RI Columns Chapter 2

The moral overload of an African game ranger

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The wildlife living in the southern part of Africa is suffering under the pressure of the excessive poaching of the last years. The number of poaching incidents is growing every year and especially the number of rhino casualties is growing exponentially. Last year there were 1215 confirmed rhinos poached, to put this in perspective in 2007 this number was only 13. This all is the result of a growing demand of ivory and other illegal poached goods on the black market.

The poached goods on the black market have such high value the poachers will do everything to get their hands on them. Last week four game rangers, who devote their life to protecting the wilderness and its wildlife, got shot and killed by poachers who were trying to poach a rhino.  It is needless to say that the battle between game rangers and poachers has become a war where both groups aren’t shy to use heavy violence on each other.

This brings up a moral dilemma for the game rangers whose job it is to protect the wildlife at all costs. Are they willing to fight a war like this and to sacrifice human lives over these animals? Is the life of a rhino worth more than a human? These are the moral questions the game rangers are dealing with every day. We can almost say they are dealing with a kind of moral overload. At one hand they want to protect their national treasure in the form of the wildlife and the nature, but at the other hand by doing that they are killing the people from the surrounding communities.

While having a discussion with a ranger from iMfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa this subject came up and he told me a story about the whole ecosystem and that everything is connected. This is where I came to the realization that the poaching of a rhino for solely its horn, which is made up from the same material as human nails, isn’t only effecting the rhino population but a whole ecosystem. The rhino is such a big animal, taking away just one will affect this system dramatically. The birds eating from the rhino’s back will not survive, the grass the rhino is eating will overgrow the other types of vegetation and the dung beetles won’t have anything to eat.

The Game Ranger strongly believes that what he and his predecessors have been fighting for the last 150 years, since the rhino almost got fully extinct, is worth fighting for. That is why he and his colleagues are trying to defend their wildlife against the poachers and all other danger. Not only by using force but also by educating the surrounding communities, and trying to educate the rest of the world in the hope that people will realize that rhino horn isn’t something special, but a rhino walking in the wild is.

I hope one day the rest of the world, especially the people feeding the black market and the ones buying from it, will one day understand that ivory and other poached don’t have any special healing or aphrodisiac powers, and are definitely not worth losing human lives over. 

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A Sustainable Dilemma

This week 'dilemmas' were discussed. Of course, the topic of nuclear energy couldn’t be missed in the debate. I was shocked to hear that people who claim that nuclear energy a suitable source of sustainable energy is, still exist. Moreover, they truly believed that it still is the most sustainable energy source that is currently available.

This week 'dilemmas' were discussed. Of course, the topic of nuclear energy couldn’t be missed in the debate. I was shocked to hear that people who claim that nuclear energy a suitable source of sustainable energy is, still exist. Moreover, they truly believed that it still is the most sustainable energy source that is currently available.

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Obviously, these nuclear preachers ignored the green technologies that nowadays are applied to produce energy. Think for example about wind and sun energy. But even if these new innovations are excluded from the debate due to their ambiguous performances, nuclear energy can’t particularly be called a sustainable energy source.

In order to be able to answer the question if nuclear energy is sustainable or not, we must find out the definition of ‘sustainable’. A sustainable energy source is defined as a source whose present usage doesn’t change or influence the living environment of future generations. Let’s investigate if that applies to the case of nuclear energy.

It is true that a nuclear reactor doesn’t emit CO2 into the air in the process of producing energy. So global warming could theoretically be halted by switching to nuclear energy. Gas, oil and coal currently hold the position of main energy source. Burning of these fuels has caused the concentrations of CO2 to strongly increase, which in turn has started the rapid warming of the global atmosphere.

However, uranium is, like gas, oil and coal, a depletable energy source. This means that the uranium that is used in the present can’t be replaced in short term, unlike wood for example. Future generations will eventually be confronted with a shortage of uranium if mankind would really switch to nuclear energy, like we are now confronted with shortage of oil and gas.

On top of this, the nuclear waste products are not quite to be called ‘sustainable’ either. The only solution to get rid of these highly poisonous sources of radioactive nuclear waste is to stash it deep under the earth. Future generations will have to deal with the consequences once nuclear waste is exposed to the surface due to, for instance, an earthquake.
Earthquakes and other nature disasters cannot be ignored in this debate either. These forces have caused leakage of nuclear energy plants before. A small leak of radioactive particles is able to expose the entire ocean and wreck many of its ecosystems within. Humans and animals alike will not be spared.

So please, do not listen to people who praise this so called ‘sustainable’ energy source. Rather, focus on new revolutionary technologies such as artificial photosynthesis, which is not only able to produce electricity, but can also create fuel out of water and draw CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into usable sugars.
It is this kind of technologies that allow us to cherish our values such as safety and health. Future generations won’t have to clean up after us, but can profit from our efforts in green technology. The only way to get this far, is to not give in to major commercial companies forcing us into dirty radioactive energy sources and invest in truly sustainable technologies instead.

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Time is running out.

Moral dilemmas can be solved by innovation, but what if time does not allow for this?

Moral dilemmas can be solved by innovation, but what if time does not allow for this?

Graph of moral dilemmas

The basis of this week’s theory was the moral dilemma. A situation in which one has to choose between two different options, but where one of these options can only be done. Of course, for it to be a true dilemma, the two options must be of equal importance. A moral dilemma is described by the following three rules:

-          One ought to do A.

-          One ought to do B.

-          One cannot do both A and B.

Here the use of ought to implies that a person actually has the moral obligation to do both options, something which cannot be done. This can also be described in a graph, given at the bottom of this column. In the graph, the two red lines represent two thresholds which need to be met for an option to be sufficient. As you can see, there is an area in the top right corner in which both these thresholds are met! Professor Van den Hoven explains that this region can be reached by innovating. Specifically innovating in the field of technology. Let’s apply this theory to an example; namely the refugee problem within the EU. This is a huge moral dilemma for the European Union. On one hand, humanitarian laws require us to offer shelter to anyone that is a refugee because of political or safety reasons. On the other hand, the population protests openly towards the entrance of refugees into their country because they think the big influx of other cultures will overtake their own. So the government is also obliged to protect the culture of its own country. Right now, the only option is to let all the refugees into our countries but keep them from altering our own culture to a large extent. This is hard, but according to Professor Van den Hoven’s principle, it is possible if we find a new way of handling refugees. There is, however, another factor in this particular problem that proves to be a problem; Time. Every innovation requires time to come into existence. If we want to find a way to handle the refugees in a way in which it does not affect our culture, this needs consideration by all member states of the EU. However, this time is just not available.

Huge amounts of refugees are flowing into the EU right now, and all its countries are working around the clock to give shelter to the refugees they were assigned.  This means there was little to no time before the exodus of refugees for the EU countries to come up with a new way of providing shelter for people seeking refuge. Only when the influx of refugees has fallen, can the governments commit their time to managing all the new refugee camps in their countries. Until then, camps are hastily constructed or re-opened to cope with the increasing amounts of people that need shelter. This quick strategy is bound to give trouble in the long run, and the governments will have to deal with this as well. Time is the only thing that can show us how to satisfy both constraints that make up this moral dilemma.

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The pretended obstacle called moral overload

What we can learn from the stem cell debate regarding clashes of ethics and technology.

What we can learn from the stem cell debate regarding clashes of ethics and technology.

Does life begin at fertilization, in the womb, or at birth?

Ethics and technological research and development do not always go hand in hand. In ethics, technology is often only mentioned as the source of our problems, and not as a potential solution to our moral dilemmas. On the other hand, from a technology perspective, ethics is often only mentioned as a constraint on developments, where it could be seen as a source of innovation.1 Situations in which we have different value commitments by which we cannot live simultaneously are referred to as situations of ‘moral overload’.2 In this column I will focus on one particular case where technology and ethics provide this moral overload, namely the stem cell debate. So, what happened? And more importantly, what does this example tell us?

The stem cell debate is not new. Bone marrow stem cell transplants have been performed for decades. Though, the real controversy ensued only in 1998, when scientists learned how to remove stem cells from human embryos.3 Amongst others, the following difficult questions have raised: Does life begin at fertilization, in the womb, or at birth? Is a human embryo equivalent to a human child and does it have any rights? Might the destruction of a single embryo be justified if it provides a cure for a countless number of patients?

By the year 2000, the European Union started a program, which for the first time contained the subject of stem cell research. The outcome was, with a slight majority, that the EU subsidized certain forms and forbids other forms of this research. This way it could steer and regulate the development, which can be considered a very decent move. Nevertheless, there still were enough reasons to dislike the research and the subsidies. One could think of the degradation of the respect for life when taking lives from embryo’s for research. Furthermore, EU-countries that still did forbid any forms of research in that area, were contributing financially.4 In other words, the discussion had not yet come to an end.

This discussion, that had always been present, eventually was the driving force for the next solution. In a fertility laboratory in 1999, the Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka associated the sight of an embryo with its own daughters. Dr. Shinya Yamanaka said the following: “I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way.” Eight years later, in 2007, he was in one of the two groups of researchers that independently announced they had successfully reprogrammed adult skin cells into equivalent of human embryonic stem cells without using an actual embryo. Their findings were seen as a break-through, since they were a way around the ethic anxiety against stem cell research.6

This can be considered an evident example of the idea that criticism on the field of ethics can lead to technological innovation. It is a proof that new technologies ask for new ethics and changed ethics require new technologies. Moral overload should not be seen as an obstacle, but as a challenge from which we can in the end all benefit.

 

 

 

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Sources:

[1] Engineering and the Problem of Moral Overload: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275721/

[2] Moral overload and its alleviation: http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9781139174855&cid=CBO9781139174855A019

[3] The Stem Cell Debate: Is It Over?: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/stemcells/scissues/

[4] Europa Nu – Stamcelonderzoek: http://www.europa-nu.nl/id/vhcmeoc6ssua/stamcelonderzoek

[5] The New York Times – Science: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/11/science/11prof.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[6] Stamceltherapie voor dummies: https://www.eo.nl/magazines/visie/artikel-detail/stamceltherapie-voor-dummies/

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Designer Babies vs. Human Emotions

Are we getting too emotional for our own good?

