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Subject: The future of our Digital Souls

Forum: The future of our Digital Souls
In a sort of inverse of the Matrix, in the 2009 Bruce Willis movie Surrogates , people are connected to android versions of themselves that go about in their place in the physical world, in daily life, leaving their hosts safe at home. In the first few episodes of the 2010 Sci-Fi series Caprica , (Battlestar Gallactica spin-off), an engineer finds a digital avatar of his tragically killed teenage daughter Zoe, which held her thoughts and memories that she recorded, and infuses them into a robot called a cylon. This allows him to interact with her formal self.

But if sci-fi is any indication of the future, we may be already heading there. We put our lives on social media, creating a dense record over time, including our thoughts & likes, feelings, etc. But after we’re gone, that digital footprint remains, hence why Facebook is becoming a digital graveyard , where the number of deceased persons’ accounts will outnumber the living. But what if we harness & utilize all that data in a more dynamic way? There are companies like Eterni.me working on it right now, endeavoring to fix gaps & errors in the fallibility of human memory to recall accurately. Others are working on total brain emulation.

As explained in Back-up Brains , scientists are seeking to extract info without destroying the brain tissue, and remap the brain in 3d. The science is not there yet to do so viably, nor the computing power to map down to the molecular level to create the neural synapsis for memories, and ultimately consciousness as we know it to be simulated artificially. Also our brains actually don’t recall all things, we figure out how to place importance of certain memories over others.

As the AI improves, this future may become dystopian, where everyone gets a digital legacy, surviving death as a digital avatar, left to interact with their loved ones as they remembered them. What would your great Aunt May have said about selfies? Let’s ask her. The AI would simulate exactly how they thought, based on the entirety of the brain.

Software can be connected to hardware, invoking the cylons, or cyborgs like the TV series Humans. So we may end up with “Surrogates” for the deceased. Should these sentient entities have the same rights as humans to stay “alive”? Would/Should there be a Digital Soul?

Subject: Should you lose your driver’s license for unpaid s

Forum: Should you lose your driver’s license for unpaid s
The NYT reported there were 20 states that have programs that revoke any number of professional licenses for lawyers, teachers, nurses, cosmetologists, real estate brokers and many others for defaulting on student loan payments. At least 2 states, Iowa and South Dakota (with little public transit) may even revoke driver’s licenses. Of course these are last-resort measures used to “strong-arm” borrowers in default to become current, and which reinstate licenses in most instances once they do.

But as a result of the story, a bipartisan proposal by senators Rubio and Warren seeks to prevent any revocation or suspension of drivers and occupational licenses, but would allow states 2 years to comply. For many people an occupational license or permit is their bread & butter, and prohibiting their activity by pulling their license greatly impedes their gainful employment and ability to pay on loans. Perhaps the reasoning of state agencies, tasked with enforcing repayment, was that there were many voluntary dead beats, who only paid if not too inconvenient, or not at all. Nevertheless, the reality for a long time has been debt amounts exceeding income or too much of it.

While most other states rely on garnishments, what do you think about states revoking licenses for defaulted loans? What about driver’s licenses? If you can’t work the job you’re licensed for, nor can you drive to any other job, how are you supposed to earn enough to break the cycle so as to get current on your loan? On the other hand, what are states supposed to do?

Regardless if you believe states should not do this, should federal legislation prohibit states from taking such measures? Shouldn’t states be able to revoke any licenses they issue to their residents, on any basis they deem fit? It’s not your right to drive, but a privilege they would argue. Maybe there should be more of a democratic debate within each state among state lawmakers as to whether that state should take such measures, rather than leaving it up to agencies, bureaucrats and unelected officials. But that’s the technocratic world we live in. Should we just allow the states to be laboratories of democracy or are they not even capable of fairly doing so? Or do we have to rely on federal law to intervene before we vote with our feet fleeing to other states?

Subject: Sports Gambling legal – call your bookie now!

Forum: Sports Gambling legal – call your bookie now!
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 was a federal ban prohibiting 46 states from allowing sports betting (Nevada & 3 others were grandfathered in due to previous laws). The ban did not outlaw gambling on sports at the federal level, but simply forbade states from permitting it. Former & current NJ governors Chris Christie & Phil Murphy, sued on the basis of the 10th amendment, citing the federal power to “impermissibly commandeer the regulatory power of States”. NJ wanted to reap the tax revenue from limited in-house sports betting. The NCAA opposed it. The Supreme Court just finally struck down the ban. The majority opinion concurred, not on whether it should be banned, but that if congress wants it banned they have to do so at the federal level, then regulate & enforce it. Otherwise leave it up to the states to decide accordingly if & how to do it in each state.

