Category : Science & Technology

(NYT) Teddy Wane–Are My Friends Really My Friends?

…digital media channels “don’t distinguish between quality of relationships,” he said. “They allow you to maintain relationships that would otherwise decay. Our data shows that if you don’t meet people at the requisite frequencies, you’ll drop down through the layers until eventually you drop out of the 150 and become ‘somebody you once knew.’ What we think is happening is that, if you don’t meet sometime face to face, social media is slowing down the rate of decay.”

The result, then, can be a glut of old acquaintances that are not as easily forgotten online and which therefore stifle the development of newer, in-person friendships.

“Your available social time is limited, and you can either spend it face to face or on the internet,” Dr. Dunbar said. If it’s spent with people who are “remote,” whether geographically or just because they’re represented digitally, “you don’t have time to invest in new relationships where you are.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(ABC Nightline) Dying to deliver: The race to prevent sudden death of new mothers

“If I wanted to describe her to someone, I’d describe her as all woman,” Shabazz said. “She was very generous, motivated, dedicated to her family, her work ethic was amazing… she was just a caring loving person.”

Her pregnancy had been going well, Shabazz said. She was not high risk and had been regularly going to her prenatal visits.

“I was excited… because this is what I always wanted, I always wanted a family,” he said.

But during labor, Dickey began having trouble breathing. Within minutes, she went into cardiac arrest and doctors performed an emergency c-section to try to save her and the baby.

“[I thought] this can’t be happening, it seemed like a dream,” Shabazz said. “They asked me to step out. I stepped outside of the room and I could just hear him saying … we’re trying to bring her back, trying to grab a pulse.”

Doctors delivered the baby, but for Dickey, it was too late.

Read it all (the video is highly recommended if you have time).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Women

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Redistribution of Sex

…as offensive or utopian the redistribution of sex might sound, the idea is entirely responsive to the logic of late-modern sexual life, and its pursuit would be entirely characteristic of a recurring pattern in liberal societies.

First, because like other forms of neoliberal deregulation the sexual revolution created new winners and losers, new hierarchies to replace the old ones, privileging the beautiful and rich and socially adept in new ways and relegating others to new forms of loneliness and frustration.

Second, because in this new landscape, and amid other economic and technological transformations, the sexes seem to be struggling generally to relate to one another, with social and political chasms opening between them and not only marriage and family but also sexual activity itself in recent decline.

Third, because the culture’s dominant message about sex is still essentially Hefnerian, despite certain revisions attempted by feminists since the heyday of the Playboy philosophy — a message that frequency and variety in sexual experience is as close to a summum bonum as the human condition has to offer, that the greatest possible diversity in sexual desires and tastes and identities should be not only accepted but cultivated, and that virginity and celibacy are at best strange and at worst pitiable states. And this master narrative, inevitably, makes both the new inequalities and the decline of actual relationships that much more difficult to bear …

… which in turn encourages people, as ever under modernity, to place their hope for escape from the costs of one revolution in a further one yet to come, be it political, social or technological, which will supply if not the promised utopia at least some form of redress for the many people that progress has obviously left behind.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

(Guardian) Log in, break up – the new ‘easy’ way to get a divorce online

Breaking up is never easy, as Abba sang, but the Ministry of Justice is so pleased with its online divorce pilot that it has launched the scheme nationwide this month.

The latest initiative in the department’s £1bn modernisation programme enables couples splitting up across England and Wales to complete their applications on a website without going to court.

Language has been simplified for the digital form, allowing payments and evidence to be uploaded from home. More than 1,000 petitions were issued through the system during its test phase, with 91% of users, according to the MoJ, reporting that they were satisfied with the service. Sir James Munby, the judge in charge of the high court’s family division, recently described online divorce as a “triumphant success” and “final proof positive that whatever people think, government can do IT [information technology]”.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

[Brave New World Dept] (Quartz) Ambarish Mitra–We can train AI to identify good and evil, and then use it to teach us morality

When it comes to tackling the complex questions of humanity and morality, can AI make the world more moral?

Morality is one of the most deeply human considerations in existence. The very nature of the human condition pushes us to try to distinguish right from wrong, and the existence of other humans pushes us to treat others by those values.

What is good and what is right are questions usually reserved for philosophers and religious or cultural leaders. But as artificial intelligence weaves itself into nearly every aspect of our lives, it is time to consider the implications of AI on morality, and morality on AI.

There are many conversations around the importance of making AI moral or programming morality into AI. For example, how should a self-driving car handle the terrible choice between hitting two different people on the road? These are interesting questions, but they presuppose that we’ve agreed on a clear moral framework. Though some universal maxims exist in most modern cultures (don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie), there is no single “perfect” system of morality with which everyone agrees.

But AI could help us create one.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Recode) Facebook is launching a new dating service

Facebook is getting into the dating game.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday morning that Facebook is building a dating product to “help people find partners.” Zuckerberg says there are 200 million users on Facebook who list their relationship status as “single.”

“If we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps the most meaningful of all,” Zuckerberg said.

