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There are some absolutely amazing technologies out there. Shown below is a video of a concrete printer that is able to make the shell of a house. This is just one example of how technology is going to lead to huge changes in the future. The full rate of change is only just beginning to be felt. Things like Facebook and the home computer will be nothing compared to these babies when they reach mainstream acceptance. 

A computer controlled 3d concrete printer that will literally print your home! The possibilities for things like this are huge. People will be able to dream up a design and then make it. A new type of creativity will be unleashed. While the complexity of setting up this technology means it is not yet practical for repairs the initial construction of a house's shell could be largely automated soon.  

 
 
See: http://mashable.com/2013/07/14/living-video-games/

It's pretty laughable that there are people concerned by the ethical ramifications of this. Most of the population eats meat thus contributing to the suffering of animals we have very good reason to believe can feel a form of pain. Our best scientific theories point away from the idea that single-celled organisms feel pain of any sort. 

Another example of the strange ethical double-standard scientific researchers must deal with in their research. The general populous is free to commit grossly unethical actions, whereas there is concern scientists are manipulating single-celled organisms. Give me a break . 
 
 
Disabled access to technology is important in minimising the disadvantages that disabled individuals face in modern society. It is a common misconception, for example, that blind people are not online. Sadly, the technology appears to be lagging behind demand.,
 
 
Check out this interesting video of silk-worms creating a dome. Researchers at MIT have found a way to control the worm's spinning patterns by changing the environment of the worms. They created a scaffold for the worms and then used a computer program to manipulate heat and light to control the spinning patterns of the worms. 


http://vimeo.com/67177328
 
 
Worried about government goons getting intercepting private messages? Here's a new app in development that has double-ended encryption to make sure that no one can (theoretically) intercept your communications. 

https://heml.is/
 
 
I learnt a few interesting things for this article. Apparently, Mozilla is a non-profit organisation. Didn't know that. *Facepalm*.

Apparently, Firefox is faster than Chrome. That is pretty interesting.
I think these two facts make me want to reinstall Firefox and ditch Chrome.

The idea of a smartphone than uses web apps instead of on-board applications is pretty cool.

 
 
http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/memories-are-made-of-this-20130710-2powt.html

An interesting read on how computer memory is going towards the cloud. Some interesting historical and futuristic elements. 

 
 
It is extremely ironic that in the midst of a political hysteria over "securing our borders" it turns out that United States intelligence "demanded" that Telstra provide them access to private data of Australian citizens. 

http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/security-it/telstra-storing-data-on-behalf-of-us-government-20130712-hv0w4.html

Was the Australian public informed? Will those that betrayed the right to privacy of Australian citizens be brought to account? 
Of course not. 


I think, at the very least, Telstra share holders need to be informed whether they are contributing to the violation of Australian citizen's privacy. 

Cypherpunks unite. 
 
 
As a computer technician one has to be aware of the effects of technology on society. While the positive effects are obvious and much talked about, the negative effects are often in the news as well. Furthermore, I am sure we are all familiar with that older relative who bangs on about the destructive nature of modern technology on the youth of today.

Today I want to talk specifically about violent computer games.

First, a little aside. People have been complaining about the "youth of today" since ancient times. Here's a quote from Plato's Socrates:

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners,
> contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and
> love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants,
> not the servants of their households. They no longer rise
> when eleders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
> chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross
> their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

As you can see, there are some familiar themes.

Second, despite claims from media shock jocks and their ilk, violence in Western society is actually declining. See Steven Pinks book "The Better Angels of Our Nature" for an in-depth analysis of this phenomena.

So, now that we have established that the older generation will always complain about the younger generation, and that violence is actually declining, let's talk about video games.

The opponent of violence in computer games could make the following claim: "Sure, violence is declining due to socio-economic factors. However, it would be declining at a greater pace if violent games were outlawed. So while the youth of today are actually LESS violent than previous generations, they would be even less violent if they didn't play games.


At this point I think I should note that I have heard quite strident, ideological claims from both sides of this debate. On the one hand, you have the usual "won't somebody think of the children" type who doesn't see the double standard between ratings on computer games and other media (until earlier this year Australia did not have an R18 computer game rating). This type fails to actually look at any of the psychological research into computer game violence. However, I have heard equally misguided views coming from the "gamer" community. From personal experience, many "gamers" I know dismiss the idea that computer games could cause violence with the same religious zest as the censorship nuts. "I play games all the time and I'm not killing anyone".


Unfortunately, it seems that the ignorant cries from the media have led to an equally misguided backlash from the gaming community.

However, no one is claiming that there is a necessary causal influence of computer games on violent behavior. The claim is that there is a probabilistic link with computer games increasing the likelihood that certain at risk individuals will engage in violent behaviours. Of course playing computer games won't make the average person go on a killing spree. What we are discussing is whether at-risk, disturbed individuals could be pushed over the final edge by computer games to shoot up their school, or whether an abusive husband could be pushed over the edge to beating his wife after playing a violent game.

The truth is that the current state of research into violence and video games is mixed.  Studies have demonstrated an increase in aggression, a decrease in empathy and an increased level of physiological arousal (which can mean a lot of things). Several meta-analyses have confirmed these findings. There is also a distinction in the psychological research between movies and games that a lot of gamers don't seem to realise. That is, there is a distinction between being an active participant and being a passive observer. It is contended that acting out violent behaviours could have a greater effect on violent behaviours than merely being a passive observer in a movie.


On the other hand, there have been critics of the methodologies of these studies. Other meta-analyses have not found the effects. Furthermore, there is yet to be any clear evidence that these effects generalize into the real world. Sure, a person might become more aggressive for a short period of time, but are these effects large enough, and persistent enough, to cause violent behaviour? Maybe, maybe not.

A lot of the studies that note a correlation between violent games and violence note just that : a correlation. Anyone with the slightest bit of common sense (or an education in social science) can tell you that correlation does not equal causation. It is plausible that certain individuals having violent tendencies causes them to play violent games rather than the games causing the violent tendencies.


What we can conclude is that even if computer games are having an effect on violence in society, their effects are minimal compared to other risk-factors such as low socio-economic status, being a victim of violence and all the rest. Violent crime rates have actually declined drastically since the early 90s which was when computer games started becoming popular.

Nevertheless, the research does not rule out that computer games could be having a minor effect on violent tendencies.


In conclusion, I think instead of getting up in arms about computer games, we should be focusing on why we live in a world where people are so messed up that we are worried that computer games could turn them into killers! Even if computer games play a causal role in societal violence, their effect is so minor that we should not be curtailing the civil liberties of adults to do what they want in the privacy of their own home. We should instead be focusing on improving mental health services, education and raising standards of living to reduce violence.

Furthermore,  I have thus far been framing the debate in a way that assumes computer games are either having no effect, or a negative effect.  I haven't even gone into the (potential?) benefits of computer games for society. Until next time.

Sam.


 

Sad Day

11/07/2013

0 Comments

 
So I just heard that the search engine Alta Vista shut down!!!! It's a sad day indeed.

Alta Vista was one of the first major search engines. It competed for the spot of  top search engine throughout the late 90s-early 2000s until the emergence of Google. 

If you go to altavista.com, you are now redirected to yahoo.com (It's owner).

For such a giant in its field, Altavistas demise was quietly noted by Yahoo. Its shutdown was buried in a list of many other services that Yahoo is shutting down and received a simple one sentence obituary.

Goodbye Altavista....Another relic of my childhood gone forever.






 

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