Gambling revenues from March Madness plus all of college & pro sports would be a multi-billion dollar industry, allowing tax revenue states won’t want to leave on the table. Critics worry about everything from the integrity of sports with game fixing, to the social effects of compulsive gambling.

Should the feds just ban it at the federal level, or allow the states to be the laboratories of democracy? Or might there be a too big of a rush too soon leading to many problems on the way?

There are interesting parallels with other issues. If the feds permit or ban something they have to pay for its regulation and enforcement. But that goes both ways. Immigration falls under federal, and some argue this absolves California from cooperating with ICE enforcement. With drugs like marijuana (brought up by the dissenting justices), some state laws also outlaw it along with the federal, but many are legalizing it despite federal bans remaining in place.

What precedent do you think this may set and what effects do you foresee in any number of other economic and other legal realms where state vs. federal law may be in conflict?

Subject: Facebook and your privacy - ahem.

Forum: Facebook and your privacy - ahem.
Facebook has been in the hot seat with Zuckerberg testifying in front of U.S. Senate committees, especially over privacy concerns after the recent fallout with 87 million users’ date being shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Among the many ideas questioned was how do users exactly “own” their data, when they don’t get royalties from any of it that’s shared with third parties or advertisers. And depending on the privacy settings that many either don’t set, don’t understand, don’t trust, or are perhaps ignored by apps connecting to your facebook, their terms of agreement state “you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License)”, prompting LA Senator John Kennedy to say “Your User Agreement Sucks!”
He said it’s really just a CYA for Facebook.

Of the many facets of this, I’d like to focus on privacy. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) last May introduced the Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly (BROWSER) Act of 2017 to protect the online privacy. It would require both ISPs as well as media content providers like FB & Google to acquire your consent prior to collecting & sharing your data.

Would you agree with the BROWSER Act? Do you believe there should be any government regulation on Social Media to protect users from data breeches and for privacy? If so how or in what form? Do you believe you should “own” your data in any meaningful sense beyond the current limits? How so, to what extent?

Or should there be no expectation whatsoever of privacy left anymore? Many people I’ve asked said the Social Media companies know everything about us anyway, so who cares. The algorithms already figure out what we like or think we want to see, so will it just be a matter of time before the lines blur between suggesting vs. prescribing what we buy, consume, see and do (or proscribing what not to). What need for privacy will there be once everything is all figured out for us ahead of time?

Subject: Teacher Student Sex Scandals and Double Standards

Forum: Teacher Student Sex Scandals and Double Standards
With 26-year-old married Stephanie Peterson accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student in Florida, teacher-student sex scandals are on the rise. It’s estimated that female perpetrated sex offenses account for about 10% of all reported nationwide, and for about a third in teacher-student cases. Sadly, the amount of teacher-student sexual misconduct has gone up, and the number of female-on-male transgressions increasing as well. But if the media were any indication, you’d think the majority were female, as there are far more salacious stories of reporting on female teachers.

Some blame increased use by more students of smartphones and social media; and that female teachers tend to ‘lure’ their victims via social media more so than male teachers. I did a previous forum on whether schools should ban social media interaction b/w teachers & students altogether.

One of the Psychologists and experts suggest that for males the motivation is usually just lust, but with women, some of whom were married, it’s a mix of a desire for power or control, or living out some fantasy, or they’re looking for affection.

Whatever the reasons, the question of double standards arise. It seems both parents, especially a father, would be outraged if a male teacher preys upon a female student. But female on male, maybe not so much. Perhaps the mothers might, but the fathers especially, not as much. While cases vary with charges and circumstances, punishments generally seem lighter (more probation, less jail time) for females unless convicted of assault or rape. Should we be less afraid for our sons than our daughters? And is there a double standard in the media for reporting more heavily on female teachers than males?

What do you think is at the root of the rise in this behavior, particularly among female teachers? And is society to blame writ large for somehow thinking that a male teen is perhaps less adversely affected than a female teen? Nevertheless, people in whom we place our trust as students and parents betray that trust more often, feeding a viscous circle of abused kids, as some perpetrators were abused themselves. What do you think would help reverse the trend?

Subject: More Global or Local?

Forum: More Global or Local?
With the increase of economic & political globalism in the past couple decades, combined with the evolution of online technology, the world seems to have gotten smaller, though crowded with more info. The focus & mindshare of consumers of news has been increasingly national & even international, or global. Even the local paper seems to be a thing of the past, where small town papers are bought up by larger media conglomerates supplanting wire stories & nationally syndicated columnists. As we’ve become seemingly more ideologically polarized over nationally issues, and as people move around and travel with greater ease and regularity for work or school than in the past, there seems less connectedness that younger people especially may feel to where they’re from or where they move away to, such as they’re college town.