Are we getting too emotional for our own good?

ANDi, first genetically modified monkey, source: timesofmalta.com

Technology has enabled us to share our emotions more than ever (eg. through social media), which in turn increased the way we feel those emotions. Happiness isn’t about being in the moment anymore, happiness is getting likes on the Facebook post that captured said moment. This emotional overload is slowly starting to hinder our thought processes – unfortunately, all of this change happened so abruptly that it has only started being noticed by the scientific community.

Let’s take a look at an example of how our emotions hinder the thought process – abortion. Abortion clinics all over the world are being picketed and even physically attacked, be it the doctors or their clients. Abortion should be illegal, the pro-life community says, ending a human life is an abomination and you should not be allowed to do it. If we are going to talk about emotions, then I have to say that these people absolutely disgust me. Not only are they disputing what other people shall do with their lives, but they are also completely inconsiderate to the ‘life’ they’re rooting for. The unwanted child would most likely end up in either foster care or go up for adoption. Still want to talk about emotions? Foster children as well as adopted ones go through an emotional rollercoaster during their upbringings, and are more likely to end up committing crimes once in their adolescence. Another solid evidence for why abortion should be legal, is the decrease in crime rates the legalization of abortion brings. This phenomenon is called the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis, which states that legalization of abortions during the 1970s explains a decline in crime of the 1990s. The emotional response of the ‘pro-life’ supporters is not only hindering our society, but also destroying lives. All of this seems very silly once you consider what life actually is, and if the embryo is even alive or not, which is still a very debatable subject.

Another example that I’d like to offer as an argument against emotions in a developing world are the so-called designer babies. Genetic modification is reaching the point at which scientists will be able to edit the embryo’s genomes, and enable parents to ‘design’ their soon-to-be-born babies. Some argue that this is a horrible idea, that the rich will misuse these scientific advances in order to make their children perfect (genetically speaking), and that ‘playing God’ will not end well in the long run. On the other hand, being able to eradicate any and all birth defects is not commented on – people tend to look at the negative more than at the positive outcomes. Imagine a world in which all babies are born perfectly healthy, without any extra chromosomes or other life-crippling diseases. If you consider this to be an unethical practice, consider yourself standing in front of parents of a new-born with, let’s say, autism. Now picture yourself saying, ‘I wish your child was born healthy, and it would’ve been possible with modern technology, but, you see, it’s unethical, and it goes against my beliefs!’… See what I mean?

 ANDi, first genetically modified monkey, source: timesofmalta.com

One could argue that these examples are quite specific, and that emotional response of the populace can contribute to responsible decision making in the society. After all, without our conscious mind, which is responsible for our emotions, we would have no knowledge to start with. An example of this would be the global opposition against a US government bill called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which would have compromised the privacy (and anonymity) of internet users, if it passed. Without the emotional response of the people, the online world would look much different today with the bill in action, censored and biased in whatever direction the government sees fit.

 

If you’re curious about the genome modification topic, I’d highly recommend starting off with the movie called ‘Gattaca’ :)

 

Sources

http://freakonomics.com/2005/05/15/abortion-and-crime-who-should-you-believe/

The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime – J.J. Donohue, S.D. Levitt, 2001

Babies by Design: The Ethics of Genetic Choice – T. Miksanek, 2008

https://www.eff.org/issues/coica-internet-censorship-and-copyright-bill

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Public values vs. self-interest in the gas dilemma in Groningen: an example of irresponsibility

Emotions, values and technologies need to go hand in hand, in order to prevent dilemmas of moral overload and unhealthy debates between experts and the laypeople. Now in practice: let’s see whether the gas drillings in Groningen follow this principle or follow another one, the one of self-interest.

Emotions, values and technologies need to go hand in hand, in order to prevent dilemmas of moral overload and unhealthy debates between experts and the laypeople. Now in practice: let’s see whether the gas drillings in Groningen follow this principle or follow another one, the one of self-interest.

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One of the biggest gas fields in the world is located in Groningen, the Netherlands. Gas in this area has been extracted by the NAM, a private company owned by Shell and ExxonMobil, since 1963, after the fields’ discovery in 1959. The gas field takes up almost 900 square kilometres, covering a big part of the county, and contains nowadays approximately 727 billion cubic metres, less than one third of the initial amount. The quick decrease of the gas supply can be subscribed to the gas fields’ importance to the Dutch national economy; the drilling of gas since 1963 resulted in 265 billion euros profit for the Dutch State and in 2014, the Dutch government earned 15 billion euros from the Groningen gas fields [1]. Lucky Netherlands, you would think (actually, they are). But how about the negative consequences of the gas drilling in Groningen?

Figure 1. The effect of gas extraction on earthquakes

Look at figure 1, the gas that is being extracted is stored in a porous layer of sandstone and therefore keeps the earth stable. You should see this porous layer as a layer of balloons and the gas as the air that has been pumped into the balloons. Now imagine you are sucking the air out of the balloons. What will happen? Indeed, the layer of balloons will drop (the red circles) and, as a result, the rest of the Earth will drop and will eventually form itself again. This ‘reforming’ causes the earthquakes (the white circles) experienced nowadays in Groningen, confronting thousands of habitants with fear, desperation, damaged homes and lower property prices. Not yet discussing the risk of dykes breaking because of the tremors [2].

Following the principle of seeking consensus and securing public values, the NAM and the Dutch State should ask themselves how the risk of earthquakes can be minimized to secure the safety of the residents of Groningen and surroundings. They should listen to the opinions of the local population towards a better and sustainable policy on the gas drilling. But do they? Does the NAM listen to the residents of Groningen? Is there the will to make every effort to secure the safety of the Groningen habitants? No! On the contrary, recent study of the Dutch Safety Board shows that the NAM has neglected safety risks for more than 50 years. Together with the State, they were only interested in the revenues they earned [3]. This is a great violation of Responsible Innovation! Instead of seeking consensus with the residents and innovating the gas extraction in a responsible way that’s taking common values and emotions into account, the NAM prefers financial interest and costs as low as possible to human well-being.

Figure 2. Protest against gas drilling

Another point of discussion is the content of the current, often heated, debates about the gas extraction in Groningen. All the solutions thrown in the arena are about whether the gas tap has to be turned off. What I do not hear in those debates are solutions, innovations other than shutting off the gas supply. What about innovations in the gas drilling? Can the space, created in the sandstone layer, be filled with another gas or material so the layer won’t drop? Can there be found another method so earthquakes won’t occur anymore? 265 billion euros profit and a lot of investments in increasing efficiency of the extraction but how about investments in the safety of gas drillings?

What I propose: decrease the amount of gas being drilled in Groningen and invest more in alternative energy sources. If the focus now mainly stays on improving gas extraction, the development of alternative sources, like wind and solar power, will get out of the picture while these alternative energy sources are the real sustainable and safe energy producers. And about filling gaps in expert-laypeople debates: in the case of the Groningen gas extraction there is no such gap. Both parties recognize the dangerous consequences of the gas drillings but the NAM keeps drilling! And I don’t think this is going to change. Why? Because policy nowadays doesn’t protect common public values, morals and emotions, it protects the self-interest of the policymakers.

 

Sources

[1] http://www.nu.nl/politiek/3980615/moet-u-weten-groningse-gas-en-bevingen.html

 

[2] http://www.groenerekenkamer.nl/1819/aardbevingen-nederland-door-gaswinning/

 

[3] http://www.volkskrant.nl/economie/onderzoeksraad-risico-s-gaswinning-groningen-genegeerd~a3853875/

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The social desirable moral overload

Social desirability as the cause of moral overload and its own social desirable effect.

Social desirability as the cause of moral overload and its own social desirable effect.

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Once in my life I have heard someone say: I do not care about the wellbeing of others. I did not know what to think of this; the first that came to mind was that it had to be a joke. But it also made me wonder: why was I so surprised by this statement? It is because most people do care, and it is social desirable to care about others. In the current society people are socially pressured into caring about general welfare. We feel morally obliged to donate money to charity and buy fair trade food. We help our elderly and take care of the new generation.  We are socially pressured to want the best for everyone. Equality is the key. 

This social desirability to care will make it inevitable for us to become morally overloaded.

A moral overload exists when we are confronted by one or multiple situations in which we cannot satisfy all of our morally required goals(Van den hoven, Lokhorst & Van de Poel, 2012). For example you want safety for everyone but you also feel people who made mistakes should be able to get a second chance. This does not always work that well together as seen earlier this week. A woman was beaten to death by a man who was released from preventive detention (AD, 2015; NOS, 2015). In this case the first value, safety, would state that the safety of this woman should be safeguarded. The second value, equal chances, provides that the man deserves a second chance. The Safety value would state that the safety of these women should be safeguarded.  Both sides have a positive and a negative and when choosing either one of these values another value which is also important will be ignored. In this case what would be the best choice: Safety or Equal chances? Questions like this can be the essence of a moral overload. You are socially pressured to care for both this safety and the second chances, but they appear to be opposites of each other.

Now we know why social pressure can cause moral overload, but what is the effect of this moral overload? The moral overload will make sure of two social desirable outcomes:  There will be a better understanding of each other’s opinions and an increase in innovation.

Firstly the existence of moral overload will create a better understanding amongst people.  Imagine As an example I present to you: Kate. You and Kate both consider equal changes and safety as practically equal and both very important, but you both have to choose one over the other. Now you chose equal chances and Kate chose safety.  You and Kate had to struggle with the same decision as you just made. You have considered each other’s arguments because you care about both values. This will improve your understanding of each other’s choices. This understanding for each other’s opinions and choices will be better due to the fact that people will agree with both values behind the choices which caused the moral overload.

Finally after a moral overload has been “solved” by choosing a path moral residue will be left. Moral residue consists of the emotions associated with the unchosen path. It creates an incentive for innovation as a mean to avoid moral overload (Van den Hoven, et al., 2012).  In a way this is related to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the regret over the choice no matter what choice it was. People will do just about anything to avoid the feeling of cognitive dissonance (Forsyth, 2014). This moral residue and cognitive dissonance will work together to force us to innovate. In our despair for a way out of our moral overload and cognitive dissonance might be some of the answers for creating our perfect social desirable involved and equal society.

