From Farming to Facebook

CheatingWhen you consider a country that has gone from farming to Facebook, what does that mean? The subject of exploring reality through a technology lens drew a small crowd to the theme of a talk on how technology has affected the American landscape through time.

“What’s the intention in presenting this information,”  a gentlemen, who walked in a few minutes late, asked the presenters.  Adrian Ulsted, the man on stage, responded, “You have power, you can do things.” “We also just wanted to draw attention to a lot of this because as it becomes normal it becomes transparent,” added fellow presenter David Raco.

These quotes come from the second presentation on this year’s campus theme “exploring reality.” Seven years ago the arts and humanities council started having an annual campus theme for the university to host talks on from the views of the four main disciplines at SOU: Science, Social Science, Humanities and the business school. Previous themes have included happiness, civility, being human, and most recently revolution. The humanities website explains the goal of the campus theme is “for the campus and our larger community to engage in rigorous intellectual conversations about this challenging subject, informed by the latest research, scholarship, and insights from a wide variety of perspectives”

Last Thursday, the presentation titled “Farming to Facebook”  took place in the Rogue River room where presenters David Raco and Adrian Ulsted spoke to a crowd of just over ten members. Both Raco and Ulsted are computer science majors, who both work for SOU’s IT department. The duo discussed how changes in technology have shaped our reality and speculated at what our future reality may look like.

While defining technology as applying “scientific knowledge for practical purposes,” the two started from the very beginning of technological developments,  traveled to the present, and speculated about what future technologies might do. Along the way the presenters looked at the pros and cons of different technological advancements. For example, agriculture lead to civilization and specialization but it also caused an economic incentive to employ the practice of slavery; and while the the steam engine allowed for rapid production it also caused child laborers. Raco added that a change in technology did not bring about the end of this practice, but instead “it was us collectively deciding that this practice had to end.”

In the present age of rapidity, the presenters called on the crowd to take a moment or two to reflect on what the rapid changes in technology meant; how the changes to technology had shaped the world they live in.

Moving onto the converging worlds of present and future, the new technology of self-driving cars for example. Take a moment to ponder all the possibilities: sending the car to pick up someone, sending it to the store, no more problems with road trip night driving. But, it will also obliterate many jobs in the transportation industry.  Ulsted then asked that crowd, “So how do we deal with that?”  He then brought up other difficult questions like, if we have self driving cars and other artificial intelligence doing the farming and production, then would we even need to pay for things? And if not what would our economic system look like?

With these big questions in the listener’s minds, Ulsted suggested that in order to have more control over our future, we must be skeptical and research claims, not propagate unchecked claims, and know how to scrutinize claims.

Overall the audience seemed to enjoy the presentation. Mark Sussman, a SOU freshman, showed up just for the extra credit opportunity (like most of  the small crowd), but afterwards said, “I actually found it really interesting.”  Another SOU freshman Kayle Blackmore reflected,  “I came into this presentation not knowing much about the talk, but it really made me think about our future, and how close we are to having super rad technology all around us. I plan on attending many more of these presentations.”

While right now the reality of our future (and the technology that comes with it) is still just a hypothesis, the presenters left the audience with much to ponder about what changes may come in the next few years.

If like Kayle you are interested in attending these campus theme talks, the next presentation will be Wednesday November 4th, at  7:00pm in the SU room 330.

This presentation will bring together four people from different religious backgrounds to discuss how their faith views reality.