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Digital Transformation Final Summary

The world will look nothing like it did in the past, we are undergoing a period of digital transformation. The American Dream is no longer what it used to be; Capitalism is shrinking, and technology is taking the jobs of the working-class. Americans are having trouble finding their place in society because technology has taken the role of human physical presence. The past American Dream offered a pre-determined agenda that was simple to complete, founded on simple jobs like “factory worker”, “waitress” or “cashier”, but now these ‘stable’ positions are all disappearing. Navigating the former route of the American Dream is not an option because it is no longer so set in stone. Life proves to be unpredictable, and same with the direction of the American Dream. New jobs are emerging on the web, and we must adapt to this digital transformation, even if it means adjusting our American Dream. We can no longer settle for one job, rather settle when the jobs are done.

We must cope with the fact that there is almost no room to climb up the capitalist ladder anymore. We must work with the ones at the top in order to expand our overall potential for success. Platform companies control most of the IoT and technologies that come with it. They offer many opportunities for businesses to grow: Shopify, Amazon, and Facebook offer many services to help customers and sellers engage in business, Ziosk offers an easy-to-use food ordering service for dine-in customers at Applebee’s and other restaurants, and Microsoft Office changed the way we create and submit reports. Neglecting these innovations will leave you behind, there is much success to be gained by properly utilizing these technologies.

We must not learn a specific set of skills, rather a much broader set of technology skills that cover multiple fields. Being F.A.I.R. will help people transition into their new skills. F.A.I.R. people will always be innovating new products/services, so no longer can we restrict our skills, we must anticipate and adapt to change.

Achieving the American Dream is still possible, but it requires a new route to success. We must expand our knowledge in different fields rather than one to adapt to the never ending changes we will face. We cannot have a narrow focus to our next step in life when the future requirements to our jobs require us to think more broadly. Being able to adapt to change, “learn, unlearn, and relearn”, will help us reach the next chapter in our lives.

Link to our group presentation!

 

Education- 4IR Summary

The world is on the precipice of another revolution. New technologies have allowed the human race to push for a new standard of living. In the new future we can help create a world with less poverty, where people can live longer, transform they way we consume energy so it is more efficient, and automate the workforce. These new advancements will drastically change the way we live, and after taking DT&L it has become apparent that the world is not ready for these new technologies. We are progressing so fast when it comes to technology that our society cannot catch up.This is why we have had such massive hacks on our public and private institutions. Us being behind explains why some scientists and inventors are worried with what we will do with AI. Our societal awareness is so far behind our technological awareness that disaster may be looming around the corner and we can not see it. Now how do we fix these problems? The consensus of our class is that education is the key to understanding this new future. The major issue we face, however is that the way our current educational system works is inadequate to help students prepare for this future.

Our current educational system is outdated, even by today’s standards and as the fourth industrial revolution begins our schooling system will be placed further behind than ever before. If students are unprepared for today’s economy then there is little hope schooling will prepare students for the future economy. As our economy is led into another technological revolution it is time for us to take schooling along with it. Yet, how do we do this?

The future of our education system has been a hotly debated issue in politics for decades. Programs like President George Bush’s No Child Left Behind are a recent reminder. Most people agree that there are massive flaws in the way we educate the nation’s youth. The video below went viral last year and has garnered millions of views.

 

 

There have also been many TED talks highlighting the importance of education reform and that the current way of teaching is inadequate. Below is a TED talk from Sir Ken Robinson talking about how to escape education’s death valley.

 

Both of these videos highlight two important flaws that our education system has: It is a rigid system and it stifles individuality. Since there are millions of students in America it was seen as an easier solution to standardize the basics. Standardized tests decided where kids can go to school, which states receive grants, and hammer in basic study skills to students. This system has in turn stifled individuality and this is an issue because it handicaps students who think differently, a perfect analogy is teaching a goldfish to climb a tree. This standardization and mechanization of our education system has held it back from change. Sir Ken Robinson create a good point in his TED Talk, “Education is not a mechanical system it’s a human system.” The main issue plaguing education is that it has failed to adapt to the individual needs of the student and has forced students into a box. Thankfully with the new technologies ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution we have the potential to individualize education and make it possible for every student to learn at their own pace, so everyone can prepare themselves for the future.

 

AI will change the way students from all age groups will learn. The current education system has been in place for over one hundred years and the same static classroom look has not changed. Artificial Intelligence will change the general approach to education to a more focused and refined version for each student. AI will be able to detect what subjects are harder for students at an earlier age and will be able to work with that student to improve his/her skills. The more individualized the education is, the more likely the student will gain more out of the class. Education with the help of AI will become more immersive and will become a long term approach to generating new skills for students. Giving students exposure to smart boards and new online tools such as Slack, will empower them to learn and become more efficient. Artificial intelligence is one the most important technologies in the contemporary world, it is apart of everyone’s daily lives and we are bounded to the power it gives us. The classic student and teacher relationship will become more engaging and less hierarchical. Virtual reality and AI will go hand in hand to create a new way of learning. The ability to learn anytime and anywhere will change the way we view schools and rigid structure.  

 

There is another question we have to ask ourselves when we update our education system What do we want to get out of it? When we are able to create an education system that adapts new technologies and embraces a student’s individuality the question becomes what will we teach. The video below gives a quick explanation on what the new curriculum should be.

 

Near the end of this video an interesting point was made. Education should not end at a certain point, people can continue to grow and learn even after they are no longer in school. With the help of the internet and sites such as Udemy, people can learn new skills at a cheap price. With this new technology and system, adults can learn and experience new things just as students do. This is the future of education and this will help fix the issues like rigidity and lack of individuality. The internet is excellent at passing on information fast and creating new content in response to changing times. With online classes and YouTube teaching channels students can learn what they want to learn and in depth. All of human knowledge and history is available for humans to view. When a new disruptive technology enters the world economy, people will be able to go to the internet and learn how to adapt. In the future someone can learn new skills that will allow them to succeed in an ever changing economy.

The fourth industrial revolution is coming and it is going to completely change the way we see the world. Currently we are unprepared for this revolution. In order to become prepared we have to look at our current education system and fix the flaws plaguing it. We have to make education more personal and fitting for every student and make the system less rigid. Today we have the technology and equipment to implement this properly. In the future we can have an economy that will produce disruptive technologies, but we do not have to fear it. Using the internet we can have people constantly learning new things and adapting themselves to the changing world around them. As talked about in the last POV by some students, we have to keep ourselves up to date. We believe that this dream can be a possibility and that we can update education to fit the challenges of the future and a 21st century world.

So the Climate Is Changing…Now What?

The impact we have on the environment is not something we can overlook, but it is something we have chosen to ignore. If we are trying to look at the big picture of what climate change is and how it is affecting us, the most obvious thing to point out is global warming. While our group did discuss global warming, we decided to focus more on the smaller aspects of climate change and investigated how global warming affected other aspects of the environment. The clear impact of global warming is the rising temperatures, and we discussed the implications of the warmer weather in many different cities. Through investigation, we also stumbled across the impact our pollution has on animals, how it can stir up dormant diseases, or how it can damage our atmosphere. The real focus of our project, however, was the many ways we can mitigate the effects of climate change.

