuits.  These demonstrate not only the different effects it has on the outcome, but also how the circuits may also come together and affect the flow of the input, and subsequently, the outcome.

Blog Post 4 (4/10/2019)-Gabriel Garcia

Through the sorting algorithm test, the lab demonstrates through the differences of different forms of sorting algorithms: permutation, insertion, and merging. Through the forms of the lab, the three sorting algorithms are demonstrated through their methods of evaluation, and subsequently their efficiency.

To start, we begin the evaluation of the insertion sorting method. With this method, the algorithm creates a sorting array of which involves such going through one frame at a time. As such, this demonstrates inefficiency due to a number of arrays that form a common algorithm, as such proving to be taxing work, much like how a person is required to solve such a complex problem without a computer’s productivity.

Another sorting algorithm is the permutation method. Though this method, the function creates the possible outcomes of the input’s integration. Through which, it sets up the paradigm. After, with these, it searches through the possible solutions until the sorted solution is identified. However, this itself is also inefficient, as the requirement to sort the algorithm into the correct array requires numerous attempts, or which result in the necessary time to sort the algorithms and to locate the correct solution.

Finally, we arrive at the merge sorting algorithm, in which an algorithm is sorted through the method of dividing between the variables, which allows for the order of the elements, and subsequently an equal between the input and output. This method is the most efficient out of the three as to how it allows for the answer to be reached through sorting the array, ultimately coming to the output through the process of elimination, narrowing down the answer.

Ultimately, this shows the efficiency of merging over both insertion and permutation, as to how the former allows for the algorithm to be solved through equal input and output, whereas the other two really on more step by step processes that make them inefficient.

Reflection on Final Presentations

During our last class, we had our Final Project presentations. From Python to HTML, every group chose to work on different tools for their project. Through these differences, I wanted to analyse the process and result of the projects to understand what is common in technology-related projects.

First of all, one thing that all groups had in common was the constant help from search engines.  Since we only covered basic concepts from the tools available to us, every group used Google to gather information on the background, application, and debugging of their respective programs. In our group, we constantly used Google to search for courses on how to write and implement HTML code for our personal portfolio website. In an age where information is at our fingertips, the learning process is slowly separated from only being taught in colleges to being accessible online. This way, it is possible for anyone to learn anything new as long as they have the time and internet access needed to learn.

Apart from the code itself, most projects served a particular purpose to solve or explain a problem. Unlike the way that Computer Scientists are portrayed in mass media, they do not just sit and write code all day for a boring purpose. For example, Kate’s project expanded beyond learning how to write HTML to teaching others about the consequences of putting our information online. Therefore, coding is not just about code; instead, it is about the purpose for which the code is written for that improves or damages our society.

Through this analysis of the project presentations, I learned that technology-related projects share two things in common: using search engines to gather new information, and writing code to solve a particular problem.

Fashion and Technology

After going to Dr. Yvonne Forester’s presentation, “Designing Future Bodies: Fashion and Technology”, for the first time in my life I realized that clothing is “technology”.  My idea of technology had always been something cold, hard, and mechanical, and I now realize that that conception is born almost entirely out of the modern digital age.  There are very obvious fashion technologies that fall in line with this image such as the Apple Watch, but Dr. Forester also offered some other bits such as temperature moderating cloth.

I realized that like clothes, we can see technology as an extension of ourselves.  In some ways nakedness can make one feel less human and more animal.  Our humanness is often characterized by these ingenious inventions which account for the limits of our physical body.  A sweater serves the purpose of retaining and producing warmth and clothing in the future might perform that same task but in a more advanced way.

The conversation about the Apple watch and the Fitbit again brought up the ethical dilemma of data privacy.  Now your computer doesn’t just have information on what you think, and what you like, it can now gather large amounts of data on your physical state.  It can monitor your mood through your pulse and perhaps in the future be used to create specific sorts of experiences tailored directly to your emotional state.  

All of this made me wonder, what is our responsibility to ourselves if even our clothing might one day do all of this for us.  Where do we begin to claim our experience of our minds and our bodies when there is tech that may very well know us better than we know ourselves in the form of blood pressure and beats per minute.  I will never be gathering as much data about myself as my computer is.  At some point will the computer be able to tell me who I am physically and mentally better than I can tell myself.