All in all moral overload can be caused by social desirability and furthermore have the following social desirable consequences: a better understanding and an incentive for responsible innovation.

 

List of references

                Forsyth, D. R. (2014). Group Dynamics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

                Van den Hoven, J., Lokhorst, G., & Van de Poel, I. (2012). Engineering and the Problem of Moral Overload. Science and engineering ethics, 18, 143-155. DOI 10.1007/s11948-011-9277-z

 

                Unknown Author from AD. (2015). Ex tbs-er slaat vrouw doo den steekt prostituee neer. Found on 21-10-2015 at: http://www.ad.nl/ad/nl/1012/Nederland/article/detail/4166734/2015/10/20/Ex-tbs-er-slaat-vrouw-dood-en-steekt-prostituee-neer.dhtml

 

                Unknown Author from RTL Nieuws. (2015). Hoeveel zin heeft het opleggen van tbs. Found on 21-10-2015 at: http://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/binnenland/hoeveel-zin-heeft-het-opleggen-van-tbs

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Genetic engineering, a problem solver or a problem causer?

The food-crisis keeps many busy everyday. There are still a lot of people who suffer of hunger. Around the world, 842 million people do not have enough of the food they need to live an active, healthy life. About 98% of these people live in developing countries (1). Do we need innovation to solve this, or will this create more problems?

The food-crisis keeps many busy everyday. There are still a lot of people who suffer of hunger. Around the world, 842 million people do not have enough of the food they need to live an active, healthy life. About 98% of these people live in developing countries (1). Do we need innovation to solve this, or will this create more problems?

Genetic modified paprika

A few years ago a new concept was invented that should solve a lot of the food- crisis issues: genetically modified food or GM foods. The literal meaning: GM-foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism. Since the beginning of times humans have genetic modified animals and plants, but only from the same species. With this new technique they can create new variants by transferring genetic material from one organism to another. For example, fish have a gene that has the ability to tolerate frost. Such a gene-implant makes it possible for vegetables to grow a variety of vegetables still under much colder and harsh conditions (2).

A lot of problems around the world can be solved with this modern way of producing food. Or does it cause more problems of which we didn’t think off?

 GroenLinks, a political party in the Netherlands, thinks different about this subject. It claims that GM-foods are a major threat to biodiversity. The GM-foods have no natural enemies, so they overgrow other crops and threaten to disrupt the natural balance. These are serious issues that can be remedied by forbidding the GM-foods (3).

 GroenLinks and other people claim that GM-foods also create unfair competition for farmers in developing countries. But can’t GM-foods be a good thing for developing countries? For example, if food can be designed for extreme drought, farmers will have an advantage of this new innovation.

 A lot of people are scared for this new innovation because they think it’s against nature. GM-foods are an example of moral overload. We want to have economic growth, but it must go on a natural way. It is always important with new innovations to think of the advantages and disadvantages.

I think innovation is a step-by-step process. The innovation of GM-foods is a beginning problem solver for developing countries, but needs new innovation to solve the problem-causers. It is an challenge for people to keep innovative to solve the problems of tomorrow.

 

 

Sources:

1. 18-03-2015. Quick facts: What you need to know about global hunger. Source: http://www.mercycorps.org/articles/quick-facts-what-you-need-know-about-global-hunger

2. 02-04-2001. Genetisch Gemodificeerd voedsel... wat is het en is het veilig? Source: http://www.echt-nieuws.nl/mens1.htm 

3. Groen-links information about genetic modification: https://groenlinks.nl/standpunten/genetische-manipulatie

4. Image GM paprika made by Lisa Gerards

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Water on Mars

Column on the dilemma of water on Mars

Column on the dilemma of water on Mars

Water on Mars

Water on mars

You might have already heard about it in the news. Lately Nasa made the announcement that they had found strong evidence of flowing water on Mars. What they found was that certain dark streaks had been formed while photographing the same area over a couple of years. These streaks are made out of hydrated salts which flow in the hot season and ebb in the cold season. The water is not water as we know it, but it is briny water. In other words, very salty water.

 

What does this mean though, finding flowing water on Mars? In the present moment we see liquid water as one of the building blocks required for life. Since there has now been found liquid water on Mars, the main question that rises is; Is there also life on Mars? The first reaction I had was that we should send a rover to the area where the water has been discovered to find out! Point is, we cannot.

We cannot do this because of certain rather ironic regulations. These regulations tell us that areas on other planets where liquid water has been found no direct contact can be made to prevent possible contamination with Earth life. This is because the spacecraft that got the rovers to Mars may have brought along some earthly microbes. The procedures necessary to prevent this are not yet applicable to the present day spacecraft.

But how long do we wait before a certain innovation allows us to achieve these procedures? Perhaps it will take another twenty years before we can actually send something there that can analyse these areas and give us the answer to the question whether there is life on Mars. I am asking myself the question whether it is worth the wait.

When life is found on Mars, researchers will have their hands full for the coming time on revising so much theories. For example how life on Earth originated, perhaps we ourselves are Martians after all. These are questions that have the possibilities of changing humanity as a whole. We should not wait with trying to get answers for this. Of course, when one wrong contact would compromise the entire Martian ecosystem, precautions should be made.

 

Currently there a lot of regulations regarding extra-terrestrial research. I believe these should be revised with the current announcements about water on Mars. They should be revised because this research could provide key insights into questions that might define life on Earth itself.

 

Bas Krijnen

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Wind parks and their recipe to success

In this column the wind park problem is explained. The problems and solutions of the NIMBY effect and the gap between laypeople and experts are discussed about. In the end there is a short summary of the column.

In this column the wind park problem is explained. The problems and solutions of the NIMBY effect and the gap between laypeople and experts are discussed about. In the end there is a short summary of the column.

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What to do when you have a problem and you cannot find a solution? A solution might be to innovate. You will innovate yourself out of your problems. But even when you innovate you will have boundaries. Sometimes you cannot do both A and B. That is the same with moral overload. We want too much and because of that engineers are having moral overload problems. We should not put too much pressure at them. We should accept the fact that we cannot always get what we want to. This is almost like a spoiled child that wants everything and you keep giving everything to the child. The child will never learn to accept that you cannot get everything you want.

The same problem are we facing, for example, with the CO2 emission problem. We want less CO2 but a wind park cannot be built in our backyard. The customers demand too much. But on the other hand companies should also listen more to the customers. You have to listen to the citizens of that neighbourhood where you plan to build a wind park to hear what their concerns are. There are risk scholars that have argued that laypeople have a different, but equally good rationality as experts. Laypeople often think more with emotions than the experts. Emotions can be based at rationality and therefore we should take emotions seriously in account. Emotions are not necessarily a threat to rationality. So now we know that emotions are important, are they the key to overcome the big gap between laypeople and experts and make a wind park possible? I think emotions are indeed the key to overcome this gap. When you take emotions serious, the laypeople will notice it and feel that their concerns are taken seriously in account. You will also overcome the NIMBY effect. This effect is the ‘not in my backyard’ effect that a lot of people have when, for example a wind park is planned to be built in your neighbourhood. The acceptability of such a wind park project is determined not only by the characteristics of the technology but also by the decision-making procedure. Are you fair, transparent and other factors decide whether people will feel that the decision-making procedure has been ‘good’. A lot of people think that the NIMBY effect is because of bad information distribution. So the engineer will probably focus in his communication on providing technical facts and explain the safety of the project. Yet, actually, the public may be more concerned about procedural issues, such as fairness and transparency. The engineer should therefore focus more on the procedural questions.

So to wrap it up,  the citizens should be less demanding. And the  engineers should not give only technical information but also procedural information ,guarantee that procedure will be good and take laypeople and their emotions more serious.  This can be the recipe to make more wind parks and safe the environment!

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Dilemmas of Moral Overload and the Role of Emotions and Values in Decision Making – The Colorado River

In this column the role of emotions and values in decision making will be explored using the example of the (mis)management of the Colorado river waters.

In this column the role of emotions and values in decision making will be explored using the example of the (mis)management of the Colorado river waters.

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With climate change on the rise, bringing with it more frequent extreme weather events, many nations have refocused their attentions on water security, sustainable agriculture and environmental protection. Rivers all around the world have been, or are being, changed directly or indirectly through human activities. Hydroelectric and other types of dams aim to supply a steady amount of renewable energy, while also creating a buffer of stored water for when drought hits. However, the building of dams can affect communities and habitats both human and natural, and often have unforeseen consequences. Moreover, the siphoning of water into canals for irrigation from many of the world’s largest rivers has reduced these to a trickle. In many communities, agriculture is the local employer and, therefore, communities depend on and demand a steady supply of water.

A prime example of a river, on which 30 million people depend to varying extents in seven U.S. states and Mexico, is the Colorado River. It is one of the most controlled rivers on Earth, supplying cities such as Las Vegas with water as well as to the areas immediately around the river. As Las Vegas continues to grow, it becomes very clear that it could not exist without a constant input of water from the Colorado and hydropower from the Hoover Dam, built in 1936 (the largest dam at the time of construction). Over time, cities have grown and technologies have been developed, driving up demand for dwindling water resources. Moreover, over the last decade, the South West of the United States and much of Mexico have seen severe droughts that have caused the river to become depleted at an accelerated rate. Water levels in the two largest artificial reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powel are so low that they threaten supplies for major cities. At this point, the river no longer reaches theGulf of California and many in Mexico are feeling the effects of upriver greed.

However, the issue is not one-sided and many values and factors must be addressed when deciding on next steps. Originally, settlers in both Mexico and the USA were given clear water rights, which were handed down to their children; many exist today in their original form. However,  each U.S. state as well as Mexico have been competing for water rights since then. The result is that the water has been over-allocated. Many farmers are parts of families, which have been in the area for over a century and so, naturally, may respond emotionally in addition to economically, in an attempt to defend their rights. These private landowners, thus, conflict with the public over freshwater. Moreover, politicians are not in favour of curbing water distribution for their own constituents as this would affect jobs, life style and ultimately their popularity among the people. Additionally, communities upriver are not as affected as those further downriver and often suggest the lack of water downriver is not their problem. As one can clearly see, this is a case of moral overload with very real and severe consequences and institutional systems with counterproductive incentive structures.