“This is going to be for building real long-term relationships,” he added, “not just for hookups.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Women

(NPR) In This Bible Study, Science And Faith Don’t Have To Compete

ZHOROV: Pew Research found that people who leave their religion, often cite science for their lack of faith. Sunday school teacher Matthew Groves says for churches to be relevant cultural institutions, they have to engage with the things people are struggling with today.

GROVES: Climate change is a substantive issue. Artificial intelligence, bioethics – a lot of big issues humanity is going to face in the next hundred years are focused on science and technology.

ZHOROV: He says if the church wants to be a part of shaping the direction humanity takes, it needs to have a seat at the table.

GROVES: And you can’t have a seat at the table if you don’t speak science.

ZHOROV: During each class, in addition to pushback, Groves also gets a lot of people like Carol Butler, who don’t see an inherent conflict.

CAROL BUTLER: We don’t understand all the mysteries of science. We don’t understand the mysteries of creation. But we know that they’re one and together.

Read it all.

Posted in Adult Education, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

NYMag talks to VR pioneer Jaron Lanier on Silicon Valley–‘One Has This Feeling of Having Contributed to Something That’s Gone Very Wrong’

In November, you told Maureen Dowd that it’s scary and awful how out of touch Silicon Valley people have become. It’s a pretty forward remark. I’m kind of curious what you mean by that.

To me, one of the patterns we see that makes the world go wrong is when somebody acts as if they aren’t powerful when they actually are powerful. So if you’re still reacting against whatever you used to struggle for, but actually you’re in control, then you end up creating great damage in the world. Like, oh, I don’t know, I could give you many examples. But let’s say like Russia’s still acting as if it’s being destroyed when it isn’t, and it’s creating great damage in the world. And Silicon Valley’s kind of like that.

We used to be kind of rebels, like, if you go back to the origins of Silicon Valley culture, there were these big traditional companies like IBM that seemed to be impenetrable fortresses. And we had to create our own world. To us, we were the underdogs and we had to struggle. And we’ve won. I mean, we have just totally won. We run everything. We are the conduit of everything else happening in the world. We’ve disrupted absolutely everything. Politics, finance, education, media, relationships — family relationships, romantic relationships — we’ve put ourselves in the middle of everything, we’ve absolutely won. But we don’t act like it.

We have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness having won. We’re still acting as if we’re in trouble and we have to defend ourselves, which is preposterous. And so in doing that we really kind of turn into assholes, you know?

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology, Theology

(America) David Michael–Alan Jacobs: a Christian intellectual for the internet age

In a post in late 2015, he wrote about curbing the distractions of the internet. He had deleted his Tumblr and Instagram accounts and had returned to older technologies: paper, CDs and even a “dumb phone”—though he had returned to his iPhone when I visited him.

Lately, he has started taking notes on multicolored index cards. He spends less time writing on a computer and more time writing in a notebook, using a practice called bullet journaling. He jots ideas down as they come to him, and reads over the notes when he has time. “It’s always like putting stuff in the compost pile and stirring it around and then putting more stuff in the compost pile and stirring it around. And then I take it out and move it to the place where something needs to grow.”

If an idea is still gnawing at him, he will work the idea into a more developed sketch. When he gets on a roll, he grabs his computer, sometimes writing four or five thousand words at a time. “That doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily going to be good words,” he told me. “But it’s this kind of desperate let me get it all out while I still can.” When I visited him, he was in the midst of six different essays and a new book.

He calls his new book a theological anthropology for the Anthropocene Age, an account of what it means to be human in an era that seems radically empowering but also leaves the individual feeling helpless before technocratic powers. Theologians have not risen to the task, but Jacobs thinks that novelists like Thomas Pynchon can offer clarity.

“I have lots of ideas,” he told me shortly before I left. “I always have more ideas than I can possibly write about.” So he prays for discernment about what ideas to pursue and what ideas to let die. “And increasingly, over the last three or four years, I pray more and more that God would teach me when it’s time to shut up. That’s the thing that I’m least good at. Just shutting up.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) App faith: how religions are embracing technology

As part of an effort to reduce noise in Ghana’s capital, Accra, the environment minister has suggested that the Muslim call to prayer, normally broadcast over loudspeakers across the city, should instead be sent out on WhatsApp. The notion has proved immensely unpopular – not least because it equates the call to prayer with noise pollution. But it also highlights religion’s growing, if sometimes uneasy, reliance on tech.

Contactless collection Catholic and Protestant churches in the UK have begun using contactless card readers for donations and other payments, hoping to make life easier for parishioners who may not be carrying cash. A contactless collection plate is being trialled by the Church of England, but it is being held up because it is feared the technology might slow things down.

The confession app Confession (version 2.1) walks sinners through the business of confession, pings you push notifications when it’s time for your next shriving and includes a handy sin checklist in case you have forgotten what you’ve done wrong. What it doesn’t do is offer absolution. You still need a priest for that.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(1st Things) Wilfred McClay: Postmodern Times

[Gene] Veith, who is a Missouri Synod Lutheran (and Professor of English at Concordia University in Wisconsin), has produced in Postmodern Times a more refined and cautious, but no less suggestive, contribution to the Schaeffer tradition of theologically informed cultural analysis. Hence, although the book will certainly be of interest to scholars, its subtitle suggests a different audience: reflective Protestants who want to understand what the apparent collapse of modernism may mean for the culture, for the Church, and for themselves as Christians.