To generalize the numerous problems that are attached to climate change, it is not untrue to say “the end is near and society is essentially screwed.” Climate change is more than the planet getting a “little” hotter. A difference of a few degrees from the average range of the Earth’s temperature has greatly affected the weather, which in turn effects land, and ultimately where life is sustainable. Climate change has caused a domino effect of problems that is perpetuated by continued creation carbon emissions, as well as lack of addressing carbon emissions already present in the atmosphere. Moreover, there is no single solution to fix climate change. Carbon emission may arguably be what facilitate current and future climate change issues, but cutting back on carbon emissions will do virtually nothing to address the issue. Humans have been pumping carbon into the atmosphere for centuries and carbon takes thousands of year to dissipate. As a result, action, like that set by the Paris Accord, will not do much to solve climate change. Even if emissions were cut to zero, the emissions already created would continue to linger, thus perpetuate the effects of climate change. Instead of searching for a single solution to climate change, we need to address every issue individually before they arise.

One effect of global warming is the rise in sea level. Only concerning sea level rising, the increasing temperature of the Earth causes thermal expansion, melting of the ice caps, and ice loss in areas like Greenland and West Antarctica. Thermal expansion and the melting of the polar and glacial ice caps are direct results of global warming; however, unlike the melting ice caps, thermal expansion is reversible if carbon emissions were severally cut back. The melting ice caps are adding more water into the ocean and there is impossible to take that water back. Similarly, ice loss in Greenland and West Antarctica also means more water is flowing into the ocean. Compounding the issue of more water being added into the ocean and the “expansion” of water, the sea level is rising at an alarming rate.

Moreover, if the ice caps are melting then the ocean must be heating up to some extent. Heating of the ocean affects the weather, namely referring to the progression of tropical storms into hurricanes. Hurricanes form in warmer bodies of water. As areas of water heat up, water vapor rises into the air creating thunderstorms. Wind currents then begin to “push” around the storm, thus giving the storm more energy. At 39 mph winds, the thunderstorm is officially a tropical storm, when wind speeds exceed 75 mph the storm is a deemed a hurricane. It is important to understand how hurricanes form because as the ocean heats up, the rising temperature gives these storms more energy, thus become more dangerous. Climate change may not cause more hurricanes, but it may cause more dangerous hurricanes, such as category 4 and 5 hurricanes, to form more frequently. For example, four of the five costliest hurricanes to hit the U.S. have occurred since 2005; these hurricanes include Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Maria, while it did not hit the U.S., was so strong a new category of hurricanes may be needed to classify it. If more category 4, 5, and possibly 6 hurricanes form, then there could be more damage to coastal areas, infrastructure, and may put more people in danger. For example, Hurricane Maria, arguably a category 6 hurricane, has decimated the electrical grid in Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico may go months without power. It is somewhat bothersome to not have power to watch the news, but to not have power for hospitals is devastating.

The issues of rising sea level and stronger hurricanes combine to make flooding worse and more frequent. As sea level rises, water will consume more land. In addition, if there is an increase in more powerful storms that carry more water and energy, they will leave behind more water further inland. Damage of flooding becomes worse when the infrastructure meant to drain the water overflows, like in Florida. For example, the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey may take months to recede fully- thus having the potential to destroy whole communities. Moreover, the event of the flood receding may cause additional damage. For example, in Puerto Rico after some of the flood receded, it eroded chunks of land beneath houses. Flooding also perpetuates issues of fixing power lines and transportation.

The following is an image of a house after flooding caused by Hurricane Maria receded:

While there is no universal solution to issues of rising sea level, hurricanes, and flooding, potential solutions do have the characteristic of flexibility in common. For example, past and present solutions to hurricanes and rising sea level are mainly hard defenses. Hard defense are generally man made constructs, such as bulkheads, coastal barrages, and rock walls, used to as a “shield” to stop storms. However, such defenses erode over time, and there is no way of knowing if they will work until the storm arrives. Therefore once it is apparent a hard defense has failed, it is too late to take additional protective measures. On the other hand, soft defenses, such as marshes, and coral reefs, absorb the energy of storms, and move with storms and rising sea level. In addition, soft defenses grow over time and protect against land erosion. For example, marshes have protected the northern coastline of Florida for years. The downsides of soft defenses include the amount of time they take to grow and their inability to be effective on a large scale; marshes would have to extend mile off the coastline of NYC to be effective. However, instead of relying on only hard defenses or only soft defenses, an optimal solution is to use both together. Relying on one or the other is repeating the same mistake of waiting until existing defenses fail and not being able to take additional protective measures. Moreover, we cannot only rely on hard defenses and soft defenses to stop invading sea level and hurricanes because the issue of flooding if they were to fail still holds true. Like hard defenses, there are fixed systems to help mitigate flooding. For example, Tokyo, Japan has a massive canal system that diverts water from Tokyo called the G-Cans Project. The G-Cans Project is a series of underground tunnels that total 3.7 miles long, and vertical shafts that measure 580 feet long, 59 feet high, and 256 feet wide. This network is capable of channeling 12,500,000 L of water per minute. However, for cities like New York City where a major portion of underground real estate is used up, the scale of the G-Cans Project may not be possible. Nevertheless, the format of the system may still be useful because, similar to soft defenses, there is infrastructure that moves with flooding. For example, the POP-UP parking garage moves up and down with water from sewers, thus combing a parking garage and water reservoir. The technology used in the POP-UP garage can also be applied to other architecture that follows the Archimedes Principle. For example, vertical farms, extensive “tower” farms that raises and grows various foods in a controlled environment, using this technology would also be able to move with floods, thus protecting our food sources. However, “POP-UP technology” is still fixed to some extent. Carrying the ideas of flexibility further, Floating City App created floating schools using refurbished shipping containers. These floating schools are solar powered, and include a classroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom. On the other end of the floating infrastructure spectrum, even floating airports have been created. In 2000, Mega Float created a floating airport in Tokyo Bay, Japan that measured 1000 meters long. The airport was so long that it rode multiple wave cycles at once that canceled each other out, and allowed the airport to remain stable. Since the airport was not viewed as necessary, it was dismantled in 2003. However, floating airports are not the limit of floating infrastructure- whole cities could be manufactured to float. Floating cities have the potential to solve the issue of rising sea level and flooding because there would no longer be a worry of losing land, the land would move with the storm.