Water managers are attempting to address growing challenges associated with urban sprawl, climate change and cross-community compromises. Moreover, a collection of affected and interested parties has begun working on the rejuvenation of the Colorado ecosystems by restoring a portion of water to the Colorado, in an attempt to regenerate the dried up delta. Parties on both sides of the border have started to acknowledge that the river’s health plays a critical role. While politicians in California and other U.S. states have imposed restrictions on household water consumption, many persons active in the relatively powerful agribusiness, have been left unrestricted. It seems that, because of lobbying or perceived dangers to local economies, some individuals are made to suffer more than others. It leaves open some very glaring questions: What is the purpose of a river? Who owns it? Who decides how it can be used? And most importantly: Who restricts usage when times are tough? What is clear is that any appropriate solutions cannot rely solely on hard facts, cold numbers and pure economic rationality; emotions and values such as compassion and fairness must play their part.

 

Sources:

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2015/09/colorado-river-lifeline-running-dry-150928152039674.html

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/change-the-course/colorado-river-map/

Images:

http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/752752/24542076/1395066685017/Lake_Mead_after_11_years_of_drought.jpg?token=kW9xxzbatPABkIUdzUpfEemEgkQ%3D

http://www.disputedwaters.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/DW_2010-11-01_MG_1774.jpg

conservationco.org

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Emotions vs Rationale: Nuclear Energy and future Fukushima disaster?

Emotions always seem to come into play when discussing technologies, even in instances where it may appear to be arguing factual information. However, it must be heeded especially when considering nuclear energy. How much can nuclear energy contribute while minimizing risk and moral damage?

Emotions always seem to come into play when discussing technologies, even in instances where it may appear to be arguing factual information. However, it must be heeded especially when considering nuclear energy. How much can nuclear energy contribute while minimizing risk and moral damage?

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When discussing technologies, it is necessary to take emotions into account; along with the available factual information on implementation, risks, and development. These notions will be expanded onto nuclear energy, more specifically on how emotions come into play and debate the enactment on this form of innovation. 

 

The disaster in Fukushima was a recent memory on how much nuclear energy has become such a hotly debated topic with regards to technology and societal change. This atrocity was in fact significant however, as this brought the attention to how nuclear energy must be fully prohibited ; since accidents were previously said to be nil. It must not be that simple, as agents are split into two forms of thinking: either ignoring the risks and repercussions of nuclear energy or using it as enough evidence to completely prohibit it. However, the general public are too irrational and too emotional to have a full on debate on the risks and safety. Still, distributing risks and benefits on nuclear technology cannot be based on purely quantitative analysis. Ethical considerations must be accommodated to allow for a more rational judgement on a cost-benefit analysis on the risky technology. Hence, emotions do come into play as it pertains to the perception of risk by general society. Psychological research has even further stated that emotions are in fact necessary to make common and moral observations and judgments. The general public hence must not be ignored, their judgement is stemming far from a quantitative point of view, rather that of emotions. 

No innovative technology comes without a risk, but the general public have taken extreme outlooks on nuclear energy for good reason. Fukushima served as a target to refute the means of implementing nuclear energy, while others see the vast benefits it can bring as it pertains to efficiency and long-term safety. Finding a right balance to include risk emotions in nuclear power judgement would have to include several options. A strong starting point would be to use emotions as a starting point in all debates about nuclear energy. This ensures that stakeholder agents are taken into account before quantitative analysis and facts are presented. Will this suffice?

Perhaps another option would be to make a wide range of people in the general public more emotionally aware of the effects nuclear technology can bring to society as a whole. This can be done through various communication media such as newspapers, billboards, and various forms of literature. This can help bridge the gap between the two conflicting outlooks, and ensure prosperous experimentation into the fields of renewable resources responsibly and emotionally-conscious.

These discussed issues and the example of Fukushima can serve to apply better arguments for the debate on nuclear energy. A forward-looking approach and responsible experimentation would focus on more specific conditions under which responsibly implementing nuclear energy might be fully acceptable. With regards to democratic debates, emotions of agents should further be taken seriously and make emotions the starting point in debates about nuclear power. This will then provide a medium for focus on purely important ethical issues that need to be addressed and discussed. This will pave the way, in the end, for a more fair and rational debate on nuclear energy and how it can be applied appropriately.

 

 

 

 

 

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What makes emotions as important as rationality?

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Haven’t you heard people saying this kind of phrase before? “You are too emotional, think logically”. I am sure you have heard it at least once in your life. There are people who cannot control your emotion and shout or behave violently. Of course this should not happen. However if you use rationality to commit a crime it is also as bad as being emotional. Both emotion and rationality can lead to negative impacts in the end.


People chose to pick rationality over emotion because it is more useful and reliable way to judge individual talent. In 1912, the psychologist William Stern introduced a concept of measuring human intelligence by using IQ (Intelligence-Quotient) in German. IQ tests are not assessed based on knowledge rather logical thinking process. Raven's Progressive Matrices is a famous non-verbal group test with many different types of questions. One of questions can be finding out certain patterns from figures. After that, IQ became a common tool to assess how smart people are in society such as school, education institutions and even media like television shows.


It is possible to pick talented individuals through IQ but most of time people have to live by relying on each other by adapting in a society. This means people cannot survive by themselves if they do not help out each. IQ fails to judge how well people can actually work together as a team. This can be measured by using Emotional Intelligence which was emerged in 1990s. I believe EI came out because we deserve to be happy and have ambition in our work compared to the past. There are less repetitive jobs such as simplistic tasks in a factory and doing same process over and over. With low level of EI, being in teams can lead to conflict, miscommunication and loss of work productivity whereas with high level of EI, people are trying to solve problems actively thus it leads to high creativity and innovation.


Likewise not only IQ is an important tool to distinguish individual talent but also EQ. They are both equally significant when it comes to judge a person. In terms of responsible innovation, responsibility needs to consider many facts and different types of stakeholders as well as various circumstances which mean it needs rationality whereas innovation requires creative and passion for technology which obviously comes from emotion.

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TTIP: weighing facts and emotions

On how to avoid the technocratic and populist pitfall in the case of TTIP.

On how to avoid the technocratic and populist pitfall in the case of TTIP.

A poultry processing plant in France. Europe banned treating chicken carcasses with chlorine in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer. Copyright Christophe Di Pascale/Corbis

Last week, while scrolling through my Facebook timeline, an event invitation popped up: “10-10: Sound the alarm against TTIP!” Triggered by this title, I clicked on the pop-up and landed on the page of a protest organized by, among others, Greenpeace, FNV (the Dutch labor union) and the political parties SP and GroenLinks. I’d heard about TTIP before, but it definitely got my full attention when I saw over 9000 people are attending the protest.

Although TTIP is a hot topic, some of you might not have heard about it before. TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, which is a free trade agreement the European Union and the United States are negotiating about since 2013. The general idea of this agreement is to make mutual trade between the EU and the US easier, mostly by abolishing import tariffs and reconciling product regulations and standards.

Sounds like a good idea, you might think. Especially when you know that the EU and the US trade goods and services worth hundreds of billions of euros per year. A free trade agreement will therefore most likely result in economic growth, more jobs, cheaper products (new pair of Nikes, anyone?) and new opportunities for small and medium enterprises.

However, free trade comes with a price. There are concerns that the agreement will lead to a decrease in standards in the areas of food safety, environment, privacy and working conditions. An issue that has come up a lot is “chlorine chicken”: in the US poultry is sanitized in chlorinated water, something that has been banned in the EU since the 1990s and is now considered disgusting by most Europeans.

Furthermore, TTIP includes the so-called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a legal instrument that allows companies to claim compensation if a foreign government changes regulations that affect their investments negatively. A lot of people are concerned that this will limit the space a democratic government has to change its laws.

The governments of the EU would do good to take these concerns very seriously. Although free trade agreements between the EU and other countries have been signed in the past (e.g. with South-Africa, Mexico and Chili), TTIP would be by far the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated, covering about half the entire world GDP(!!). In this sense, TTIP can be considered a major institutional innovation, that might set an example for a lot of trade deals yet to come. It therefore deserves all the attention it can get, in order to negotiate the deal in such a way that all stakeholders are taken into account. Not only the economists and technocrats that seem to only be interested in how much money can come out of this deal, but in particular the citizens of the EU, who are afraid of the effects TTIP might have on their lives. Our governments should not dismiss their emotions as irrational, because they can indicate important moral aspects of this innovation and might shed a new light on the negotiations. In other words, the “technocratic pitfall” should by all means be avoided. On the other hand however, policy makers also have to watch out for the “populist pitfall”, by acknowledging these concerns too easily and concluding that this risky innovation cannot be implemented because there is no public support. What politicians should do, is take public concerns seriously and integrate them in an open and broad debate, by asking the opinions of citizens, social organizations, experts, scientists, etc.

Given the fact that a European citizens’ initiative against TTIP has already been signed by 3 million people, there is a long way to go until an agreement can be reached that will satisfy this part of our society that is clearly motivated to stop TTIP altogether. I wish our politicians success and above all, wisdom with respect to this decision. Now all that is left for me, is to consider if I find this protest on the 10th of October worth the effort of getting up early and taking the train all the way to Amsterdam. Who knows, I might see you there!

Image: A poultry processing plant in France. Europe banned treating chicken carcasses with chlorine in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer. Copyright Christophe Di Pascale/Corbis

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Improve your decisionmaking with emotions

Our emotions influence our decisionmaking. If you want to make better decisions, keep the following things in mind.

Our emotions influence our decisionmaking. If you want to make better decisions, keep the following things in mind.

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There are many studies on how emotions influence the decisions people make. It like to show you some examples. A lot of us will have to make important decisions and we are obliged to make them in a responsible way. I hope this will help you.

We accept the default choice

Deciding takes afford. This effort is considered too much for our brain. We’d rather not decide, so we’re are likely to pick the default option if it’s already been chosen for us. A clear example is this.