Protestors were always out in force over everything from foreign wars (since Vietnam) to the death penalty, international sweatshop labor, to more recently this past year, speech they simply disagree with (Middlebury, Berkely, etc.). Strangely, the politically conscious rarely seemed to be involved in the local issues that effected them directly, from landlord tenant issues to particular zoning ordinances and discriminatory housing regulations that targeted them directly. If it wasn’t along the lines of race or gender, the story wasn’t sexy enough. But yet, they missed the memo from Civics 101, that the local municipal and school administration buildings aren’t the place to protest national & international policies. “All politics is local” is the famous phrase, but many can’t imagine why.

Interestingly, Google & Facebook, are apparently shifting attention back to local news. FB may now put more local news in your News Feed with their algorithm. Google is experimenting with crowdsourced news, things people see & record themselves aggregated for the people in the locality. Many advertisers are skeptical. I’m skeptical too, because almost everyone is from elsewhere. Is your “local” where you are, or where you’re from?

How can we foster greater civic engagement & community involvement in reality among people where they are? Isn’t that supposed to be the good-habit forming exercise as you mature through adulthood and seek to plant roots somewhere forming communities of your own someday? Or are we too far gone living in our digital bubbles that take us everywhere but leave us nowhere?

Subject: Should You be Allowed to Record Your Professors?

Forum: Should You be Allowed to Record Your Professors?
Recording your professors’ lectures is nothing new. However technology in the past 10, if not 15 years has made it far too easy and discrete as virtually everyone can do so with their phones.
One’s own academic reference when studying was always the benign reason for recording. But what if you believed your professor’s occasional or consistent commentary or behavior was inappropriate, or presentations lop-sided, or unprofessional in some way. Combine that with the school being public, the prof’s salary paid at least in part with public funds. You’d think there’d be a duty to present a balance of the facts in a fair-minded way, juxtaposing free speech and academic freedom with academic responsibility. There has been much politicization of academia and what some profs teach and how, in terms of what is shown as well as in terms of people’s reaction to it.

Recently the famed James O’Keefe, a political activist on the Right, with his Project Veritas has been recruiting students to “go undercover” to record any number of lectures in various schools, to expose what certain so many profs are teaching & saying in class.

Professors’ objections in the past to being recorded have typically rested on the notion that their lecture is THEIR intellectual property (an ironic claim for the ones who paraphrase straight from a text). Many have stipulated on their syllabus they require permission, or that they forbid it outright, while many others don’t care, especially with the ever-present technology today. One legit concern is that footage of them playing devil’s advocate with one side of an argument may be cherry-picked, while doing so with the other side may be omitted, all to suit a political axe to grind. But the fact many don’t is what appears to be motivating many to capture footage in the first place. Maybe the best defense for a prof is to put up the lecture in it’s entirety, making it viewable only to paying students enrolled in the class.

Should you be able to record your professors? How about without asking permission, since it’s not a private conversation? Or should they be able to deny based on intellectual property? Isn’t sunlight the best disinfectant to show if a prof in a public university is really biased or just incorrect in his/her lectures? Look at it from both the students’ and profs’ perspectives, and for the many different motivations one may do so or would not want someone to do so.

Subject: What To Be Thankful For

Forum: What To Be Thankful For
With thanksgiving upon us, what are you thankful for? Are you thankful for all of the blessings and things going right in your life (whether few or many), that some take for granted? Or is your life fraught with grief, distress, adversity and struggle? Of course, everyone’s life is a mix of both; and there is always someone out there somewhere who has it better than you, and someone who has it worse off than you, no matter how good or bad you have it. The bigger question is, should you be thankful for the adversity and struggle in your life? Do you view it as a challenge that sharpens your skills and makes you better (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger)? Or are you just thankful that no matter how bad you have it, you don’t have it any worse than you do? How we approach that question says a lot about our attitude towards others and life in general.

I don’t know too many people who thank God for all of their problems and pains (whether physical or emotional). I sure don’t. But I sure do thank God it’s not worse than it is, and for the ability to have dealt with what I’ve been able to thus far, despite being unsure of the uncertainties of the future.

And I also thank CollegeNET for the opportunity to post forum challenges that hopefully inspire and elicit careful & critical thought, contemplation, and ideally reflection from all of you. I thank you all for crafting and writing your worthwhile responses, as I’ve enjoyed reading them.