The following describes the possibility of floating cities:

Stepping back from issues of rising sea level, hurricanes, and flooding, the cause of them is the increase in the temperature, which, alone, is also a threat. By 2100, the Persian Gulf could experience temperatures exceeding 170 degrees Fahrenheit causing the area to become uninhabitable. Areas within the Persian Gulf, such as Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Bander Abbas, some of the richest cities in the world, would have to be abandoned. By 2100, 3 out of 4 people could face deadly heatwaves. Rising temperature will be especially prevalent in cities as a result of the urban heating affect. The urban heating effect states that because of the large amount of human activity within in cities, cities become hotter than the surrounding rural areas. Moreover, the pavement used in cities and human activity does not allow urban areas to properly release the heat absorbed throughout the day at night, thus retaining a high temperature. Immediate solutions to impending dangerous heatwaves include green areas and cooling pavement, in addition to currently implemented cooling centers. Cooling centers are public areas, such as a public library, that offer A/C to the public; however, cooling centers only cool the one building and not necessarily a part of the city. Green areas, by using foliage, create more shade, and thus mitigate pavement heat absorption and lower the overall temperature of an area. An extreme version of green areas are forest cities. Forest cities make plant life an integral part of architecture by covering whole buildings in foliage. By implementing a “jungle,” cities are able to combat the urban heating effect. However, heatwaves are not a problem limited to urban areas. Rural areas, specifically farms, will have to deal with drought because of rising temperatures. In 2012 farmers in the West and Midwest, because of a drought, lost billions of dollars in crops. Additionally, as temperatures increase, vital amounts of food may be lost. If water becomes constrained, it will need to be used efficiently; “spongy” soil is a potential solution. “Spongy” soil retains more water and reduces run off, and therefore gets the most use out of water during drought and collects water during storms. The soil could also be used to cultivate the green areas in the urban areas discussed earlier. Moreover, the soil would complement the use of vertical farms by optimizing the use of water. The rise of global temperature will affect the entire world. People can move to escape rising sea level and floods, but there is no “escaping” rising temperature.

We examined the impact of rising temperatures in developed cities, but they also have an effect on animals in areas without a large human populace and our National Parks. The animals rely on the resources their environment is able to provide them. However, with the increased ocean temperatures and the melting of the ice caps, their ecosystems are being severely disrupted. For example, marine animals, like penguins, in the northern hemisphere are attuned to arctic temperatures and an abundance of krill in the water. The krill are also accustomed to the colder water, but when the temperature of the water rises, they elect to move to where there is cold water. The penguins in that region with a krill-based diet now need to alter their diet to something else. There are many dangers like the lack of nutrients in other shellfish or the potential risk of it being poisonous or otherwise detrimental to their health. Animals are innocent bystanders in our path to destroying the natural resources and we need to take the necessary measures to cut our impact in their environments. One way, albeit extreme, is to adopt a vegan lifestyle. It has many environmental benefits and cuts back on the suffering animals face. We can also take larger steps to cut back on emissions that are a leading factor of the temperature rise. The rise in temperature is also affects Glacier National Park, for the reasons stated in the paragraph above. Another park that is being affected is Grand Canyon National Park. The Colorado River flows through the whole park, but over the years, it is clear to see the decline of the water level. Some of this is due to the erosion, but a majority is the rising temperature causing evaporation. The water is disappearing before our eyes and we are turning a blind eye. What will happen when the water dries up and the ecosystems throughout the canyon are left to scramble for a new water source? We need to take action before we lose these national treasures.

The rise in temperature is also causing something that seems straight out of a sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie- zombie diseases. These are diseases that have been hidden in ice for years, encased in permafrost. We are not equipped or ready to deal with anthrax, small pox, or even a variation of the plague. It is not all that surprising that miners want to push aside the dangers of these diseases to access mineral and petroleum deposits. However, we need to acknowledge the dangers these diseases present and how they could affect our world. A recent outbreak of anthrax in Serbia illustrated the peril of allowing this issue to go unsolved. Many died because a deer encapsulated in ice thawed and, with it, a strain of anthrax. It contaminated the soil and the water, which led to poisoned crops. We also face the issue of refugees carrying local diseases, like dengue fever or malaria, into other countries where citizens’ immune systems are not accustomed to these new diseases. The warmer temperatures are the force behind some refugees leaving their homes, but it can also allow the diseases like Lyme disease and rat lungworm to survive in places they never could before. Therefore, any disease that can thrive in warmer temperature may soon have increased outbreaks- not just the ones already listed. If multiple outbreaks occurred at the same time, we would not be equipped to handle the aftermath.

Global warming is not the only causation we face. Another driving motion of climate change is pollution. While it is expected that we discuss the pollution of the ocean or streets, those types of pollutions are not destroying our atmosphere- space junk is. Space junk refers to the remains of objects that have entered space, and became trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Because of the increasing temperature in the lower atmosphere, the temperature of the upper atmosphere decreases, causing a contraction of that layer. When the atmosphere contracts, air is removed and less friction is in the upper atmosphere. Therefore, the space junk would not be able to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up, so they remain on the outer layer of our atmosphere. If this junk remains in the atmosphere, it can hit other satellites and create more debris, which can then hit another satellite and make more debris and so on. There is no long-term solution for the dealing with space junk, but there is a satellite created by CleanSpace One that can grab debris and bring it back down to Earth, so it can burn upon re-entry. The downside to using this satellite is that the satellite can only be used once, as it burns upon re-entry as well. Another, more lasting solution, would be the use of materials that break apart gradually after they are exposed to ultra-violet rays. Other satellites that are helping us combat climate change are cube satellites. These satellites were created to scan the Earth’s surface and collect data about which areas are more prone to hurricanes, how hurricanes form, and they are significantly cheaper than normal satellites. These satellites have a shorter shelf-life, which means we will have to replace them more often. However, that also means we can update the software regularly and modify design whenever necessary. If we used the data from these satellites to fuel a flood-predicting AI, it would be able to learn better with the extra information. Other types of AI can also be used to discover new and more efficient ways to combat climate change.

We are currently in an administration that refuses to acknowledge or believe in the scientific fact that climate change is occurring. Despite most of the country (and even world) knowing and accepting the truth that Earth’s climate is changing, Trump and many of his top appointees refuse to acknowledge it. This proves unpleasant and profound implications for the United States too, as not only do we risk physical damage like many of our coastal cities or even Puerto Rico with the numerous hurricanes we have had, our economy and leadership is also shaken, as our nation’s leader refuses to believe something so matter-of-fact as climate change. Earlier this month, at the Paris Accord, the agreement in which nations stand to acknowledge and deal with climate change, had even Syria sign, leaving the United States as the only country in the world that has not sign it, and will not sign it so long as Trump sticks by his ideals (or stays in office). The previous administration set several acts in motion in efforts of reducing greenhouse gases and our effect on the climate, all of which have been contested by Trump, in efforts to repeal those laws, to no avail as of yet. His idea that climate change is a “hoax” is baffling as his energy secretary Rick Perry, even notes that the “science is still out on whether or not human activity is the primary driver of climate change” (japantimes.co.jp). The EPA under Trump is rolling back on the climate change initiatives like noted earlier, including the Clean Power Plan or Clean Air Act, set forth by Obama and his administration. Scientists and federal agencies part of the National Climate Assessment in the US Global Change Research Program have published extensive research on the subject matter and are considered the most comprehensive and authoritative statements on climate science by the US Government. Even the US military is very cognizant of the existence of climate change and its potential to cause havoc to the world and also cost several hundreds of billions of dollars to deal with if something is not done to prevent or minimize the effects. It is embarrassing for a country so advanced and aware of world problems, to refuse to accept the existence of climate change, something that has extensive research on to prove.