This is a graph showing the percentage of drivers who are willing to donate organs after they die. You can see a clear distinction between the 4 countries on the left and the rest. It turns out these countries asked their citizens in some way the follow question:
“Check the box if you want to participate in the organ donor program”
Other countries with a high percentage of donors asked in some the this question:
“Check the box if you don’t want to participate in the organ donor program”

People are lazy in their decisionmaking. When we get offered to many choices, the same thing happens – we  shut down, unable to decide. In turns out we often end up simply choosing the default option, just to get the process over and be done with it. If you want to know more about this example and others watch this TED talk from Dan Ariely: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_asks_are_we_in_control_of_our_own_decisions#t-292801 (5 min in)

We make better choices in the morning and make worse decisions over time

In the morning, a chemical in our brain called serotonin is at its natural high. It helps to calm our brain. This is a good thing because we feel less risk averse in the morning due to the serotonin in our brains, so we can take risks and make harder choices early in the morning. In this clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SS4F1U5FuNM#at=141) Baba Shiv explains this more and has some more tips on improving your decision making during the day.
During the day a phenomenon called “decision fatigue” occurs. What happens is  that willpower, focus, concentration and working on problem-solving are all coming from the same pool of cognitive resources. This is a scarce resource that’s easily depleted. Roy Baumiester and John Tierney wrote a book on decision fatigue. The said:

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy.”

Enough breaks during problem-solving/decision-making activity are therefor really necessary. Keep this in mind next time you are working on problem, since you’re mostly not consciously aware that your brain is getting tired.

Being hungry is bad for decision-making

During the breaks it’s good to eat something. One of the funny things about how our bodies work, is that sometimes feelings or states of being can spill over from one area to another. Our physical desires work like this. If we’re feeling hunger, thirst or sexual desire, for instance, it can actually spill over into the decision areas of our brains, making us feel more desire for big rewards when we make choices. This can lead us to make higher-risk choices and to want for more. The financial crisis is caused by bad lunches in investment banks (joke).

Full bladder = better decisions

Controlling your bladder makes you better at controlling yourself when making decisions about your future , according to a study to be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Mirjam Tuk, of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, conducted an experiment where participants either drank five cups of water (about 750 milliliters), or took small sips of water from five separate cups. Then, after about 40 minutes—the amount of time it takes for water to reach the bladder—the researchers assessed participants’ self-control. Participants were asked to make eight choices; each was between receiving a small, but immediate, reward and a larger, but delayed, reward. For example, they could choose to receive either $16 tomorrow or $30 in 35 days.

The researchers found that the people with full bladders were better at holding out for the larger reward later. Other experiments reinforced this link; for example, in one, just thinking about words related to urination triggered the same effect.

According to Tuk you seem to make better decisions when you have a full bladder, so if you’re in a problem-solving/decision-making session, drink enough water and don’t allow bathroom breaks.

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Shut up with your fricking horror stories!!

Fear

Fear shouldn’t be what drives our actions. But it does. Do you ever notice that the news on television is always so depressing, negative and scary? And why they never show us the beautiful story’s about cute little adorable puppy’s? Why they always show terrorism, wars and actions of IS nowadays? It’s because the devilish who are committing such awful crimes are smarter than us. They use propaganda to mislead our people and to get attention. And wow, its working as hell! They get more attention than Barack Obama.

What the hack is going on? How stupid could we be? The tactic of terrorists is working. Media is thinking: forwarmed is forarmed. Well no! What is even worse is when there is actually nothing going on, they create news by repeating old news and by making a mountain out of a molehill. This way everything is blown up and people start panicking again. Please! Let bygones be bygones. What is wrong with: no news is good news?

If you are giving the devilish an inch, he will take a yard. No need for him to take a yard… Now the media give terrorists an inch and the media will make a yard out of it. Terrorists know how they get attention, so they will continue by spreading fear through our media. The leopard does not change its spot, they will continue until our media will stop giving attention (which will never happen because they find money more interesting than taking care). Playing with people’s emotions is so fricking easy. You can make people so afraid by releasing awful stories, which are so believable when you hear it in the news.

My grandma always says: “In my early days we had no problems as these and everything felt so much safer”. Wrong! Of course we had problems comparable like this 60 years ago (without the modern technologies), but we didn’t know cause we had less media and only newspapers. However, the important question is: Is this problem the fault of technology which makes spreading information easier or is this the fault of how humanity deals with this technology? I think it’s the last one. Technology always has a risky side, but in this case humanity uses the risky side. If I were media, I should use the beautiful side of technology, spreading information about the amazing things in life. I think I would earn a lot of money by it. Honest? People are sick of the bad news.

Please media, tell some nice cute stories about little butterflies. And please people, take news with a grain of salt. It’s all bullshit. 

CHECK THE ATTACHED FILE FOR A VISUALISED SUMMARY

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You know the truth by the way it feels

What is that strange gut feeling and why do we listen to it?

What is that strange gut feeling and why do we listen to it?

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We make decisions by thinking long and hard, looking up every piece of evidence and analyzing all aspects. Science and proof is what we want to see, facts, facts and more facts. Only then can we make a rational well thought out decision, only then do we make the right choice. Emotions on the other hand are not welcome to the decision making table, they are not rational and too subjective. Only someone that is weak, naïve or even foolish would use their emotions to make an important decision. We have all heard this time and time again : facts over feelings. But through all the sharp evidence and cold analyses, we forget to think - and feel - where those thoughts actually come from. Might it be possible that deep down inside we all are weak, naïve and foolish?

To clarify this, there are two kinds of decision making. One, as mentioned above, requires research and careful thought as to reach feasible outcomes. The other simply relies on the gut. Call it a hunch, an intuition, or an instinct—we sometimes don’t even know why we feel that way, yet the feeling can be so compelling, so strong, that it moves us to act. But why? The key feature of intuition is that it operates automatically on a subconscious level, quite differently from deliberately thinking. Deliberately thinking is bound to a persons capacity of memory and information. We can only think in a sequences, focusing on one piece after the other. Whilst when our intuition kicks in, multiple pieces of information come together simultaneously and switches on a bundle of sensors in our body. Thus explaining that strange pull we feel in our stomach when we sense something is dangerous or familiar.

What we often forget though is that when we feel, we think at the same time. Feeling is where our thoughts begin and are slowly shaped, it is a sense humans have grown and evolved with through millions of years. All individuals have that one feeling through which they subconsciously make decisions, that one feeling that comes from the centre of their body. We forget that we are not only our minds, but come as a whole with our bodies. And our bodies often tell us more than our minds. May it be fear, anger or pride, it is the feeling we feel when we have to make a strong personal decision and have to decide what is best for us. That decision is strongly influenced by the deepest feeling we feel in our gut, the feeling we trust the most. 

Now don’t get me wrong. We should not run around making decisions based solely on our feelings, it is not for nothing we have 3 pounds of gray matter stuck in our skulls. Feelings and rational thinking should go hand in hand. Humans often forget the things that matter most in our busy lives, the things that actually make us humans. Our thoughts, our feelings and our body. By connecting all these dots together, is when we function optimally. Completely ignoring our feelings or bodies, make us overlook certain things that we don’t see when we are only looking at the facts on a black and white sheet of paper . Humans are not black and white, so why should we act as if decisions are? After all our gut has gotten us this far, might as well keep listening to it, right?

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A healthy mix of emotions and rationale

It’s a very emotional time we live in right now. There is a lot to say about the refugees which are coming to Europe. Europe has already taken up at least three hundred forty thousand refugees, and there is more to come. The situation in the Middle-East is very unstable and the recent crimes in different places in Europe are bringing the safety issue to the forefront of our thoughts. It would be nice if the government would take our thoughts and emotions in mind!

It’s a very emotional time we live in right now. There is a lot to say about the refugees which are coming to Europe. Europe has already taken up at least three hundred forty thousand refugees, and there is more to come. The situation in the Middle-East is very unstable and the recent crimes in different places in Europe are bringing the safety issue to the forefront of our thoughts. It would be nice if the government would take our thoughts and emotions in mind!

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I saw the general considerations of our parliament last week, and what I say that there were just a few politicians who really uses their emotions and the emotional feelings of others to bring their story. The rest of them were just watching (their phones) and looking bored. If you compare that to the British parliament, then our politicians are just impassive machines, throwing up their story every time.

History has shown that using the emotions of people can lead to big happenings. What Hitler did was terrible and disgusting, but his way of presenting his ideas was stimulating. He uses the emotions of the people who were sick of the economic malaise and the condescension to the rest of the world after World War II. Vladimir Putin is doing the same. It’s a cruel man but he gives the Russians their self-esteem back, by setting them off against the Western countries, namely the United States. It is all about looking what people want and using that for a goal.

With that, I don’t mean that we have to do it like them, but in a time where our safety isn’t that much secure anymore, the government has to take into account the emotions of the citizens. When safety is at stake, it is not a good sign to the people that we, in the end, save on our Defence, despite of a little growth in the Defence budget. Also the quarrel with the police force about their salary isn’t a good way of giving the people the idea that we care about national safety and maintenance.

Because of that, the government should take into account the concerns of the people. In these days, everyone benefits from a clear vision which incorporates the thoughts of the people, not just calculated decisions. In a multiform land as The Netherlands, we have a lot of different people and cultures, and we have to take all of them serious. We always want to keep our heads cool, but emotions can lead to faster and more convincing decision making.

I should say, let the politicians start by really listening to each other during a very important political event for the whole country, like the general considerations!

 

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The role of emotions in innovation

Emotions are important in our society and personal lives. Nonetheless we often see emotion in innovations as hindering. This is a wrong perception because without emotions there would be no innovations.

Emotions are important in our society and personal lives. Nonetheless we often see emotion in innovations as hindering. This is a wrong perception because without emotions there would be no innovations.

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The role of emotion in innovation

Emotions are mentioned a lot in our society and are important in many peoples lives. Many people are influenced by their emotions. So we all have emotions and we often regard them as important, but are they important in every aspect of our life? Many people would agree that in a relationship emotions are. Or in sports people believe emotions are important as well, to have the determination, to be able to keep up even when it is tough.

