Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Society’s Misplaced Faith - Technological Faith

FAITH
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth or in the waters below.” Exodus 20:4

We have witnessed over the last century what can only be categorized as a technological revolution. This might be better termed a technological ‘revival.’ “Come one, come all…be saved by the promise of technology.” While this is an absurd idea with respect to true salvation, many within our society hold this to be true.
Frederick Ferré in his paper on Technological Faith and Christian Doubt begins to question this faith and asks the Christian community, “What fundamental values should Christians use to evaluate technologies?” He asserts that a theologically informed assessment of technology will provide a guide for society toward a better future. He also suggests it will build a foundation for Christians to make both ethically sound and practical choices with respect to technology.

Much of society does not recognize the extent to which technological faith has become pervasive worldwide. Most people do not give a second thought to jumping in their car and driving somewhere (ok, maybe lately they do). They place their lives in the hands of the technologists who designed and built their car. However, when an event occurs in which technology fails, such as the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters, the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia explosions, or the Therac-25 Radiation Therapy Machine deaths here in the Northwest caused by a software error, people are shocked. They experience pain, anguish, and suffering similar to that of any faith crisis.

Society has put so much faith in technology that we entrust technology to find or execute solutions to many societal ills, such as environmental degradation, acid rain, ozone depletion, population control, cancer cures, and AIDS prevention and treatment. Civilization continues to have a deep faith and commitment to technology. When society is confronted with death, it immediately turns to medical research, organ transplants, and cryogenic freezing while awaiting technological resurrection. When society is confronted with sin, it turns to technologies of behavior modifications and chemical cures.

What is the danger of technological faith? We must not become so dependent on technology that it distracts us from, or in some cases substitutes for, our true faith in Jesus Christ. Billy Graham was asked to speak a number of years ago to a conference of technological leaders from around the world (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/billy_graham_on_technology_faith_and_suffering.html). He stated, “The problem is not technology, the problem is the people who use technology.” At the end of his speech he closed by challenging the individuals in the room to dedicate resources to solving other problems within society, such as human suffering and human evil. These are two of the very same issues which confronted King David so many years ago.

Upon what will you place your faith?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Designer Babies - Biogenetics

In "Technology's Promise" by William Halal, he offers one such promise that he labels "Child Traits." The use of technology to influence child characteristics from simple gender to DNA characteristics. This topic definitely comes with controversy and continues to be debated throughout society. Today's technology can produce a boy or girl with great accuracy through sperm sorting. (Those that swim in circles and don't ask for directions are male - sorry couldn't resist). Seriously though, the debate really heats up when we begin to introduce topics such as serious genetic birth defects like Down Syndrome. Biogenetics is beginning to lead to the control of DNA characteristics. Many medical concepts such as organ transplants and in vitro fertilization were also considered to be wrong at one time. Halal predicts that it will be about 2030 before approximately 30% of parents will likely alter genetic traits of their children. Will you be one of them? What if your parents would have?

Animoto Video

Wearable Computing

As we look to future innovations in technology, one idea that used to be seen as far fetched could be just around the corner... wearable computing. We have become used to cell phones, pda, and other similar devices in everyone's pockets or purses. We have had heads up displays (HUD) in aircraft for many years and even in several models of automobiles to date. What about the combination of the two... eye glasses with a HUD. Technology that allows you to view a map or today's stock prices, or virtually any web type content. The technology may be just around the corner for such a thing.

As much as I really like this idea... I also stop and think how unsafe people are who txt and drive. What if they are now watching their favorite movie? Yikes!

Structured Design Process in Pharmaceuticals

Alexander N. Christakis in his book, "How People Harness Collective Wisdom and Power to Construct the Future in Co-laboratories of Democracy" shows us an example of how the use of Structured Design Process (SDP) can benefit the manufacturing and testing of new pharmaceuticals. This case study was very interesting since national health care has taken over the collective concern throughout this country. Christakis points out that SDP can have the benefit to drug development teams of the following:
  • Capability to accomplish in just a few days what was/is taking months.
  • Capability of producing faster and better designs up front that will reduce the overall time to market.
  • Ability to give practitioners important clinical information in a more timely way.
The one aspect of this case study that seems to tie everything together can simply be stated as... communication. The SDP allows for greater communication and the ability to achieve the "wisdom of the team" throughout the process.

Christakis, A. N. 2006. "How People Harness Collective Wisdom and Power to Construct the Future in Co-laboratories of Democracy." Information Age Publishing. Greenwich, CT.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Future of the University

Emily’s blog post offers up twenty-five predictions of changes in the ‘academic landscape’ for higher education. She categorizes these predictions into four areas: Technology and Innovation, Student Body and Enrollment, Global and Economic Issues, and finally Sustainability. An interesting observation of the predictions offered is that thirteen of the twenty-five are in the area of Technology and Innovation.

While technology and Innovation may provide a wonderful avenue for advancement throughout higher education, the real issue that is not addressed here is attitudinal. Emily states that faculty members in all fields will need to become “techies.” The one aspect that can be counted on in academics is that change is slow. There are often more settlers than pioneers.

Being a faculty member of a university campus I am able to see the rate of acceptance of new technology throughout campus. This past spring we asked a group of 40 faculty members to look into how they would use mobile technology within their courses. We even gave each one a new iPod Touch. While they are currently still evaluating the devices the initial feedback coming in is that it may just be another distraction to the students. The bottom line here is how do we as technologists help guide others in advancing their knowledge and usage of technological innovations.

25 Predictions for the University of the Future, by Emily Thomas


Sunday, August 2, 2009

yUML - Awesome Web 2.0 UML Generator


Quick and easy UML! (http://www.yuml.me/) Too often I find myself trying to read UML 'chicken scratch' hand written by others or even myself with not much luck. An amazing Web 2.0 tool exists to help with just such a problem. It is called yUML and is a free on-line tool that allows users to generate UML diagrams as simple as the one above to much more complicated diagrams. The tool requires a special syntax that is relatively intuitive for UML users. A complete set of examples and syntactical help exists on the website. The syntax to create the diagram above is:

[Company]++-1>[Location]
This syntax can either be entered directly into the yUML interactive window or through an URL which simply returns the image file such as: http://yuml.me/diagram/scruffy/class/[Company]++-1>[Location]

You will notice that the image has a 'scruffy' hand written look to it. The tool also offers a much more professional look and feel as well by simply removing 'scruffy' from the URL, such as: http://yuml.me/diagram/class/[Company]++-1>[Location]

yUML lets the user create class diagrams as well as use case diagrams such as the one below:

I am so impressed with this tool that it will become a required tool for the students in my CSIS 321 - Software Engineering course this fall. I will NEVER again accept hand written UML diagrams as part of any project specification.

The ability of this tool to embed diagrams into other documents, webpages, etc. creates an environment for collaborative discussions about project designs and implementations that is platform independent and does not rely on a proprietary software package for diagraming.