Machine Learning Executive Summary

It is essential to understand what exactly machine learning is and how it works in order to understand the affects it has and will have on society. In basic terms, machine learning is a computer program that can learn and adapt to new data without human interference. It is a field of artificial intelligence that keeps a computer’s built-in algorithms current, regardless of changes in the worldwide economy. As more information it is given, the more it learns and the more accurate it becomes with the result. Therefore, it recognizes patterns and will give updates as relevant data is fed through. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning, which helps the algorithm learn without a human programmer. Through deep learning, information filters through a hierarchy that starts simple and gradually becomes more complex and specific. As the data is going through each level, the algorithm is able to determine what the object or data point belongs in what category. The process behind deep learning is essential to the success of machine learning. Since there is a grand amount of information that the algorithm must analyze to come to a conclusion, a human programmer would not be able to sit there and go through every single point – that would be extremely expensive and time consuming. Many industries and companies are beginning to use machine learning, to cut costs and become more efficient. Some of those industries include transportation, advertisement, medical, education and entertainment.

Transportation & Advertising – Antoneta Sevo

One industry that is being hugely affected by machine learning is transportation, particularly by autonomous vehicles. Though taxi companies like Waymo and Uber are implementing this technology within their services, companies like Tesla are creating vehicles that will be available to consumers for purchase. Tesla has introduced a system called Enhanced Autopilot that allows the driver to sit in front of the wheel and do nothing while the vehicle operates itself. The system includes features like active cruise control, forward collision warning, match speed based on traffic conditions, change lanes without the driver’s input, merge on and off highways and park itself. One main goal of Tesla is to successfully have a car drive itself across the country from LA to New York. Machine learning works by interpreting the ever-changing scenery detected by the sensors surrounding the vehicle. Once the technology is perfected within the industry, there may be no limitations to the future of driving.

As machine learning continues to be introduced into different industries, the amount of information being collected about users and consumers continues to increase. These algorithms are created to handle and sift through large amounts of data in order to identify a pattern and produce a result based on the patterns. This is beneficial to companies for advertising purposes so they can recognize habits of consumers. Essentially, companies track your browsing history to suggest products or other websites. They are also able to figure out how much the user can afford and when they might be able to afford it based on their demographics and when they usually purchase products. Since it would be time-consuming and expensive for a human to find those patterns, an algorithm is put in place and works in real-time. It is a much more efficient way to produce targeted advertisements. The more a user searches and buys, the more information the program collects, and the more accurate the advertisements become. By using machine learning, Target knew a teenager was pregnant before her father did. The algorithm noticed a pattern in her internet searches and sent advertisements designed for pregnant women to her house. That was how her father found out. Machine learning can collect an endless amount of data in order to have accurate predictions, and in some cases, they can be too accurate.

With new technology comes ethical issues and implications. When it comes to autonomous vehicles, many things can go right and there would be a smooth ride, but many things could go wrong as well. For example, the algorithm may make the wrong decision, misinterpret an object, or can be hacked, causing an accident. In order to avoid the program from making the wrong decision or misinterpreting, quantum computing must be implemented so the algorithm could work faster. It is important for companies to consider full transparency, so people understand how the car operates and how it is protected. This also means certain types of cybersecurity and encryptions should be put in place to protect the car from being hacked and causing harm to people on the road. Most car companies do not operate in an ethical manner now, however, they should begin to think differently in the future. There are also many different ethical issues that arise through the advertising industry. Once people find out they are being tracked and targeted, they begin to feel uneasy, as they should. Companies should allow consumers to opt out of their services so users will feel more in control of their information. Also, it would be beneficial if consumers were more aware in order to identify what these big corporations are tracking so they can do things differently to take themselves out of being tracked. Consumers can use a Virtual Private Network, use a search engine that does not track them like DuckDuckGo, or they can choose to use an opt out service. There are plenty of options, the first step, however, is to be aware that something is wrong.

The final scare that comes along with new technologies in machine learning and Artificial Intelligence is unemployment. Many articles talk about how many blue-collar jobs will be obsolete in the coming years and most of them are not wrong. It is a topic that those who want to be employed have to know about. Some jobs that may be affected in the future are schoolteachers, taxi or commercial drivers, positions in the medical field, etc. This technology has the potential to affect an abundant amount of jobs across plenty of industries, which means a solution must be in place before mass unemployment occurs. A short-term solution may include technology companies implementing training programs for current employees to learn the new (and necessary) skills. Another solution might be considering a universal basic income for those who are unable to find work or for everyone if machines and Artificial Intelligence take a significant amount of jobs. In time, as more and more jobs disappear, we, as a society, will have to redefine the definition of work. Millions of jobs will disappear and we will have to accept the change. In order to survive the inevitable societal and economic change, we need to accept that it is happening now. The next step is to begin learning in an exponential way instead of a linear way. The way our world functions now will certainly not be the way it functions in the future and we need to prepare to face it head on.

Medical & Education- Mayra Luna

Machine learning is all about data recollection and data processing. Its capability of analyzing huge amounts of data will eventually replace a great number of human jobs, even those that require a higher education. However, as explained by Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak, the real value of artificial intelligence is in making more efficient use of human resources in healthcare.  For example, IBM’s Watson can read 40 million documents in 15 seconds, optimizing time and performance. Healthcare has loads of data: Test results, consultation notes, scans, appointment follow ups, etc., creating an ideal environment for the use of Machine Learning (More data, better results).

The ability of computer systems to assume tasks for humans has improved efficiency in healthcare. Now hospitals are getting into the game, deploying AI to take on challenges from diagnosing patients more quickly in the emergency room. Other technology developers, are focusing on software that can read CT scans and other medical images and then suggest the most likely diagnosis by reviewing similar images stored in patient databases. And these programs can accurately process these tasks far faster than human technicians. For example; Stanford researchers have developed an algorithm that offers diagnoses based off chest X-ray images. It can diagnose up to 14 types of medical conditions and is able to diagnose pneumonia better than expert radiologists working alone.

Machine learning can help healthcare executives and caregivers with things like precision medicine. Precision medicine is “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.” This approach will allow doctors and researchers to predict more accurately which treatment and prevention strategies for a particular disease will work in which groups of people. It is in contrast to a one-size-fits-all approach, in which disease treatment and prevention strategies are developed for the average person, with less consideration for the differences between individuals. For example, tech giant Microsoft wishes to improve health care using machine learning and AI. As part of this initiative, Microsoft is expanding into cancer research and treatment, and its approaching cancer cells as if they were a glitch in a computer system.  