Not in every aspect of our society people regard emotions as important. In developing new technologies and identifying the risks, emotions are often seen as not important. It is often regarded as something which holds innovation back not as something positive for innovation. For instance with nuclear energy often researchers see emotion as negative because it prevents them of using their technology. But isn’t emotion embedded in the whole cycle of innovation? Is emotion not even the starting point of innovation? Would we have innovations without emotions?

I believe that all these great ideas, like for instance the invention of the light bulb, started with an emotion. This emotion then triggered creativity and we need creativity to innovate. To be creative, our emotions are very important. When we wouldn’t feel anything about anything we wouldn’t be annoyed, sad, happy, curious, angry etcetera and these are all triggers for creativity. Even more negative emotions can trigger innovation. Without these triggers we could look at things but it wouldn’t make sense to innovate because we wouldn’t care.

So emotions are important to start innovation but I think they are important in the whole cycle of innovation. Not only at the starting point but also when developing the idea into a concrete concept emotions are important. When looking at responsible innovation I believe emotions are even more important. For instance our emotions are based on our moral values which are very important when we want to innovate in a responsible way. Emotions help us identifying risks, embed moral values in the innovation and probably emotions are present in many more parts of the innovation cycle than we realise.

The role of emotions in innovation is often underestimated. Emotions are seen as more important in other aspects of our life but not in innovations. This way of thinking is now changing and the role of emotions in especially responsible innovation is more valued. Still many people see emotions as something negative regarding innovation and so much still has to be done to change this and show the importance of emotions in innovations.

Emotions are important for innovation so we should not under-value emotions when innovating but use them and regard them as important in the process, from the start until the end. Our emotions trigger creativity and in that way trigger innovation. So cherish emotions in innovations for without them we wouldn’t have any innovations.

 

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Flipping emotions through information

Emotions negativily influences the support of an innovation. how can these irrational thought be turned into soppurt

Emotions negativily influences the support of an innovation. how can these irrational thought be turned into soppurt

irrational thought

Flipping emotions through information 

 

New technologies always raise question such as what they are meant for, what they do and what the possible negative side-effects   could be. What I find fascinating is the emotional warning function that people pose , which is the  irrational thought, the feeling that something is not right or even more  dangerous. These thoughts prevent the permission to execute and cannot be expressed properly. 

I would like to clarify  this with an example I came across recently. In 2010,  shale gas provided 20 % of the natural gas  production. This natural gas  that is found in  trapped within shale formations  has become increasingly important. But when they   started drilling for shale gas they did not for see  negative side effects  which caused contaminated water, pollution and  the area used for drilling. 

What happens afterwards is even more interesting. Here,  in the Netherlands we found shale gas as well and because of the fact that the drilling of our own natural gas  could benefit the independence and economy of our country, the government was interested in the drilling of shale gas.   

But then came the anti-shale gas propaganda about how dangerous and harmful shale gas could be. the propaganda evinced showed  that water out from an  ordinary water faucet could catch fire because of the shale gas pollution in the water,  which is used for drilling the shale gas.

I would like to inform you that I am not making anything ridiculous, but these messages from other countries which showed the consequences of shale gas strikes fear in the local residents and they have all reasons to be afraid. 

the thing that is missing is key information. The people who have their concerns, based on single-sided  information, creates  irrational thoughts based on emotions which is considered ordinary . These people  feel the need to protect themselves from possible future damage .

the things that are missing are all the new breakthroughs on drilling shale gas and how safe it has become . According to several sources, shale gas compared to other natural gasses  and drilling methods is far more safe and better for the environment. When looking at the possible impacts on the human health, experiments prove that coal has a far more damaging average  on air quality than  shale gas or natural gas. When mining coal this could radically alter landscapes  and whole mountains and wind turbines use just slightly less land  area then a shale gas derrick . Also a shale gas derrick will  only  stands for just 30 days whereas  wind turbines could stand  for 20 to 30 years. Also there has been a lot of research in how to drill shale gas without polluting the water.

frankly, when I had realized the impact of the drilling of shale gas, I was also apprehensive . This is because of  all the negative effects that you see and remember . But after doing more background reading I concluded  that this  no longer applied. My irrational emotional  thoughts were put to rest after I knew the current safety measures and possible  benefits.

In my opinion, when debating with all stakeholders involved, and when emotions hinder the implementation. Is to go deeper into these emotions, where lies the anxiety and how could or is this already prevented. By doing so emotions are put to a rest and the support could be increased substantially. 

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Column 2/7:The Renaissance of emotions; Beginning of a Responsible Revolution?

A chance to get amused, surprised and be carried away from a safe distance, by the opportunities and challenges that take place at the Responsible Innovation minor.
Driven by the motto of the Faculty of Social Sciences; 'Discover people. Discover society!' an Erasmus Student is trying not to get lost in the new world of Technology, Policy and Management.

A chance to get amused, surprised and be carried away from a safe distance, by the opportunities and challenges that take place at the Responsible Innovation minor.
Driven by the motto of the Faculty of Social Sciences; 'Discover people. Discover society!' an Erasmus Student is trying not to get lost in the new world of Technology, Policy and Management.

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                                                                                                                          Strangely, when it comes to an in-class student to student interaction in the second week of the course, students attempts to express feelings cause a great deal of ridiculous, unexpected, funny but most of all revolutionary moments.Some scholars of the Responsible Innovation (R.I.) Minor 2015, revealed they are incapable of sharing their emotions. On the opposite, observed Facebook behaviour on the LDE course page, they often click there like and share buttons.


First of all
, I would like to use this opportunity to express my gratefulness to the following students in my class: Henk Middelkoop; Jun Watanabe; Olivier Rutgers; Tim Boot; Talitha Kalidien and Igor Konovalov. The questions you asked during your presentation, concerning the impact of values and emotions in the process of innovation, were to me of criticalvalue. As a student of a social faculty, some answers are helpful trying to collaborate in the world of Technology, Policy and Managment. 

 Houston, we got a problem! The first useful information resulted out of this question you asked at the start of the second presentation: Would you rather prefer the world without any problems or ruled by yourself? "Wow, A massive smash in my face by 'This blast from the past for dictatorship' made me dazed and confused. I tried to understand what just happened. "Do American R.I students learned nothing from their history lessons?"  I attempted to grab a table when looking at the two American students explaining their cruel choice to the rest of the class.  I looked around to find other victims hit by this ridiculous idea. Already a next question asks my attention. This one would induce so much disgust by my fellow students that it shaped my theory that was about to get born. 'Can you give an example, where your decision is established based on your emotions instead of using rational thinking.'  A common manifestation of class hysteria occurred when the R.I's experienced similar like kinds of 'Moral overload'1. The spontaneous burst of hysterical reactions such as; "I never respond with emotions!" "What are these guys thinking?" "I do not show emotions in public." ‘This is not something to share.’  Readings for this week provided me with a theoretical framework build from value sensitive design and The Not In My Backyard phenomenon2. Today's experiences with the R.I students and their attitudes towards emotions made me scared for future collaborations in the course. 

 

The legendary words of the teacher and until that time undiscovered Revolutionist; Caroline Neverjan, finally puts a grip on this Engineer approach to emotions. With a great deal of gravity in her voice, she forced everyone to stop the hysteria and pay attention to the legendary words she was about to say; 'You all have Emotions; You are humans, You are not robots!!.'  An overwhelming feeling of relief hit me when these words caused a Renaissance. It thrived the students to adapt their opinions by considering that Engineers might like emotions in their Own Back Yards. A Renaissance gave birth to a new mindstate that encouraged the importance of the use of emotions and values in responsible innovation. 

This column is the first to publish about the 2015 R.I. Renaissance and Revolution. This uniquely discovered phenomenon reported as; Not So Ridiculous. As well as other minor observations are fully published online in a one-woman blog named: Not So Ridiculous http://notsoridiculousinnovations.com/about/

I will end this column with an open invitation for the entire class to contribute to this blog with your observations and views.

 

1) Hoven, J. V. D., Lokhorst, G.J., Poel, I.V.d., (2011) Science and Engineering Ethics; Engineering and the Problem of Moral Overload. Volume 18, Issue 1 , pp 143-155 

 2)Correljé, A., Cuppen, E., Dignum, M., Pesch, U., & Taebi, B.(Draft version forthcoming book) Values in the Design of Technologies,Institutions and Stakeholder Interactions;Responsible Innovation in Energy Projects;  

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Should we trust our emotions?

Jordi Granés Puig - Emotions have been part of the human nature since its start. They have helped us to take important decisions but, nowadays, psycologists are learning how to influence our emotions. So should we keep on trusting them?

Jordi Granés Puig - Emotions have been part of the human nature since its start. They have helped us to take important decisions but, nowadays, psycologists are learning how to influence our emotions. So should we keep on trusting them?

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Emotions have been a source of inherent wisdom for humanity since its start because they provide insight reasonable moral considerations in a positive or negative way. On one hand sympathy, empathy and compassion can point out unfair distributions of risk and benefits while, on the other hand, fear and anxiety can indicate that a technology is a threat to our well-being. From that approach, emotions appear to be a useful tool to help in our decision making, but should we always trust our them?

Experts point out that emotions have to be considered when taking decisions, but what happens if someone manipulates our emotions? Nowadays the marketing scholars, in association with psychologists, are studying how to call our deepest emotions. It has been studied that emotions have a strong impact on our shopping conduct so the number of establishments that are applying that knowledge to increase the number of sales is growing exponentially despite being ethically reprehensible. Some examples of that applied knowledge are the 25th frame, in which the cinema producers added a 25th frame with advertisements in a normal 24 frame movie to influence our subconscious without allowing us to realize it; the loud music on the clothes shops, because it has been studied that the higher the music is the more money people spend; or the ‘99 prices, a more obvious case in which 29’99€ makes you the impression to be way cheaper than 30€.

Four hundred years ago, the philosopher René Descartes contemplated the option that his senses could have been cheated by an evil demon. Considering that he could not trust his senses anymore, he developed the idea of the methodical doubt, in which he defended that we need to abstain ourselves of judgements and apply the reasoning as the only way to reach the truth. In a similar way, three hundred and fifty years after his death, emotions are being cheated and his theory could be useful to fight against those cheats. But, does it worth?