Dr. Forester brought up the phrase “the quantified self” and I’m starting to grasp that through algorithms and data collection my technology is able to experience me in a quantified form.  I know that I do not understand myself or conceive of myself in a quantified state so my computer or my Apple Watch are the objects which have access to that form of me, to the patterns that I would never be able to see.

Captilaism and innovation

I went to the talk by Dr. Yvonne Forester on May 3 titled “Beyond the Anthropcene: Techonology, Innovation, and the (Post-) Human Condition” and one of the points which made me think the most was how all of the issues especially in this class around the ethics of computing are partially arising because technological innovation up until this point has been motivated mostly by economic gain.  This idea sort of set off an image in my mind of what technological innovation might look like if the driving force was truly to expand the human experience rather than about making money.  Though I do think there is a lot of talk about expanding the human experience in the idea of innovation today I also see that the pressures of monetary gain constrain what actually ends up being attempted.

Another thing I thought was really interesting was this striving by the tech industry to create a frictionless experience which is formed by using large amounts of data on us to create and ideal, individualized online environment.  In this environment created exactly from us there is apparently the illusion of simple solutions.  Dr. Forester described it as a dystopian idea which was a bit strange to me, bit then it sort of called me back to reading Brave New World awhile back.  It makes me wonder if by taking paths of ease we are actively destroying our own sense of purpose.  The talk touched on these images in the media where robots eventually leave humans behind and humans themselves finally become the obsolete technology.  It’s honestly a bit disheartening to imagine such a world.

I imagine all of this goes back to the first point about technological innovations being driven by capitalistic gains.  On the other hand, increased tech should open up the door to new opportunities, but I suppose an expanded human experience is only going to come about if we actively make it a goal.

The robots are coming

I went to a talk in April called “The robots are coming” by Dr. Heidi Shierholz in which she discussed incoming automation and what affect it might have on the labor market.  Automation , I believe, is something  a lot of people have been taught to be paranoid about as it relates to work, but contrary to what I expected, a lot of Dr. Shierholz points contested this cultural paranoia and claimed that automation isn’t really going to be any bigger of a deal in the near future than it has been already.

She evaluated one of the most common narratives of robots replacing human labor which is the image of the trucking industry being replaced with self-driving vehicles.  She stated that it was unrealistic for the trucking industry to automatically overhaul and automate completely when so much revenue has already been spent on the already existing trucks which work perfectly fine.  From a rational economic standpoint it doesn’t make sense for the industry to completely overhaul itself and for these same reasons automation across most industries is likely to be gradual.

I was surprised to find out that we were actually at record lows in technological innovation, probably because the media is constantly bombarding us with futuristic ideals.  I realized that if we are at record lows in terms of technological innovation, then I probably don’t have a good image of what a technological revolution looks like even though I felt as if I did.

Even if automation was argued to not be much of a concern, Dr. Shierholz did enlighten me to other possible concerns.  I hadn’t known that up until the past few decades wages and productivity rose together in a linear fashion, and now even though productivity has risen significantly, wages have flat-lined.  The graph was a bit disheartening to see and then the realization that all of the increased revenue as a result of that productivity was going to the top 10 percent but most of all the top 1 percent was a shock.  Since I’m not well versed in economic theory, it made me wonder whether or not this is to be expected and what are the implications of this sort of situation on a broad scale.

Automation, I suppose, will continue to increase productivity, but who is entitled to those increased economic gains?

Designing Future Bodies: Fashion and Technology

Dr Yvonne Foerster’s lecture on Friday May 2nd titled “Designing Future Bodies” took an anthropological and phenomenological approach to the study of fashion with special consideration to technology. Dr. Foerster began with a discussion of the term “fashion” in France. She explained that prior to industrialization, garments were typically produced in the home. As the technologies associated with industrialization made cotton more affordable, clothing became easier and cheaper to produce and fashion designers began to sell patterns for garments that could be finished in the home. Then the designers and producers moved to the business model of department stores with bi annual or annual fashion lines (rather than the seasonal lines we see today).

 

Her talk then transitioned into a discussion of the relationship between fashion and art or what we might call “high fashion.” Dr Foerster showed a skirt by Hussein Chalayan a designer who created a coffee table skirt (http://museumarteutil.net/projects/coffee-table-skirt/.) This took the talk toward the idea of “wearables” and the Internet of Things (IOT.) She referenced medical technology such as shirts designed for infants that can detect the arrest of breathing and thus help to curb infant mortality.