Though ML promises to drastically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare, when it comes to predicting, diagnosing, and treating medical conditions there are many concerns: Data quality, Manipulation risk, Obscured logic

Four factors should be present to improve accuracy and overcoming risk: Confidence scores, Complex rules, Clinical data, Natural language processing

We must understand that machine learning is a powerful tool, not a complete solution. There is no substitute for a skilled physician’s expertise, however with the right data, ML can certainly help accelerate diagnosis, treatment, and program development.

Machine learning systems can give teachers more free time to actually teach and mentor on a more personalized level, instead of focusing on the never-ending grading and lesson planning. In addition, the current learning system consists of a “one size fits all” model. We are in desperate need of a system where the educational experience can be personalized to each students abilities and needs. Machine learning could address these issues by collecting and analyzing the data generated by students, identifying meaningful patterns and transforming that information into structural knowledge. In other words, when the student interacts with a digital learning platform, the machine learning system can accurately predict and better assess that person’s educational level, being able to tailor specific material for that individual.

Specific roles and examples of Machine Learning and its use in education: Content analytics, learning, analytics, dynamic scheduling platforms, grading systems, process intelligence, predictive analysis.

The ethical issues may include:

  • Unemployment: Labor is concerned primarily with automation. As we continue to implement machine automation, certain jobs (predictable physical work) could disappear. While this might sound like something bad, we must also keep in mind that new jobs will be created due to this disruption. The real question is how are we going to educate people for these new jobs?
  • Inequality: By using artificial intelligence, companies can drastically reduce the reliance on human workforce, which means people will work less hours (therefore make less income, broadening the labor gap).
  • Humanity: Humans are limited, while machines have unlimited resources. How will machine learning affect the way we behave and interact with others? Will we soon be interacting with machines as if they were humans? Will machines adapt to cultural norms?
  • Algorithmic Bias: Blind spots or biases in the algorithms could lead to discrimination against certain types of people (As seen in AI systems that can tell if you are homosexual).

Entertainment- Olivia Finan

The role that machine learning plays in entertainment is very interesting.  A common belief among the class is that entertainment is an industry that will more or less remain untouched in the coming years by the disruptive technology. However, research shows that this may not be the case. We have already begun to see drastic changes in the industry throughout the years, specifically in music and cinema. AI systems are being created and coded to be able to sift through video footage and put together a 10 minute video using several clips in under and hour.  This is impressive timing when you consider how long it takes to watch hours of footage, edit, tag, and compile all those clips into one succinct video my hand.

Filmmaker Oscar Sharp and technologist Ross Goodwin fed a machine learning algorithm with a bunch of Sci-Fi movie scripts to see what new script it would spit out.

The trends that we think will see in entertainment are not necessarily what is coming. How this content is created is what will change how the industry progresses through the coming years and how it is affected by disruptive technology. The entertainment industry is a prime example of how we must pivot and change how we do things rather than change what we do.

More so then ethical issues, legal issues come into play when talking about the entertainment industry. Laws regarding copyright infringement are always looked at thoroughly in this particular industry. However, ethical issues tend to revolve around the consumer rather then the company or a performer. For example, at live events, issues about safety come into play. This means that a major role would be ensuring that concert or festival goers are safe at the venue. This is just one example of what time of ethical dilemmas companies have to deal with in the entertainment industry.  What these companies now have to begin thinking that the ethical implications that once were may not be the same anymore. We may not be having live concerts, there might be other ethical issues that arise, and that is what the industry predicts.

The entertainment industry is not exempt from responsibilities associated to employment. However, if there is a change in music, for example, and humans are no longer the ones producing it then what happens to the people who world at record labels, or what happens to the artist themselves? This section of the machine learning project will explore all the changes the industry sees coming in the future and how the major players are beginning to prepare and adjust to the changes.

Energy Update

The Fall 2017 semester was a rather opportune time period to engage in research of energy, due to a series of current events, natural disasters, and global action relevant to this topic. In August/September of this past year, three major hurricanes made landfall on the United States and significantly exploited the outdated infrastructure of our country, specifically in Puerto Rico after hurricane Irma. 2 months later, 60% of people on the island are still without power—at one point, this number was over 95%. It came to the attention of our government that the electrical infrastructure of the island is so poor that it essentially will have to be completely rebuilt—a financially and logistically strenuous task.
It is estimated that, globally, 1.3 billion people do not have access to energy. And yet, for developing countries, we have thermostats we can control from our IOT devices. This imbalance among global socioeconomic classes is nothing new, but energy is no exception to this idea. Infrastructure set aside, specifically for small countries, first world countries are uncovering new ways to efficiently/effectively use energy. For example, the idea of electric cars are a relatively new, ever-more-popular technology being adopted in society—specifically with brands such as Tesla (who obtained solar energy company Solar City).
As far as solar energy, solar paint could be a more effective way to responsibly use energy for homes and vehicles, while also being a cheaper alternative (and more aesthetically pleasing alternative) to solar panels. Additionally, solar panels have been added to the Sahara Desert—these panels are even visible from space, though they populate just a small portion of the desert. It has been found that these panels could power the entire world, should the whole desert house these panels.
Utilizing renewable energy will eventually become necessary, not something we do to “be an eco-friendly, good citizen.” We no longer have the choice of being eco-friendly or not for two reasons—we will either run out of energy, or our future generations will suffer tremendously. As technology grows, demand for energy increases—so our usage volume will only increase. Blockchain, for example, requires a country worth the energy consumption—Ethereum, specifically.
Energy is a broad, ever expanding topic, but a strong, responsible foundation of energy will be absolutely necessary in order for technology to continue to grow. Our dependence on energy is simply supply and demand—but we need to find new alternatives to creating supply as demand is only going to continue to increase. Our progress will be limited tremendously should we not grow more responsible—but, should we become more efficient, there will be no foundational limits for technology to continue to disrupt our world.

The world faces some very complex challenges concerning energy. One of these challenges is finding enough energy to fulfill the worlds’ growing demand for energy. The digital transformation that is currently underway in first world countries will cause an increase in demand of energy. We will soon see a spike in the demand for energy because of the dozens of developing countries in the world that will soon need sources of reliable energy. These developing countries are also have very high rates of population growth, meaning more and more people demanding energy. As we continue to bring energy to these developing countries, we must ensure that big energy companies hired to build the energy infrastructure do not exploit the government and citizens of these countries; every human across the world should have fair access to reliable energy.
Another issue we face with energy is infrastructure. This is a huge problem in the United States because much of many of our largest cities have outdated electrical grids and gas lines. This is a problem because modern infrastructure would allow us to use energy more efficiently, and modernizing infrastructure would better increase energy resilience. The term energy resilience includes physical resilience such as resisting a natural disaster, but it also includes cyber resilience in the event of a cyber-attack. Most of the infrastructure in the United States is not well prepared for either one.
Another challenge we will face is increasing and our use of renewable energy such as solar energy. The world is consuming fossil fuels as if they exist in unlimited quantities. Also many economies are too dependent on fossil fuels. For example, a significant portion of Houston’s economy revolves around oil. If the area runs out then it will have devastating effects on the city. The earth wishes to increase its energy consumption, we must increase our use of renewable and green energy sources. It is important for us to invest in green energy now so we do not reach a panic once fossil fuels become scarce.