Veith’s answer to these concerns is optimistic, but very cautiously so. The modernist worldview, with its “totalized” enlightened faith in secular, rationalistic, naturalistic, materialistic, and demystified modes of explanation for all things, has by and large been the sworn enemy of Christian orthodoxy. So modernism’s slow but inexorable loss of authority at the hands of physicists, philosophers of science, literary theorists, and others would seem to be a welcome development. But Veith warns that the secular ideology of postmodernism will eventually be every bit as hostile to Christianity as modernism was, and perhaps more so. Why? Because Christians have one thing in common with modernists: both believe in the possibility of intelligible absolute truths. Therefore both are guilty, in the eyes of postmodernists, of the sin of “universal or totalizing discourse,” the distrust of which is the hallmark of postmodernism.

Read it all from 1994.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(WBUR) Chris Madson–Buzz, Beep, Chirp: Phones Are An Epidemic In Our Schools

Recently I asked a hardworking, though often distracted, high school student named Amina how many text messages she received that day during school.

Her answer? 106.

Each text received a response. Two-hundred and twelve tiny messages read and felt, or composed and sent. Links clicked; short videos watched. The perfect song found. Snapchat streaks edited and shared.

Assuming 10 to 15 seconds are lost with each text, Amina skips school for about 45 minutes — roughly the equivalent of one class period — each day without ever leaving her seat.

Amina is in the majority. And the numbers are shocking.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Independent) How the world of death and funerals has become fashionable through digital culture

It’s one of the more blood-curdling things about Facebook – the social media death notice. You know the score: the recently deceased star of Top of the Pops, sitcom or stage is commemorated by way of a YouTube video and a deluge of weepy RIPs and “part of my life” eulogies, a phenomenon derided as “tearleading”. The high-water mark for this was who “taught us how to live, then taught us how to die” two years ago.

Of course, entrepreneurs have noticed this spectacle, which writer and psychologist Elaine Kasket brackets as “the data of the dead”. It’s part of a digital-led revolution in dying and death and it’s changing the way we see people pass into the ineffable digital afterlife. “We’re developing an entirely new mentality about death and dying,” she says.

​Kasket (yes, she knows) is the author of an upcoming book about digital death called All the Ghosts in the Machine, and has observed a huge rise of interest. “I was at a recent SXSW festival and was introduced to someone who put on a super-serious voice and told me: ‘I’m in the death-tech space’.” As a subject, dying has become fashionable, with investors pouring money into startups, bolstering thought leadership and inspirational TED Talks on “new ways to think about death”.

There are so many new death-tech sites that they break up into different types….

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(The Drum) Exeter Cathedral spreads its message online with new portal

Exeter Cathedral is aiming to lead the way in how religious institutions market themselves online, following a complete refresh of its online portal by digital marketing agency AB.

The new site was required to meet the varied requirements of the Cathedral’s churchgoers, hirers, the local community as well as tourists and potential visitors. The new site features a centralised events calendar and also raises the profile of the Cathedral’s fundraising efforts, including its current Big Lego Build project.

Laurence Blyth of Exeter Cathedral explained that the Cathedral’s previous site was no longer fit for purpose, which has led to the need for the commission. “It told the story of the Cathedral from a religious point of view, but hadn’t kept pace with how the Cathedral needs to fundraise and attract tourist visitors. The portal developed and delivered by AB has been very well received and we expect to see a significant uplift in visitor numbers this year as a result of our enhanced digital presence.”

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Boston Globe) Niall Ferguson–George Orwell would be awed by Facebook’s Surveillance Tools

As with Google, it was advertising that made Facebook money. The crucial difference was that Google simply helped people find the things they had already decided to buy, whereas Facebook enabled advertisers to deliver targeted messages to users, tailored to meet the preferences they had already revealed through their Facebook activity. Once ads were seamlessly inserted into users’ News Feeds on the Facebook mobile phone app, the company was on the path to vast profits, propelled forward by the explosion of smartphone usage.

The smartphone is our telescreen. And, thanks to it, Big Zucker is watching you — night and day, wherever you go. Unlike the telescreen, your phone is always with you. Unlike the telescreen, it can read your thoughts, predicting your actions before you even carry them out. It’s just that Big Zucker’s 24/7 surveillance isn’t designed to maintain a repressive regime. It’s just designed to make money.

The only law of history is the law of unintended consequences. Is anyone — apart from Zuckerberg, that is — really surprised that, during the seven-year period when app developers had free access to Facebook users’ data, unscrupulous people downloaded as much as they could? Do we seriously believe that Cambridge Analytica are the only people who did this? Can you give me one good reason why, after Barack Obama and his minions smugly boasted about their use of Facebook in his 2012 reelection campaign, Donald Trump’s campaign was not entitled to try similar methods four years later?

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology, Theology