Category : Science & Technology

Companies doing Good(II): Google equips buses with wifi and offers computers to South Carolina students who have a long ride daily

Eighth-grader Lakaysha Governor spends two hours on the bus getting back and forth to school each day. Thanks to a grant from Google, she can now use that time more productively and get her homework done.

The aspiring forensic anthropologist is one of nearly 2,000 students in rural Berkeley County who will ride to school on one of 28, Google-funded, Wi-Fi-equipped school buses unveiled Monday.

The technology giant also has given the school district 1,700 Chromebooks, the stripped-down laptops on which many schoolchildren now do their class and homework.

As more class assignments and homework migrate online, such long bus rides have generally counted as lost time in preparing for the next school day. But Google said it hopes to help expand the use of Wi-Fi on school buses in other rural areas elsewhere around the country.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Education, Science & Technology

More young men are dropping out of job market to spend time in an alternate reality..the beginning of something big?

David Mullings was always a self-starter. Born in Jamaica, he moved to Florida to go to university, and founded his first company – a digital media firm that helped Caribbean content find a wider audience – before finishing business school at the University of Miami. In 2011 he opened a private-equity firm with his brother. In 2013 the two made their first big deal, acquiring an 80% stake in a Tampa-based producer of mobile apps. A year later it blew up in their faces, sinking their firm and their hopes.

Mullings struggled to recover from the blow. The odd consulting gig provided a distraction and some income. Yet depression set in as he found himself asking whether he had anything useful to contribute to the wider world.

Then Destiny called.

Read it all from the 1843 magazine.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Science & Technology, Young Adults

(Globe and Mail) Unnatural selection: Babies in the genetic technology age

The notion of tinkering with an embryo’s DNA – let alone creating designer babies – makes many of us recoil. But let us not forget the shock and horror at the news of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in 1978.

After her birth, her parents received blood-spattered hate mail (and a tiny plastic fetus). Now we call it IVF, and no one bats an eye.

Technologies that allow parents to pick and choose embryos based on genetic testing are already a quarter of a century old. But the dawn of CRISPR, a technology that can “edit” mutated DNA at the embryo stage, has raised the spectre of Nazi-era eugenics and identikit babies out of a sci-fi thriller.

What if laws were in place to forbid scientists from using technologies to create the superrace we fear? What if we had consensus, and an ethical framework, to decide which embryos should live, and which should die?

Such questions are the beating heart of science journalist Bonnie Rochman’s new book, The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies are Changing the Way We Have Kids – and the Kids We Have, published in February.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

(CT) Loving Science and Loving God: An Interview with Chemistry Professor Daniel Romo

What would you like to say to students who have an interest in science at a young age? And what would you like to share with parents or grandparents who fear that science and faith don’t mix?

One of my heroes in science is Johannes Kepler, who was probably the first physical astronomer. He actually broke out in song because he discovered something really cool in science and astronomy. He wrote about it in a notebook, giving glory to God for that new finding. The idea that we “explore the world that God created” really resonates with me. And it’s basically what I do.

We have a way, as scientists, to explore the world and try to understand what God created. He gave us a playground, if you will, to actually go and explore the world.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(CNA) Can we delete death? Transhumanism’s lofty goal meets a Catholic response

Transhumanism is a loosely-defined cultural, intellectual and technical movement that describes itself as seeking to “to overcome fundamental human limitations” including death, aging, and natural physical, mental and psychological limitations, says humanity+, a transhumanist online community.

The movement overlaps greatly with posthumanism, which posits that a new, biologically superior race is on the horizon, and could replace the human race as we know it. Posthumanists support technologies such as cryogenic freezing, mood-and-intelligence-enhancing drugs, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, bionics and “uploading” a mind to an artificial intelligence.

These movements stem from the idea that human limitations are just “technical problems” that need to be overcome, said history professor Yuval Noah Harari in a 2015 interview in “Edge,” a non-profit website devoted to the advancement of technology….