 

In class, we have been extensively discussing artificial intelligence. Particularly, how it will impact society, what it is capable of, and the potential implications, At first, I never really thought anything of it. I definitely was not a believer. I saw it as robots that would never come to be in my lifetime. Soon after, though, I realized how far off I was. Artificial intelligence is most definitely the next big thing, I believe that we must carefully integrate into most areas of our lives, in order to optimize our daily functions. My particular area of focus is energy, and I believe there are many ways we can implement Artificial intelligence into our energy systems. Things like reducing emissions, increasing efficiency of our electrical system, with regards to transmission and distribution, and creating a smart grid. These are just a few ways artificial intelligence can improve our energy sector; the question that needs to be answered, though, is how?

The first way mentioned is overall efficiency. This efficiency described has to do with output, supply, and demand. We waste tons of energy each year due to inefficient and non optimal output. This is a trend that cannot continue, but artificial intelligence may hold the solution. Technology can be developed through code and algorithms, along with a database of studies, that can accurately predict the optimal output, and maximum efficiency of our solar farms, and other sources such as wind, gas, and electric. This trend is not hype, though, companies like IBM have already invested in predictive artificial intelligence that will improve the efficiency of our electric transmission and distribution systems.These predictive models that are being developed wont just help with efficiency, though. They will also help with security, grid management, and optimal consumption. Researchers have found, that these intelligent machines can help reduce wasted energy by 46 percent. A truly astounding number. Ai integration wont just help advance new forms of energy either. They will also help with the traditional sources such as oil. An example that can be found is in Texas, Oil companies are trying to implement artificial intelligence to find optimal drilling points, to get the most out of each drill. This is truly fascinating, and clearly shows that AI is not all about futuristic, and the mindset of 100 years from now. It is very real, and has real world applications that could change things for the better. We can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, stop wasting electricity, and efficiently use our resources. This is not a huge proposal, or something that is impossible. It will require extensive research and diligent development, but within a few years this a very realistic proposal.

The single most important advancement I believe we must make, is creating a smart grid. This is a growing trend, particularly because of the rise of artificial intelligence. The first step in going about this project is creating the end goal, of what needs to be accomplished from the smart grid. First, to provide prompt response to changing conditions in the electricity network. Next, to predict the behavior of our electrical systems. Improve power quality and output efficiency. Finally, self healing capabilities, as well as guaranteed privacy and security of the grid. This can be achieved by figuring out how we are going to integrate the advanced artificial intelligence being created, with renewable energy sources, to guarantee sustainability and mitigate environmental risk. As long as the algorithms that control these AI are created under safe, regulated conditions, then there should be no problem integrating such technology. Algorithms and artificial intelligence are two of the best known things for solving optimization problems. In my opinion, energy is primarily an optimization problem. We need to figure out optimal output, supply, demand, and allocate based on these calculations. Machines can do this much more efficiently than humans. In conclusion, the smart grid will be operated by deep learning machines that ensure optimal flow of electricity, particularly distribution and transmission. we will no longer waste energy, or be short on supply, This system, powered by Artificial intelligence will revolutionize the energy sector.

 

Now that the electricity problem has been taken care of, it is time to look at the sources of energy that will be best integrated with this system. I believe the renewables are the answer. We need to shift our focus towards wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear going forward. These renewables will provide us with little to no environmental risk, and reduce the carbon footprint. With the integration of deep learning with the renewables, a system that outputs the most efficient and clean energy is certainly possible. Solar appears to be the most efficient renewable we have as of now, and I agree with the perspective of Elon Musk, who believes we should transition to a solar based system. In the meantime we can rely on other renewables to ensure a smooth transition. We can do this by designing more rooftop units in the suburbs, and creating solar fields in unused space across the country. This will ensure that the climate risk is mitigated, fossil fuels are dead, and we can move forward.

The energy sector must be greatly improved before it is too late. The climate is being destroyed, and our output is declining. The current administration is fixated on going back in the past, and “bringing back” jobs in energy that no longer should exist. Coal is not the answer like our President continually insists on. The Answer is forward thinking; integrating artificial intelligence and deep learning into renewable systems to put out the most optimal product. In doing so, our energy sector will be efficient, and competitive on the global scale. OIt will not be an easy process, but with slow and steady steps, we can accomplish it. The crumbling infrastructure we currently have is  a big problem, but with persistence and innovation the problem can be solved.

John Phillips, Frankie Lisa, Michael Cappelluti

Quantum Computing in Whole

The age of quantum computing is upon us and it will play an astronomical role in the building of our new society. Around the world, companies and countries are both racing to produce the first commercial quantum computer. Why is this? The reason that it will be such a crucial tool in this is because of two factors: its speed and computing power. This speed has the ability to be paired with artificial intelligence to speed up the process of building and training algorithms using machine learning and Deep Neural Nets. Google and the team over at Alphabet have already begun working on integrating the two and given their recent quantum breakthrough, its era may be even closer than we think.

The way quantum computers function is through the use of qubits. Classic computers utilize bits and store them as either a 0 or a 1, this creates a series of ons and offs that provide instructions on how to best process the information given. This is a large amount of processing power, but in comparison to the quantum computer’s qubit, it is easy to understand why the world is both wary and eager to uncover the mystery that is the quantum computer. A quibit has the ability to exist as both a 0 and a 1. This means that the amount of states that can be represented have endless possibilities and thus the ability is has to analyze information and help industries and institutions worldwide also knows no bounds. It is expected that the quantum computers of the future will be able to work on a level that is beyond what all other computers in the world working together could achieve.

The scope of the world will be altered with the advent of quantum computer’s processing. With the increased computing power, consider all the industries that will be affected. Some of the major areas affected will be in relation to Machine learning, Medicine, chemistry, education, and climate change. Machine learning is about pattern recognition. It uses algorithms to crunch large amounts of data and the goal is to maximize the number of comparisons you make between data to make the best models. Quantum computing will make processing data much faster and more effective than with a classical computer. Making a more powerful AI that possesses abilities beyond what we can imagine may come sooner than we know it. Quantum computing in medicine will allow us to model complex molecular interactions at an atomic level. It will be able to model over 20,000 proteins in a human genome and start to manipulate it to making new drugs from existing drugs that have not yet been discovered. In regard to education, quantum computing has the ability to revolutionize an industry that has for so long been slow to implement and understand the newest technologies for fear of change. Quantum computing paired with specific AI learning models possess the capabilities to train the students of the future. Paired with immersive technologies that currently exist, quantum computing allows for increased data collection which gives the AI a chance to learn more than it ever has before. With increased learning comes the ability to create a highly-accurate psychological and behavioral profile of students. Think of a future where we understand exactly how much students are struggling or emotionally entangled in the various course subjects just by looking at pupil size. This is happening now and will only become more prevalent with the use of quantum computers.