Emotions are an extremely useful tool that have accompanied us during our whole lives and which we, probably, cannot eject of our mind because they are part of our own nature. In addition, it would be insane to doubt of every single emotion in our lives. Should we doubt when we fall in love for someone? Or when we experience fear while driving very fast with our car? No, of course not.

To sum up, I think that we should trust our emotions but always remembering that someone might be cheating us, that is to say that we have to trust our emotions as part of our human nature but keep trying to think objectively every time we have the chance, especially in our important decisions. The great multinationals are investing lots of money to understand the human brain and they will succeed. Probably nowadays the only cheat that they can do to our brains is impulse us to buy a product that we don’t need, nevertheless we don’t know what the future holds. Trust your emotions but be careful with them, other approaches can be harmful for us, either believing blindly our emotions or doubting about everything.

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Catastrophe with good impact

How Fukushima changed politics in germany

How Fukushima changed politics in germany

Values and norms! They are the most basic institutions which run our society. Values and norms have influence how we see things and what decisions we make. It can be everything from religion over a politic view up to how you greet somebody. Values and norms depend on where you from and what experiences you made in your life. Usually those non written rules of society evolve real slowly. Women rights for example started to change 50 years ago and men and women are still not treated equally everywhere or in every situation. So in order to change them a lot of effort and time is needed. But there are exceptions. Really big events, most of the time catastrophes’, can change those values very fast.

A good example of such a case is the nuclear plant catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan on 11th of March 2011. This catastrophic event did not just have direct influence on the country of Japan and it´s people but it changed the way people think in Germany. It changed the opinion, the norms and values, of people in case of the energy supply of Germany. Back then 40% of the German electricity was produced by nuclear power plants. The German government already planned to shut down all nuclear power plants by 2050 and replace them with renewable energy. After Fukushima that was not enough for the German population. They wanted a more extreme and a faster change in energy supply. Faster shut down of the nuclear power plants and a faster increase of renewable energy. With the population in revolt and Fukushima as catastrophic example which shows the risk of nuclear power, the German government had no choice but reconsider their plan. The result of that reconsideration was that a few nuclear power plants were shut down immediately and the goal of shutting them all down by 2050 was changed to 2030. All experts shook their heads back than because such a fast shift was not considered possible. They did not take into account that it was not a just a governmental decision but a change initiated by the people. Fukushima showed them what the risks and possible outcomes of nuclear power can be. It changed their norms and values from one day to another. That’s why they not only pressured the government to change their plans but tried to make a difference them self’s. Lots of people started installing solar panels and looking for possibility’s to produce their own electricity to make the shift possible. The shift from nuclear energy to green and renewable energy. A shift in norms and values. 

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The Fracking of Moral Values

Innovations can be the cause of many moral values which are encountered by every stakeholder. The case of shale gas fracking offers a perfect image of the challenging ideals and values of the various stakeholders.

Innovations can be the cause of many moral values which are encountered by every stakeholder. The case of shale gas fracking offers a perfect image of the challenging ideals and values of the various stakeholders.

Shale Gas

Historically innovations have often entered society at a controversial level, where the benefits and costs are weighed up against each other. The engineers that put in the time and effort to improve existing technologies are faced with the moral dilemmas that society imposes on their ideas. The work of an engineer is not solely based on the technological part, which seems like the most important factor of an innovation. However without the proper requirements the innovative way of thinking will be seen as insufficient for actual implementation. The classic struggles of finding a balance between safety and efficiency, security and privacy, accountability and confidentiality, are therefore issues of value that engineers and governments are troubled with.

The issues presented by extracting gas through ‘fracking’ in the Netherlands is a clear example of this struggle. The Groningen Gas field was developed in the 1960s and was the largest of its kinds in Western Europe. The Dutch government was pushed to find new ways to extract gas, as there was a growing shortage of natural gas. From the beginning the politics in the Netherlands had been pro-shale gas, as well as the Dutch Energy Council which voiced its support in February 2011(Article on shale gas in the Netherlands). The government and Dutch Energy council in this instance are the parties that identify the upcoming problem, hence agree that changes are necessary and support innovation. The first setback that this innovation faced was the unlawful test drilling performed by a company that had been granted permission by local authority Boxtel. This was soon followed by concerns of Dutch environmental groups, civilians and enterprises complaining about contamination of drinking water, the release of methane as a result of hydraulic fracturing, and the potential triggering of earthquakes. This is where moral overload plays its part, introducing various stakeholders with conflicting goals.

On one hand we have the controlling government, pro-shale gas and innovation, and on the other the stakeholders that are directly affected by the changes imposed by the government. The government is tended to approach the problem with a purely factual method, considering the simple issue of a lack of natural gas and a gap in the energy business which could present a new profit industry. However, seeing as they are not the only stakeholders, they are forced to take into account the emotional factor which cannot be ruled out during debates concerning risky technologies such as fracking. By doing this the balance that I earlier mentioned is regained by weighing the pro’s and con’s against each other in a democratic fashion. The idea of this approach is that it creates a better base for the possible establishment of well-grounded policies. In this way safety is considered yet perhaps at the cost of efficiency, while years go by to create a safe way to extract gas, time and profit are lost. The accountability that is constantly demanded by citizens, business owners and other governments, could negatively affect innovation by withholding ideas from being shared in fear of public disgracement. 

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Innovation Acceptance as a Function of Media Interests and Prevailing Values

In today’s society, emotions, values and ethics greatly influence the public acceptance of new technologies. These can help, hinder, or prevent the design and implementation of an innovative product or service that could potentially benefit mankind. Ranging from accuracy to creativity, values can improve innovation processes while other values can limit them. This is forcing innovators to widen their focus from designing to achieve substantive values such as safety and efficiency to also design to accommodate societal and procedural values.

In today’s society, emotions, values and ethics greatly influence the public acceptance of new technologies. These can help, hinder, or prevent the design and implementation of an innovative product or service that could potentially benefit mankind. Ranging from accuracy to creativity, values can improve innovation processes while other values can limit them. This is forcing innovators to widen their focus from designing to achieve substantive values such as safety and efficiency to also design to accommodate societal and procedural values.

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It’s always sad to see innovations rejected by people being misinformed or by beliefs, traditions or values that dismiss science and the facts. The societal response to new innovations is largely determined by the process that the public is informed and involved. Most of the public watch television, read newspapers and believe they are well informed by these corporate media sources. What most don’t realize is that large media sources corporate goals are to spur profits for the company, not to accurately and fairly report news. 90% of American media is controlled by only 6 corporations! These conglomerates make obscene amounts of profits and in 2010 News Corp avoided $875 million in US Taxes [1] (Please follow link below and view the infographic). Does this sound like an industry that would accurately report news that doesn’t serve their economic interests?

Innovators normally aim to create reliable new technologies that exhibit low risks for operators and surroundings. When quality is taken into the design process, it helps innovators create new products that will last well within the intended time frame. Competition can spur innovation between leading innovators, while it can hinder innovation for smaller firms [2]. Individuality can contribute positively to a design team by adding a larger range and depth of information to an innovation team, while it can contribute negatively to the effectiveness of the use of that information [3]. Some values are a double edged sword, but remain to be implemented in the design process to different extents for their beneficial properties.

Ethics plays an increasing role in innovation, for technologies are being used in more places and in more ways than expected. Designers must consider hypothetical situations that can arise while using their products during the design phase. For example, a private aircraft designed for flight and aerobatics can be modified to spy on people or even used to hurt someone. This raises the dilemma of moral overload for designers and can temporarily spur design, however, this also raises cause for additional innovation within the product to prevent ethical scenarios. While designers cannot prevent every possible scenario involving misuse of their product or service, they should aim to prevent all of them and during routine product use, ethical issues should certainly not arise.

If the information that citizens base their decision making on is incomplete, innovations can be blocked unjustly. To decrease hindrance of innovation by misinformation, beliefs, and values, society and policy makers should be better informed, also innovators should also clearly describe their products. People should utilize the internet and research varied viewpoints to make more educated decisions and beliefs about an innovation before coming to conclusions. Official news outlets need to be liable and responsible for the quality and fairness of their content. Also, public education in many countries should be improved and higher education made more accessible. When dealing with emotional technologies, debates can be arranged with scientists and representatives of the public, beginning with emotional issues. These can systematically be addressed firsthand with facts, then an effective debate on the innovation can be conducted.

Sources:

*Image Source is [1]

  1. Dailyinfographic.com,. 'The Illusion Of Choice [Infographic] | Daily Infographic'. N.p., 2012. Web.      21 Oct. 2015.   URL: http://www.dailyinfographic.com/the-illusion-of-choice-infographic
  2. Aghion, Philippe, et al. Competition and innovation: An inverted U relationship. No. w9269.
         National Bureau of Economic Research, 2002.
  3. Dahlin, Kristina B., Laurie R. Weingart, and Pamela J. Hinds. "Team diversity and information
         use." Academy of Management Journal 48.6 (2005): 1107-1123.
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Greenpeace and the lignite that could

Greenpeace set to buy large-scale lignite mining activities in Germany. A David and Goliath story of an environmental NGO versus the giant corporate world.

Greenpeace set to buy large-scale lignite mining activities in Germany. A David and Goliath story of an environmental NGO versus the giant corporate world.

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Online and physical protests, banners, flags and the occasional complicating of international relations. Greenpeace, protecting the environment since 1971.

Greenpeace is a very large organisation protesting for the protection of the environment and nature. This is usually done through conventional means like organizing largescale protests. However, slightly more unconventional means are also a possibility. Think of boarding Russian oilrigs or occupying coal fired power plants. Greenpeace has no problem reaching the headlines with their actions.

But recently they have announced their largest ambition to date, placing themselves in the bidding war for Vattenfall’s lignite mining activities in Germany.

For those of you who do not know, Vattenfall is one of Europe’s largest energy companies, operating mainly in north-western Europe. Germany is Europe’s largest producer of lignite, or brown coal, a type of fossil fuel usually seen as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide per weight. Combine those two and you get one big polluter. Now, due to developments in the global economy and other factors, Vattenfall has decided to sell its lignite mining activities, together with some hydroelectric stations. For a company that has a turnover of 17+ billion euro’s, you can imagine that these mining sites will not come cheap. Although no number has been released yet, we should probably think about tens or maybe hundreds of millions of euros. That seems like a lot for a single NGO.

Maybe so, but Greenpeace would not be Greenpeace if they did not have out-of-the-box solutions for this dilemma. Besides regular donations, crowdfunding is mentioned as a possibility. And although it all sounds way out of reach for them, they may not even be that crazy. Greenpeace supporters are highly committed, compared to other NGO’s and charities, as evidenced by their largescale protests. If there would be any NGO who could possibly pull this off, it would be Greenpeace. Therefore I do not find it interesting to discuss the who, when and how.

What I do find worth discussing is the following: Should Greenpeace spend enormous amounts of cash buying mining activities? And if they should, what then are the economical and societal consequences?

It does not take a genius to anticipate what Greenpeace will do if and when they acquire these mines. Shut them down. The sole reason for Greenpeace to buy the coalfields in the first place is to make sure the lignite is to remain untouched. This is obviously good for the environment since this will enforce a rise in consumption of other less harmful or sustainable sources of energy. However, one of the potential issues here is that shutting down giant mining activities will turn many thousands of people to the employment agencies. Furthermore, depriving the energy market of a large chunk of the coal supply could potentially shut down power plants resulting in power outages, especially during peak moments.

Whether the ecological benefits weigh out against the economical and societal issues is up for debate. Personally, I would love to see Greenpeace acquire these fields and mines. Not solely for the good of the environment, but also to see the giant, dominating corporate world getting bullied by an environmental NGO.

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Are We Aware?

Technique is shaping our lives.

‘Imagine all the people, living without any techniques. No phone to chat on, no car to drive in. A self-made parody of the song Imagine by John Lennon adjusted to our 21st century. Maybe weird, but nowadays the technique is not PART of our lives, it IS our life. Almost no human being can live without the accessibility to techniques. Actually the technique makes us who we are. Are we aware of that fact?

When thinking about technique, often things like new high-tech devices or machines came to our minds. But the definition of technique is way broader than new products or services. Technique can be seen as the whole societal ordering. This system includes not only the traditional technique, but also the political, economic and social techniques. Within this broad technical system is cohesion. Technique is rooted in our living climate. Take the car: the development of cars is intertwined with the creation of roads, and the importing of oil and the assembly lines we use in the factories.

By having this huge role, technique shapes our lives. It even creates its own norm, namely the norm of order and efficiency. We as human beings firmly belief that the technique can solve everything. Therefore the logic and laws of technique concern above the human responsibility. When there is something technically wrong, ‘no one’ is responsible. So the technique bans out moral values, but no one can be blamed.

The French sociologist Jacques Ellul ones said: ‘Technique never observes the distinction between moral and immoral use. It tends on the contrary, to create a completely independent technical morality.’ Here we see the link with the topics we discuss in class. The question is not: how can moral values and institutions influence technical innovation. Moreover the question is: how influences technique our moral values and institutions. Techniques shapes our thinking. The history shows us technique more and more independently takes the overhand in our society. The more rational and technical we create order, the more tensions within cultures emerge. Tensions like civil wars, the financial crises or personal problems like depression and unemployment.

Some would say this is a pessimist point of view,  but I am convinced it is something we need to discuss when talking about innovation. Saving humanity with new innovations and techniques is a beautiful goal to strive for. But we always have to keep in mind that technique is a mean, not the goal. Let our traditional morals and values be steadfast in this improvement.  Therefore let us be moral human beings, not controlled by a technical norm.   

Corné Smaal / Business Administration / Erasmus University

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Quantum Teleportation, transport of the future?

Quantum is revolution, transport revolution. No more need for airplanes, cars, etc. instead you can be on the other side of the world in just a few seconds. Car crashes will disappear, as well as plane crashes and other traffic related accidents.

Quantum is revolution, transport revolution. No more need for airplanes, cars, etc. instead you can be on the other side of the world in just a few seconds. Car crashes will disappear, as well as plane crashes and other traffic related accidents.

Teleport

Imagine it is the year 2500, the world is in harmony. Most people own a quantum computer, a super-efficient car and flying around the world can be done in just a few minutes. The only thing still missing is the ability to be anywhere in the world in an instance. Scientist are working hard on the quantum teleportation machine. A machine which can transport anybody anywhere in the world in just an instance.

This sounds like it just got out of a science fiction book, or something like Star Trek. In those books or movies you often see that an object or a person steps into a special machine where it disintegrates the person or object while a perfect replica appears somewhere else.

In 1993 a group of scientists researched if the method described in the books and movies would be possible. In those books and movies often a machine is described that would work like a fax machine. The object gets scanned, the data is transferred to another place where an exact copy is created. The original will be destroyed after the scanning process.

The group of six scientists confirmed the majority of science fiction writers by showing that teleportation is indeed possible in principle.

The first time quantum teleportation was demonstrated was in 1997. In 2012 scientists even succeeded to teleport a pair of entangled particles over a distance of 90 miles. Even though scientists are already teleporting certain particles, teleportation for humans is still far away. A group of scientists of the University of Leicester calculated that with current technologies it would take up to 4,85x1015 years.

So human teleportation is still quite far away, but when the technology will be there a lot of moral dilemmas will occur. Would you want to be a test subject for teleportation and be the pioneer in teleportation? Knowing the body you have now will be destroyed and a complete new body will be created, with a small chance you won’t survive.

The risks are quite high with quantum teleportation. A human cell contains about 1,2x1010 bits of information. This contains only enough information to replicate any other cell in your body. This only the physical data. To recreate a person’s mind another 2,6x1042 bits of data is needed. An error in this data is could potentially lead to deadly consequences.

The risks of using this technology will increase costs of use, but for a regular person the device needs to be affordable. There has to be a trade-off about safety and costs. Are people willing to use a device which could be, in the worst case, deadly? Or should the device be extremely expensive, but unaffordable for the regular people?

Quantum is revolution, transport revolution. No more need for airplanes, cars, etc. instead you can be on the other side of the world in just a few seconds. Car crashes will disappear, as well as plane crashes and other traffic related accidents.

What if the teleportation device has a small chance of error. So small it would only be 1/1000th of the current traffic deaths of nowadays. Would you still use it? On the road drivers do not predict their accidents, otherwise they would not drive. The only difference between driving a car and using the teleportation device is the amount of influence you have on your surroundings. Someone who is a terrible driver is more likely to end up in an accident, than someone who is a very safe driver. With the teleportation device you have no control on the device. There is just a small chance it could go wrong.

Knowing quantum teleportation is still very far away for humans, we already must think about the consequences, safety and the target audience. Should the device be affordable, the device will be less safe. Should the device be very safe it will not be affordable for everyone. The quantum teleportation technique is a great way of an alternative way of traveling, but will it be our future?

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Making the decision: Following our head, or our heart?

We are all influenced by our emotions and feelings; it’s what makes us human. But when we’re making decisions, we try to exclude all irrational and uncertain factors in order to make the best decision. This begs the following question: Should we do the same with our emotions? And if not, why are they not irrational?

We are all influenced by our emotions and feelings; it’s what makes us human. But when we’re making decisions, we try to exclude all irrational and uncertain factors in order to make the best decision. This begs the following question: Should we do the same with our emotions? And if not, why are they not irrational?

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"It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision." - Barbara Jordan (1936-1996), Leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Texas House Representative

Barbara Jordan grew up in the 1950s in Texas as someone who was black, female and lesbian, everything the establishment was against at the time. I believe her quote illustrates her struggles against the prejudices people have held against her, calling for reason and a chance to be taken seriously. Moreover, as a successful lawyer, she couldn’t let her judgment be influenced by her emotions and had to defend every client equally well.

This seems ‘reasonable’: When all the facts are on the table, it’s easy to make a cost-benefit analysis and choose the best option. And when it comes to prejudice, emotions will add an unfair negative influence. It gets more difficult however, when not all factors can be expressed in numbers. You need emotions to give values to immaterial things (e.g. happiness) to make the basis of your decision-making more accurate.

"Reason and emotion counsel and supplement each other. Whoever heeds only the one, and puts aside the other, recklessly deprives himself of a portion of the aid granted us for the regulation of our conduct." - Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues (1715 - 1747) French Moralist and Writer

In 17th century France, writers like Blaise Pascal and Duke de La Rochefoucauld were inspired pessimists. Luc de Clapiers was one of the first writers in the 18th Century to fight this trend. He believed in the goodness of the individual, stating that action and deeds (preferably of philanthropic nature) were the way to achieve fulfilment and dignity.

The quote, originating from his book Réflexions et Maximes, seems quite modern for the time, but is actually a revival of what Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle were describing. They tried to find reason behind emotions, stating education is a tool to override emotions. De Clapiers took it even further and stated reason and emotion should be balanced.

In decision-making on issues concerning morals, values and responsibility, emotion will play a large role, and you cannot prioritize them scientifically. Your decision should appease either all your emotional objections or be justified sufficiently to be able to give some emotions more value. By balancing (scientific) facts and emotional prioritization, you can efficiently use, following de Clapiers, all the tools to regulate your conduct. But where do we obtain the knowledge to use those tools efficiently?

Most of what we construct as wisdom over time, is a result of cultivating knowledge of how our emotions behave”- Antonio Damasio – Professor of Neuroscience

Antonio Damasio is a neurologist focused on the human perception of reality. He states awareness is having knowledge of our existence, and of our surroundings’ existence. His quote illustrates (emotional) wisdom as something acquired when making decisions. Every time we make decisions, we assess our emotions, and when the decision is made, we can remember exactly what kind of emotions we had at the time of making the decision. Having the power to remember this, aids us in future decision-making by knowing the power of these emotions on our decisions.

 

It is clear we need emotions when it comes to making moral, ethical and responsible decisions. These are bound to have the involvement of emotions, and by learning from past experiences and balancing emotions with rationality, we can make decisions more efficiently. But when there’s an imbalance, in case of prejudices, or when people repeat quotes that are not backed-up by evidence, emotions can take the overhand, and have a negative influence on our decisions. Should we follow our hearts? Of course! But let rationality check up on it regularly.

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