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Economist) Quantum technology is beginning to come into its own

Although a handful of quantum-enabled sensors, modest quantum networks and rudimentary quantum computers are already in use, they still fall short of fully exploiting quantum advantages, and few of them are ready to be widely deployed. According to McKinsey, a consulting firm, in 2015 about 7,000 people worldwide, with a combined budget of about $1.5bn, were working on quantum-technology research (see chart). Industrialisation will boost those numbers.

What is notable about the effort now is that the challenges are no longer scientific but have become matters of engineering. The search is on for smaller atomic clocks, for example; for a means to amplify and route quantum-communications signals; and for more robust “qubits” (of which more later) for quantum computing. Startups are embracing the technology with gusto, and tech giants have already planted their flags. There is wide agreement that Google is furthest along in quantum-computer technology and that Microsoft has the most comprehensive plan to make the software required.

Public money is flowing in, too. National and supranational funding bodies are backing increasingly ambitious quantum-technology efforts. Britain has a programme worth £270m ($337m) and the European Union has set aside €1bn ($1.08bn) for a pan-European programme. Many quantum technologies have security implications, so defence departments are also providing funding.

Many firms are already preparing for a quantum-technology future.

<a href=”http://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2017-03-09/quantum-devices#s-3″>Read it all</a>.

Posted in Science & Technology

(NYT) Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens

Q. What makes you think that people have become addicted to digital devices and social media?

A. In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.

Behavioral addictions are really widespread now. A 2011 study suggested that 41 percent of us have at least one. That number is sure to have risen with the adoption of newer more addictive social networking platforms, tablets and smartphones.

Read it all.

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

(Economist) Gene editing, clones and the science of making babies

It used to be so simple. Girl met boy. Gametes were transferred through plumbing optimised by millions of years of evolution. Then, nine months later, part of that plumbing presented the finished product to the world. Now things are becoming a lot more complicated. A report published on February 14th by America’s National Academy of Sciences gives qualified support to research into gene-editing techniques so precise that genetic diseases like haemophilia and sickle-cell anaemia can be fixed before an embryo even starts to develop. The idea of human cloning triggered a furore when, 20 years ago this week, Dolly the sheep was revealed to the world (see article); much fuss about nothing, some would say, looking back. But other technological advances are making cloning humans steadily more feasible.

Some are horrified at the prospect of people “playing God” with reproduction. Others, whose lives are blighted by childlessness or genetic disease, argue passionately for the right to alleviate suffering. Either way, the science is coming and society will have to work out what it thinks.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

(NYT) Out of the Office: More People Are Working Remotely, Survey Finds

More American employees are working remotely, and they’re doing so for longer periods of time, according to a Gallup survey released on Wednesday.

Last year, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to the survey of more than 15,000 adults.

That represents a 4 percentage point increase since 2012, a shift that meets the demands of many job seekers.

“Gallup consistently has found that flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job,” the polling agency wrote in a report on those and other workplace findings.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology, Theology

Bp of Coventry apologises for accidentally pressing wrong button in same-sex relationships vote

A Church of England bishop has been forced to apologise to the archbishop of Canterbury after accidentally breaking ranks with his colleagues in a crucial vote on same-sex relationships.

Christopher Cocksworth, bishop of Coventry, said he was embarrassed after he pressed the wrong button on his electronic handset in the tense vote on a highly controversial bishops’ report at the C of E synod on Thursday.

The report was rejected after the House of Clergy narrowly voted against “taking note” of it, although it commanded overall support in the synod. The motion needed the backing of all three houses ”“ bishops, clergy and laity.

Read it all from the Guardian.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AFP) How algorithms (secretly) run the world

When you browse online for a new pair of shoes, pick a movie to stream on Netflix or apply for a car loan, an algorithm likely has its word to say on the outcome.

The complex mathematical formulas are playing a growing role in all walks of life: from detecting skin cancers to suggesting new Facebook friends, deciding who gets a job, how police resources are deployed, who gets insurance at what cost, or who is on a “no fly” list.

Algorithms are being used — experimentally — to write news articles from raw data, while Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was helped by behavioral marketers who used an algorithm to locate the highest concentrations of “persuadable voters.”

But while such automated tools can inject a measure of objectivity into erstwhile subjective decisions, fears are rising over the lack of transparency algorithms can entail, with pressure growing to apply standards of ethics or “accountability.”

Read it all.

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

WCBD-Dark side of Pinterest: Moms learn site can showcase suicide, role play, child pornography

For moms like Stefany Rodriguez-Neely, Marianne Touger and Zakeia Smith, a sinister secret was lurking beneath the surface of their favorite spot online ”“ a website so popular, that more than 100 million use it each day.

“I was clueless. I was like, really?!” Smith told 8 On Your Side. “’Cause I think, when I think Pinterest, or one of those other sites, I think it’s all about crafting and recipes.”

Touger had the same response.

“It never occurred to me, never occurred to me that it would be a problem with Pinterest,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pornography, Science & Technology, Theology

([London] Times) Classroom Cameras-New tech may have a role in controlling disruptive behaviour?

Should teachers be able to use body cameras to record the disruptive behaviour of some pupils or, indeed, to celebrate the achievements of others? The question arises because of an experiment doing just that. A criminal justice academic at Portsmouth University, Tom Ellis, has revealed that teachers at two schools in England are using video cameras to record incidents and then play them back to the pupils concerned and to their parents. The practice is not widespread but it is legal. It may be a harbinger of things to come.

It is easy to see the possible utility of such cameras. Disruptive classroom behaviour is a constant problem that blights the education of children and the careers of teachers, and may be getting worse. In 2014 Ofsted released a report entitled Below the Radar: Low-level Disruption in the Country’s Classrooms, which was based on the inspection reports of a sample of nearly 100 schools conducted in the first six months of that year.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Children, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology, Theology

(BBC) Shopping robots on the march in Ocado

There is growing concern about the impact of automation on employment – or in crude terms – the threat that robots will eat our jobs.
But if you want to see how important robotics and artificial intelligence can be to a business Ocado is a good place to start.
“Without it we simply couldn’t do what we do at this scale,” the online retailer’s chief technology officer Paul Clarke told me. With margins in the supermarket business wafer thin, continually bearing down on costs and waste has been vital.
At its Hatfield distribution centre I got a glimpse of how far the process of automating the sorting of thousands of grocery orders has come. For now, you will struggle to spot a robot – unless you count a machine that inserts plastic shopping bags into crates – but software is doing a very complex job of sending the right goods in the right crates to the right human pickers.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology, Theology

(NR) Group discusses Saint Augustine's City of God on Twitter


That should keep you busy,” an Amtrak conductor commented as he saw my already-worn copy of Saint Augustine’s City of God in front of me shortly after boarding in Baltimore for New York. Reading the 1,000-plus-page classic was not something I had planned for 2017, but something Twitter, of all things, drew me into.

Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at my alma mater, the Catholic University of America, had the idea to conduct a 15-week seminar over Twitter on a book he was teaching this semester anyway. Of course, a classroom is one thing; social media, very much another. But sure enough, as I got myself to Twitter on that first Thursday night, a father announced he had put his kids to bed and was ready, a federal judge weighed in with his insights, and all sorts of people from varied backgrounds shared their favorite quotes from the first chapters of City of God, and made connections to politics and religion and culture today.

Now entering its fifth week, held from 8 to 10 (Eastern time) on Thursday nights, the discussion is led by Pecknold, who designates chapters and half-hour slots, all flagged by the hashtag #CivDei, which makes it easy for anyone who misses “class,” as I have already a week or two, to catch up at another hour.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Church History, Education, Science & Technology, Theology