While there are definite benefits to quantum computing, such as the increased speed and power mentioned earlier, there are negatives that come along with too. There will be major disruptions that come with quantum computing as we move more into the future. The implications of quantum computing are important to know and understand because with its application will come major job losses and public security risks that can occur as we have more data to access. The phenomenon of quantum computers is already here and the impossible has been done. Though with this being said it will be years before the general public has a thorough enough understanding of the technology and it’s uses for any practical application. In order to prepare for this initial formal introduction, we will have to build a completely new security model. This is because our current model works on an encryption method known as cryptography. The theory behind cryptography is that when you multiply two large numbers together it is extremely difficult to break the sum back down into its prime factors. The problem is that this has been cracked years ago, yet we still use it as the basis for securing our most important information. In 1994, mathematician Peter Shor released an algorithm that performs integer factorization. Fortunately enough, this algorithm takes an enormous amount of computing power and takes forever to solve, but when quantum computers are introduced we will be in a great deal of danger. Temporal Defense Systems, a cybersecurity firm, has recently purchased one of the most powerful quantum computers available in hopes of building a base model for the necessary security system update. They claim that they will now be able to solve more complex computational problems faster, allowing for an increase in the pace of their security and solving a critical societal problem.

We must take this seriously as we begin to consider the implications of hackers entering into our technological grid. As the Internet of Things grows, so does the susceptibility to cyber attack. As mentioned before, quantum computing can easily break down the difficult encryption that currently exists with ease. A quantum computer can solve a 56-bit encryption in .322 milliseconds when compared with a classical computer that took 1 day to solve the same problem. We must begin to incorporate quantum cybersecurity into all of our platforms before the attacks begin. This can be done with the use of quantum keys as well as simply using the basic rules of privacy to ensure with the advent of quantum computing, our information and private information does not get released, especially to the wrong people.

Quantum computing has long been synonymous with innovation. With increased computing power comes unlimited solutions to outstanding problems in our society. While this is true and something to look forward to, there are things far less beneficial coming with it and we must prepare ourselves of the inevitability that is the quantum computing era. This will happen sooner than we anticipate but by understanding how it works, what it is capable of, and how we can protect ourselves, we have more of an opportunity to embrace and see all the benefits it can bring.

The Future of Digital Transformation

Over the past two months, I have researched the disruptive impacts of digital transformation and how they affect our society and the future. To me, I think the most important hypothesis that I discovered throughout my research is that most businesses and jobs that exist today are doomed in the future. Technology companies, specifically Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, have become necessities to our daily lives and while in the process of becoming so important to us, other businesses have fallen off the radar.

There is really only one reason why this is happening and that is digital transformation. Really, only a few companies are leading in digital transformation and other than those leaders, other companies are only transforming in reaction to others transforming. Typical scenarios include technology companies creating software and platforms for other companies to use (Amazon Web Services, Facebook Pages, Square).

(For example, many restaurants in South Orange utilize online ordering, but back where I am from, that transformation has yet to be made. I assume in South Orange, once one small business took on the challenge, many others were forced to compete. The level of competition has not yet increased where I live, so for now, many businesses still use the phone to take orders until one business discovers the trend).

There is a lack of awareness when it comes to this issue, which may be a reason why there has not been more and/or faster transformation. However, digital transformation is not easy, which may be why it has taken companies awhile to get the ball rolling on this pressing issue. MITSloan lists three critical elements to digital transformation, including, transforming customer experiences, operational processes, and business models. In short, it looks like a complete business remodel, which most executives do not wish to undergo due to time and risk.

On the other hand, if companies do not wish to digitally transform, they will risk their own success. If companies wish to be successful, making processes more efficient is the answer, even if that means making harder decisions along the way. As result of these technologies, lots of business operations will become autonomous, and jobs will be lost along the way. Digital transformation not only affects companies, but their workers, since much of the new technology will overtake human tasks. Companies are being forced to choose between technology and human, and the better choice is clearly technology.

In the end, digital transformation will force us to choose between ourselves and the potential of technology, and it is likely that technology will be chosen. So what does that mean for the rest of us not running the few companies that dominate our everyday lives? If people want to survive in a digitally transformed world, people must not only learn new technologies, but more specifically how to be F.A.I.R. Being able to be F.A.I.R. maximizes the potential of becoming successful because in the world we enter, it is not all about being skillful, rather being able to change directions at a moments notice. Moving into the future, the only way to survive digital transformation is by embracing it in whatever way possible.

Gene Therapy: Present and Future

If our group has learned anything from these past few months of learning about field of gene therapy is that right now, no one truly has the answers to the ethical, societal and economic implications that this scientific cure could bring.

Taking a step back, we began our research at the start of it all. What is gene therapy? Through thorough research into this, we found that gene therapy is equal parts technology and medicine. Technologically, there are therapies ready to be put on the market to cure diseases such as blindness, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more but there is more to it than just technology, remember this is medicine. In the tech world, speed is everything. It is all about winning the race against smartphones, smart TV’s, AI, anything. In medicine, there is a time press that comes from the DOH in emergencies but most of the time, speedy remedies to disease put up red flags for those being treated later on. What gene therapy has done is take medicine from a personal relationship, to a big business, one that is on track to be bigger than the pharmaceutical sector. This big business is seen in one of our insights into the cost of gene therapy. The overall controversy of how one can afford to buy a gene therapy is due to the high costs that of the gene therapies that are on the market today such as the first FDA approved gene therapy Kymirah among others.

Such being the case, Dr. Mark McClellan, former FDA commissioner and current leader of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, concluded that the healthcare system is far behind the medical industry and the advances it has made so, being that patients, doctors and researchers, and insurance companies have mutually exclusive interests, it is impossible for everyone to win. The entire gene therapy field is now looking to monetize on their ability to cure what used to be deemed incurable diseases and this is where the ethics of it all come into play.

Journalist and historian, David Perry wrote, “the pro-information approach demands that everyone involved in genetic counseling have access to the best data and presents it in a value-neutral way.” In giving everyone equal access to gene therapy, this must include attainable price points, no discrimination and equal opportunity for everyone to take advantage of. The FDA is just no longer enough to control the medical and genetic communities. The ethical future of gene therapy is now beyond the typical, “this is wrong” and “this is right” because we have never had to deal with the controversial issues that we are dealing with now as a result of gene therapy. From “designer babies” to biological weapons, these are both things that health professionals and even legislators have yet to encounter scenarios such as these but because of this, getting out ahead of the possible negative implications of these two examples, is more important now than ever.

We are in a place where CRISPR can help farmers combat climate change by genetically altering their crops, incentivize football stadiums to start “DNA Days” and, lead to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to be left in the hands of tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Google. As such, there needs to be some sort of precedent set so that none of these three scenarios gets any worse than they already have. With genetic testing companies like 23andMe and Ancestry becoming more familiar in the public eye, they are being sold to customers who have no idea that they are basically giving our their privacy rights to their own genetic information for results that are little to completely, inaccurate.