 

I was able to ask a question which went something like, “There is all sorts of empirical research that suggests that smartphones are bad for our mental health. That they leach our attention and ability to focus even when not in use. Should we be more concerned about wearables, what is so different about the transition from iphone to iwatch or google glass?”

 

Dr Foerster’s response was that technology has already infiltrated and mediated the way in which we experience the world (showing her phenomenological dispositions). She didn’t quite take a stance one the matter as I was hoping she might, but did offer a cautionary response suggesting that because the tech is so new (only a few decades), we should be wary of the potential risks.

The Vulnerability of Our Virtual Selves

On Monday, my reading group read an article about Deepfake videos.  In it the two actors of the article, Marie-Helen Maras and Alex Alexandrou discussed the legal implications of an imminent future in which the everyday person can manufacture fake video and even audio of a person.  Much of the Deepfake technology is used in order to transpose the image of famous women into pornographic videos.  These videos, once put online, are very hard to remove considering how rapidly content is spread, consumed, and reproduced across platforms.

This new reality made me wary of all the images I have of myself online and how accessible they are.  It was mentioned in class that photos stored in Google Photos aren’t even private and that they can be accessed by anyone who has the url.  Since I’ve been relying on Google Photos for years now in order to save space on my devices, I realize that there are a heck of a lot of images of me online and that if someone was really diligent they could possibly use Deepfake technology in order to manufacture fake media of me.

All of our conversations have made me think of the concept of our virtual selves, our digital footprints, and how vulnerable these recreations of ourselves are to manipulation.  If you know enough about the virtual identity of a person and their behavior, then you can know enough to sell something to the physical person.  If you have access to enough images of a person online you can place them in them in situations virtually which they would never allow themselves to physically be in.  You can incriminate or bankrupt another person through the use of their banking information and social security numbers.

On some level, the whole idea of regulating the internet seems like the old effort to tame the Wild West, but my instinct is that taming something in a virtual space is a very different challenge than taming a physical space, and I’m somewhat skeptical of our ability to do so.

The most important parts of the Digital Age

On Monday we began winding down the semester by discussing what is the most important dilemma surrounding the digital age. Most people agreed that it was anything related to data analytics, privacy rights and ownership of ones own choices online. Most of the articles that we also read for class Monday also highlighted this to some extent and also continued to suggest that this is a problem long overdue for discussion and lengthy parameters to control its effects. This conversation is also closely aligned with the thread I have been following all semester which is: who gets taken advantage of most in the digital age? It is often this question and the dense effects of privacy and data sovereignty that make this issue so complicated every day. It seems, if anything, that these are all things that are going to get worse before they get better especially considering more and more industries are trying to experiment with how they can incorporate machine learning more into their businesses and consumer experiences.

Its my conclusion that things are moving much faster than we may think making the task of regulation even more difficult. Such is the case with the deep fake videos. The same software that can help take these videos down is also the same technology used to make them more sleeker, faster and less detectable as being fake content. Bots on the internet make it harder to track down white supremacists because these same bots instigate and often create more supremacists in their path than they actually stop.

 

CSC105 in the World of Programming

Most computer science students choose to follow such a career because of the high-level implications of writing code. For example, introductory programming course focus primarily on writing code to solve small problems. With this teaching method, a lot of the foundation algorithmic thinking that we learned in the class is not taught to most students. Building blocks like binary representation of numbers and string, image representation, history of computing, ethics and so much more was never taught during my 3 years of programming experience. During our lab today, I reflected back upon the purpose and content of the class in the broader view of the Digital Age, such as what I will work with as an intended Computer Science major, and my role in the programming world.

Although most of the students in the class are not Computer Science majors, but CSC105 is a class worthy of explaining low-level concepts in a fun and interactive way. Although it is not easy to explain concepts like machine language and sorting algorithms, they separate a good from a great programmer. In essence, this class prepares us with a solid foundation for the endeavor of a Computer Science major.

When we discussed the ethics of writing code, there is a fine line between writing code aimed at improving or harming society. In fact, an article that we read covers the perspective of a programmer writing code for the military, which is used to target and kill people. After the reading and the lecture of ethics, I wondered what my code can do to better society, but also what ways it can be used to inflict harm. Just like academics in other fields discover and reviewing new information about their areas of study, programmers take a big role in the future of the Digital Age. Therefore, I wonder how code can be determined as good or bad since one program can do both depending on the user.