Despite real and immense problems in today’s world, it seems people have more outrage and indignation over smaller things that would have been dismissed out of hand in past generations. Are we failing to pass down a sense of gratitude for what we have, no matter how little it may be, or are we just more thin-skinned? I probably wouldn’t thank those who transgress against me, for strengthening me so as to overcome and forgive. I also don’t think I’d thank them for not doing worse. But maybe some proactive gratitude for things that people take for granted might help diffuse future conflicts, and garner some good faith.

Do you think we could use more graciousness and humility today? I’ll invite you to be as specific as you want with personal experiences or observations, to put a human face on it. Or keep it vague or philosophical if you prefer, but try to incorporate the above questions. What are you thankful for?

Subject: Is your College Spending flowing down a LazyRiver?

Forum: Is your College Spending flowing down a LazyRiver?
Drawing inspiration from U of Houston’s ‘zero-depth-beach-entry’ pools & waterfalls; U Texas at Austin’s leisure pools with 20-seat outdoor hot tub & lounging deck, and several other schools with similar luxury amenities with climbing walls, and state-of-the-art rec facilities (not always just for athletes), LSU has dropped $85M on a new rec center, $1.3M of which went for a new 536-ft-lounging pool dubbed as their LazyRiver .

Complete with dance clubs, fitness facilities, ping-pong tables, etc., who needs Sandals or Atlantis Bahamas when you can just enroll at LSU? Amidst state budget cuts, tax dollars and an endowment from Dow Chemical helped to revamp their engineering building; but their musty 60-year old library with wads of gum older than our parents remains in disrepair. That disconnect is lost on no one, except administrators, who are in a perpetual arms race to keep up with the Jones’. Club Med U looks better on brochures than a Library.

They’ll say fees, not tuition or tax dollars pay for it all. Students via survey results & via their elected student leaders (suggesting shared governance is somehow still alive) have voiced strong support for such projects. Admin will use any ‘survey’ (without a full explanation of costs) to justify any pet project they want. Of thousands of students, you’ll find anyone to embrace any cause or support any project, especially among lackey student gov types getting recommendations to grad school or networked into industry via trustees.

Funny how when it’s something the admin wants, “the students have spoken”, and “we must give the customers what they want”. After all, they come here to party first, get a degree second, and if they learn a thing or two - meh. You can always grow up AFTER you graduate. Any other time, who are you to demand anything? Get back in that dorm, lights out, follow the rules! Stop drinking, you make us look bad. You need more in loco parentis. LSU’s pres said it’s better all students “stay safe” on campus with “everything they need”, rather than off campus at bars. So much for preparing for the ‘real world’.

Have we taken the ‘you’re a customer’ model in college too far? Or just inconsistently applying it? Do administrators want to have it both ways - public when asking for state support, private when spending it? And how is a university a ‘public good’ in need of public support, given these priorities, such as at LSU?

Subject: Are smartphones depressing and destroying teens?

Forum: Are smartphones depressing and destroying teens?
Apple just recently announced the October release of the iPhone X. At the same time, a San Diego State psychology professor Jean Twenge, reveals her findings in The Atlantic arguing that smartphones may be destroying what she calls the “igen” generation (born 1995-2012) of teens both mentally and emotionally. Crunching a lot of data, she shows strong correlations between increased phone usage and stark drops in dating, interest in driving, and going out with friends as per prior generations. She summarizes that the overall onset of adulthood is starting on average 2-3 or more years later than prior generations. She also points out that kids are more disengaged from their families and parents despite spending more time at home, in one’s room on the phone. The combination of more time on social media (more prevalent for girls than boys), more screen time, and overall time spent on the phone/pad/tablet correlate with increased reports of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

For many, these findings only confirm what many have believed all along from everyday observation. But now there are sets of data that are studied. Still there are skeptics as with anything who will argue that the trends aren’t necessarily different from past generations who didn’t grow up with smartphones. You’ll hear: “That’s what they said about TV, and then video games, then the internet, now social media and smartphones”. In fact, one Article shows that most time spent on the phone for many is to just listen to music, play games or watch TV or videos.
But is it all real this time, more so than ever before?

Should parents take their kids’ phones away? Many would say that’s not the right answer, and that it’d probably be impossible anyway given how everything from education to all communication is done through it. Do you agree with Tenge’s argument? And if so, what would you do to solve the problem? What would you do to diversify your kids’ social, physical and emotional environment to ensure they try to get a healthy balance of life, rather than obsessing over every single post, tweet, like, comment, etc. on their phones 24/7?

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