This is why education within this industry is more important now than ever. Without proper understanding, the Frightful Five, the FDA, the federal government could all have influence over every single person residing the in the United States because of those who feel it is important to send a swab of their DNA to a lab in order to see just what percentage English they really are. What people sending in their cheek swabs needs to know is that scientists are still working, to this day, trying to uncover the complex information of the millions of genes that reside in the human body. We simply do not know enough to give sufficient information to people who are just looking to see if they are carrying a genetic mutation. These 23andMe, Ancestry, and Helix tests cannot significantly provide lifesaving information and as a result, should be used with a grain of salt, or even less than that. It seems unlikely for anyone to give up the password to their email but when shipping their DNA to an unknown lab somewhere in the United States, people do not seem to show the same concern for their privacy. Thinking about the millions of people having their data breached across the country, by more companies than one, how can we be sure that this genetic information will not be next? Now even thinking ahead, the potentially 6 million more students studying harder, retaining more information, and ultimately becoming better learners because of gene therapy treatments will be ahead of the present generations. Taking it a step further, if this trend is multiplied across generations, eliminating prohibitive, cognitive disorders in students, it could reshape the entire education system with many subsequent disruptions.

With a Frightful Five company such as Amazon at the brink of breaking into the healthcare industry, it could mean positive things for gene therapy whether it investment in research, funding of drugs, therapies and clinical trials, these tech companies, although you do not want to trust with your health data, can contribute a lot to the gene therapy community. But, there needs to be a point at which the line is crossed and sure, donating genetic information for research is ethical and legal but when it is collected through your Google search history or updates on your Apple health app, there needs to be a call for change. In the end, with the Frightful Five having taken initiative within the healthcare industry to fund gene therapy programs and rebuild the healthcare system of the nation, they can push bounds in the battle for updated health services unlike anyone else can and this gap between the Frightful Five and everyone else is what needs to be addressed.

And to end on a global note, the future of gene therapy is the United States barely has a clear path ahead of it so thinking about how the rest of the world compares is a whole other thing on its own. Isolated countries such as North Korea, Russia and China make it difficult to know how exactly the countries have progressed in their biotechnological warfare, including gene therapy, and what the affects can be on the rest of the world when a country, although small compared to the US, can utilize science to become a super-powered population. It is to avoid scenarios such as the one posed by North Korea that the FDA was put in place. In order to ensure that the medicinal and agricultural sectors of the nation were being regulated and monitored, there needs to be an organization that oversees research that secure public health and safety. But, just having one country, out of hundreds with the capability to genetically alter genes and embryos with this agency in place, is not enough to guarantee that gene therapy will only be used for good.

There are a lot of things to ponder over here, but the best place to start is by educating yourself on the future that could be completely disrupted by this biotechnological innovation and then looking for ways to protect your genetic and health information, so if that means resisting buying genetic testing kits, not updating your Apple health data, or any of the other numerous ways to protect yourself, that at least is a good place to start.

How Technology is Helping with our Impact on the Environment

Technology is an ever advancing aspect of life, growing smarter and smarter with our passion and progress towards better artificial intelligence. With climate change an inevitable outcome of our society, our only choice is to ameliorate the severity of the change, by reducing our effect on the environment. Most countries in the world and much of the United States believes in the effects of global warming but meager efforts are being made to actually reduce our effect on the Earth. Even with the Paris Agreement, Syria sought to join the agreement to agree to make changes to be greener and help the environment, as everyone acknowledges this very real threat. This leaves the US as the only country in the World that did not sign on the climate deal. Because of the nature of our advancing technology, it is only natural that we would have it help in our efforts to alleviate our effect on the environment. There are already large scale technological efforts including Harvard University’s crop pollinating robobees as well as the prominence of driverless cars. The former is important too because bees have been dying at an alarming rate due to a disorder in colonies which could be correlated to climate change. Harvard’s robobees would solve the issue (especially in the event that the pollinating bees go extinct) by pollinating and ensuring that part of our environment is maintained. However, despite all these efforts at a greener tomorrow, the biggest and most important factor is each and every one of us, personally to watch our lifestyle. For example, we now have smart thermostats that use the internet to check the weather and adjust accordingly and are also linked to smartphones so they can be set on and off during set times of the day. Like if a family goes to work and school, heating or air conditioning is not needed between roughly 0700-1500, which saves a lot of electricity and heating bills. Amazon sells a lot of smart thermostats, many of which are compatible with Amazon’s Alexa artificial intelligence. As such, changing the temperature is as easy as saying “Alexa, lower the temperature to 65 degrees please.” There is also smart irrigation systems, as to avoid over watering your plants when you decide to turn the sprinklers on in the summer. These smart irrigation systems like Skydrop, utilise the internet also, to check weather conditions and are set to work on certain times set by the user. Skydrop knows not to activate the sprinklers if it detects that it just rained the night before for example. Overall, technology is being used widely to combat issues we recognise as problems and gives us better accessibility for it. If more and more people invest in these technologies, not only will they save money in the long run, it will greatly help the environment, which is crucial for our future, our kids futures, etc.

Gene Therapy on the External Part of the Body

This semester, we have discussed the idea of injecting programmed/man made vectors into the body in order to help combat diseases and ailments. However, almost everything that has been discussed focuses on the inside of the body, such as diabetes, heart failure, and many other diseases. Despite the multitude of organs inside the body, most people do not associate skin as being an organ, let alone  being the largest organ in the body. This is one of the many reasons that skin is often less prioritized as an organ, and aside from putting sunblock on during the summer, some people don’t even think about their skin’s health or needs. For those with skin conditions such as junctional epidermolysis bullosa, gene therapy might be the answer to the question: do vectors and gene therapy work just as effectively on an external area? How will the body potentially reject it?

Unfortunately, the short answer is we just do not know yet. And we probably will not know for while. For treatment on the boy with junctional epidermolysis bullosa, his skin was extremely fragile and was expected to lead to more health problems throughout his life. The entire procedure was extremely expensive and tailored to his condition and genetic history. Yet, since it worked on him, the entire idea is currently batting 1.000 despite it only being tested on one person. The only definite going forward from this is that performing gene therapy on skin would have a distinct advantage since it is an entirely visible organ- a unique attribute that sets skin a part from anything other organ.

While some gene therapy patients pass away from the condition that they were originally trying to fight, the unfortunate truth is that some also pass away from the body rejecting the vectors in the system- and that makes perfect sense. Is every person’s body going to accept a foreign, man made substance that is manipulating the body from the inside? Of course not. Patients are monitored after undergoing gene therapy in order to see how the body is reacting from the gene therapy. During this process, blood, vital, and other tests are monitored to view how the body is behaving. Having the ability to visually monitor the organ is another asset in terms of detecting signs of the body rejecting the vector. Unfortunately, only time will reveal the effectiveness of this particular field of gene therapy. Here’s a video that explains how gene therapy is used for correcting skin sells: