Robots, their effect on humans and their rights

     In this deliberation, we discussed the issues surrounding AI ethics that usually concern people the most—job displacement, AI singularity, humanity, and AI errors. More and more jobs are being replaced by robots, more so in automation, healthcare, and customer care. It’s interesting to weigh the benefits of having fully AI-controlled cars and the job loss and distrust that comes with a displacement like that. There is a large distrust for giving robots the keys to our cars, as the majority of people have not experienced this first-hand yet and have heard of a couple fatalities from those robots—that strangely outweigh the 33,244 yearly fatal car accidents by humans in the US.

     Possibly one of the most heavily debated issues within AI ethics, AI singularity is one of the first topics that came up after the discussion of job displacement as we, as humans, are naturally afraid to lose the dominance we have accumulated throughout our existence. The discussion is usually geared towards keeping our control, regardless of the potential sentience that AI might eventually gain.

     Our humanity towards robots affects human interaction, regardless of the presence of their sentience. Research has shown that our maltreatment of robots affects the way we treat other humans and decrease our ability to be empathetic. The concluding part of the discussion was pointing out the urgency of resolving the maltreatment of humans before we even get to addressing the maltreatment of robots. However, it is important to consider revolutionary changes such as AI dominance during when and decades before it happens, as it has the potential to negatively impact human interaction if we don’t place regulations and ethics codes on ever-evolving AI.

Sources: https://www.forbes.com/sites/insights-intelai/2019/03/27/why-we-should-show-machines-some-respect/?sh=6e410e8230b1

AI Ethics: Issues to consider

     In the 1950s, the fathers of AI, Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy described artificial intelligence as “any task performed by a program or a machine that, if a human carried out the same activity, we would say the human had to apply intelligence to accomplish the task.” AI systems will typically show some of the following behaviors that are associated with human intelligence: planning, learning, reasoning, problem solving, knowledge representation, perception, motion, and manipulation and, to a lesser extent, social intelligence and creativity. In today’s world we experience AI in places like search engines, recommendation systems, chatbots, and even more directly–robots. Scientific developments in AI, such as deep-learning techniques, have made it possible to design high-performance intelligent devices, with access to huge amounts of data and ever-increasing computing power. These new techniques have been rapidly deployed on a large scale in all areas of social life, in transport, education, culture and health.

Technological innovations can affect employment in two main ways:

• by directly displacing workers from tasks they were previously performing

• by increasing the demand for labor in industries or jobs that arise or develop due to technological progress.

A report from Dell and the Institute for the future estimates that 85% of the jobs of 2030 don’t even exist yet. : Is the loss of jobs worth the generation of potentially thousands of jobs? Should robots replace doctors? How do machines affect our behavior towards humans?  How do we stay in control of AI? Should they have rights? These are some of the questions to consider when dealing with AI singularity, stupidity, humanity, and job displacement.

Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7605294/

https://bernardmarr.com/default.asp?contentID=1828

Back to Normal: Is the End of the Pandemic Really on the Horizon?

By Alexander Ayala

Since the original publication, much has changed in the race against COVID-19 in America. Originally, it was anticipated at the time of writing the last entry, that even when things eventually started to get back to normal, certain social distancing behaviors would be come or at least normative as we approached the next few years after the first out break in 2019. At that time, President Biden had announced in an address to the nation that, if vaccination numbers continued to increase at a steady rate, that America would be back to relative normalcy in time to celebrate the 4th of July without having to worry about safety and protection from COVID. However, infection rates were still climbing around the world at that time, 2nd dose vaccine retention was low, and prominent figures in the world of immunology had little confidence that the situation was improve in the near future

And yet, in spite of all that information, the POTUS Instagram account post as of April 27th, has reported that the CDC says fully vaccinated people are now allowed to go outdoors without a mask, as per their provisions. State governments are now announcing a full reopening in the near future, some as soon as this summer. Even New York City is expected to reopen before July 1st, and Governor Cuomo even claims that things will be “back to normal”. Even just a few weeks ago, these reports would seem completely unrealistic, but It seems as if the dreadful year-long pandemic is nearly at its end.

But what do the numbers say? Are experts now confident in reopening big cities given the new conditions? Could it be that cities are reopening prematurely in reaction to the recent vaccination numbers? Certain states like Florida were quick to reopen last summer, and have seen a resurgence in cases since. Clearly the affects of opening too soon can be drastic for the public if not taken seriously, but there is one measure which experts agree would be a significant milestone in putting the pandemic behind us: herd immunity.

Herd immunity is a kind of positive-externality where susceptible people gain protection from a virus without ever having to develop antibodies, since they benefit from the lower transmission rate afforded to them by immune people. In other words, the more people are vaccinated, the lower the number of possible COVID-19 hosts becomes, effectively phasing the virus out by blocking its path to potential victims. Despite never having to vaccinate or expose themselves to the virus, herd immunity would be afforded to everyone in society, given that a certain percentage of individuals have antibodies. According to consensus from experts, that target percentage lies somewhere between 60-70%.

Going forward this will be an important measure of whether or not the virus remains a serious threat to reopening, as the United States is one of the leading nations in both total vaccinations, and percent of all citizens vaccinated. Ultimately, in order to get a good grasp on whether or not it’s safe to reopen, one would need to examine the likelihood the United States will reach that 60% vaccination rate, and how far the nation has to go before it reaches that target.

Presently, only about 30% of people in the United States are vaccinated. While it may seem that some of those who have had COVID-19 previously and developed natural anti-bodies should be included in that figure, it is not currently known how long those anti-bodies will last, or how effective they are at protecting individuals from becoming re-infected by COVID. Therefore, the only accurate measure we can create of how close locations are to herd immunity, is what percent of their population is vaccinated. Unfortunately, this unfortunately cannot account for certain strains of the virus which are not accounted for in our current vaccines. Meaning that, as the population continues to expose themselves to each other in the coming summer months, the more likelihood there is for transmission of the virus among vaccinated people. Even states who have reached nearly half of all their citizens vaccinated must worry about this reality.

During the discussion after the first piece, one of the possibilities we discussed was something like a yearly vaccine requirement, which is something that employers could realistically demand of their employees, or schools of their students. Depending on whether or not the vaccination rate continues to increase at a fixed rate will before the July reopening will be an important deciding factor in whether or not that becomes a reality, because a perpetual and seasonal version of the virus like the “Mutant COVID” strain in India becomes possible as a result of new and unique infections. Moving forward, the willingness of the public to vaccinate yearly, and according to mandate will become increasingly important, but also increasingly difficult; as a health experts are concerned a certain demographic of individuals will never be convinced to vaccinate, and their numbers grow as the pandemic goes on.

Although our vision of the future is already turning to normal as the summer fast approaches: I stand by the idea that certain behaviors of society have been altered drastically, and are likely not to return at least into the near future after COVID-19. Yearly pro and anti-vax campaigns on social media, outdoor dining whenever possible, wearing masks in public as a personal choice, and maintaining distance from strangers in public are all behaviors I think people will continue to adhere to even after COVID, simply because they’re most efficient.

The health conscious mindset many Americans have become keen on since the beginning of the pandemic was one of the few benefits of the shutdown that we discussed. People don’t want to be exposed to the next man’s illness if it can be prevented either through mask wearing or distance. One of the positive takeaways from this grief is that many people are taking the health of their communities seriously after this crisis. Certainly there are already people taking advantage of the lenient mask deregulation laws and social distancing provisions, but there is yet another crowd who is going to continue wearing masks even if nobody asks them to. Simply because something is mandatory doesn’t mean it can’t also be voluntary. COVID has brought a certain sense of altruism and responsibility out of people that no crisis has in a long. People are enthusiastic about vaccinating to protect the people they love and do their part in return things back to a sense of normal. Although it’s met with an equal number of people who believe the exact opposite notion about social distancing, that cannot diminish the importance of such advocacy in our trying times. Thankfully, I believe these feelings will outlast the pandemic: now, and for many years to come.

My initial misconception of Gentrification

Gentrification was a word I’ve been hearing for the past five to six years. When I first heard the word, I had a very surface level of understanding of what the word meant. Originally, I thought gentrification simply meant the advancement of low-income neighborhoods becoming more safe and cleanlier. I thought of project buildings receiving major renovation alongside the addition of new apartment buildings and a variety of new businesses opening in the neighborhood. These residential improvements would represent a beacon of hope for those who always have to constantly worry about death around the corner and have to adapt to living in horrible conditions. As a result, I was initially surprised to hear strong opposition to gentrification until when I dived in deeper to the consequences. All the residential improvements were at the expense of replacing longtime residents (predominantly minorities) who had to scratch and claw to thrive with affluent upper-class citizens (predominately White-Americans).

Now let the truth be told, I like diversity. However, gentrification is not synonymous with diversity especially when you’re replacing hard working minorities with affluent White Americans. In fact shouldn’t longtime citizens who continue to make a conscientious effort to provide for their inner circle be rewarded for their hard work they put in ? Shouldn’t they be the ones who reap the benefits of their neighborhood evolving where they can enjoy the improvements of their neighborhood after all the dysfunction they’ve been exposed to ? It would make the most logical sense instead of catering to a group of outsiders who have little to no knowledge surrounding the history of that neighborhood and what longtime residents have to go through in order to get by.

I personally feel that if you truly believe in creating a diverse neighborhood, then every new housing rental should target people in EVERY income bracket. New affordable housing should be set up where the total apartment units should be split up in where a fair percentage of units can go to low-income residents, the other portion of units can go to middle-income residents and the final portion goes to affluent/upper-class citizens. This is one of the many ways to actually create diversity in neighborhood without displacing the already vulnerable and hard-working.

American Healthcare: Reflection

Discussion of the American Healthcare system went well. We agreed that the system was completely broken, and benefits the people in power more than the common person. We discussed our own experiences with the system, notably the unfair pricing of ambulances. It is particularly bothersome that Pace threatens ambulances to financially ruin intoxicated students, and takes advantage of this. We talked about possible solutions, as well, comparing the United States system to other countries with socialized policies. A two system solution, with healthcare at least guaranteed to every citizen. It was agreed that this was probably the most feasible solution within a capitalist framework. The topic of socialized medicine also came up, but was more of a background to the main issue at hand. I really enjoyed listening to everyone’s take on it, and I think the discussion was productive and engaging. The stories were engaging, and learning everyone’s experience is always a pleasure. After learning that many of us did not plan to stay in the United States, the discussion ended on a hopeful note, one focused on advocating for change in the system.

Hair Discrimination Class Reflection

After having an open and honest discussion with the class about their feelings on hair discrimination I was able to understand this topic from a different point of view. I can say everyone agreed on the consensus of hair discrimination being wrong and possibly racially motivated. There is no particular reason for a person of color to be discriminated against because of their hair other than there being some type of hate that motivated the situation. A few points that some people made such as wearing certain looks like a protective style or how some hairstyles are used to honor religion therefore it can’t always just be removed. For a professional at work, or a student at school to be removed because of the texture of their hair is beyond ridiculous as it isn’t harming anyone. This type of situation can be embarrassing and emotionally damaging for some people to just flat out be told their hair is an issue, which is why the Crown Act was put in place to protect people of color. While doing my research it didn’t come as a shock to me that Black women were the most likely to experience hair discrimination, it made me reflect on some issues I’ve experienced with my hair being a problem at school. Although this may not seem like a big deal to some it is a real issue that affects people every day. It can be damaging to many to be removed from school or work because an administrator or boss has told you something is wrong with your look when you’re just trying to do your job. I chose this topic because it was something I wasn’t aware of until doing work for another class, once I found out this was an issue around the U.S I wanted to know more about it and I learned it’s deeper than just discrimination. This issue ties into cultural appropriation on social media, fashion, and in real life, while people of color are getting fired for having the looks they’re appropriating.

Is Hair Discrimination Racial Discrimination?

Hair discrimination is a form of social justice found worldwide that targets specifically Black people who have afro-textured hair that hasn’t been chemically straightened. Since the movement started to gain traction the Crown Act also known as Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair was passed. This law prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle and texture. Minorities have suffered through this for years and a recent study found that African American women face the highest instances of hair discrimination and are more likely to be sent home because of their hair.

Hair discrimination to only occurs in workplaces but outside of there as well. Aside from people of color being discriminated against at work teenagers and children as young as elementary school is being affected by this. Children and teens have had their education disrupted by suspension, detention, and sometimes expulsion for having a certain hairstyle on their head. As outrageous as it sounds it occurs around America and the most recent incident involved DeAndre Arnold, an 18-year-old from Belvieu, Texas faced missing his high school prom as well as graduation for refusing to cut his dreadlocks just recently in January 2020. Another harsh example involved Andrew Johnson a high schooler from New Jersey who was forced to cut his dreadlocks during a wrestling match by a white referee. These are just some of the few examples of hair discrimination around the U.S. It is completely inappropriate for a member of the student, faculty, or staff to comment on a child’s hair, especially if it is motivated.

Students, professionals at work, and other places have been discriminated against, demoted, or even removed from work or school because of their hair texture. When people choose to call out the way a person on color hair looks they aren’t understanding the true effects of their actions. Because pin-straight hair is deemed as “normal” people without afro-textured hair are constantly getting called out for looking different. Sometimes the effects of these actions can be embarrassing and emotional for anyone who is just going about their day with their hair.

Despite the ongoing discrimination towards people of color’s hair texture, fashion brands, influencers, and celebrities have been seen sporting traditionally known African American hairstyles. Looks such as dreadlocks, cornrows, twist, and laid edges have been seen on white influencers as well as white models on the runway. Designers such as Marc Jacobs have been seen sending models on the runway with dreadlocks.

Other fashion designers have been caught appropriating African American cultures and hairstyles without understanding the history and tradition that stands behind them. The issue here aside from cultural appropriation is the problem surrounding how people of color are looked down upon for having the same looks. The problem at hand is it’s okay for African American culture to be appropriated but it’s not accepted. Not only fashion designers but celebrities and influences have been seen sporting some looks such as the Kardashians/ Jenners, and other social media stars. If young children are being inspired by these white influencers to wear their hair a certain way why are children of color are penalized for it.

Is hair discrimination racial discrimination? Some can argue that if it’s part of a uniform or policy it is right but not if it’s only disproportionally affected African Americans. Many other states around the U.S have decided to enforce the Crown Act to prevent further discrimination against people of color, whether they are at work, school, or on the street, it is inappropriate to discriminate against someone’s hair.

Sources:

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/business_law/publications/blt/2020/05/hair-discrimination/

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/business_law/publications/blt/2020/05/hair-discrimination/

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/hair-discrimination-crown-act-states/

Homeless discussion reflection

On April 6th, 2021, citizen journalism and deliberation at Pace University met to discuss the important issue of homelessness in New York City. The discussion was supposed to be focused around New York City, but quickly shifted to the growing homeless epidemic around the country. During the discussion we talked about “Tent Town” in Los Angeles, California and in Austin, Texas. The use of tents is supposed to offset the building of actual homeless shelters. We also discussed the homelessness right underneath our noses at Pace University. One of the students talked about how she had helped homeless students and let them sleep in her dorm. Another student opened up about their experience with homelessness. They explained that a friend saved them from homelessness by loaning them money. I reminded the class that the American dream has skewed our view on money and that most of the population is closer to homelessness then they are to being a millionaire.

My favorite take from the discussion was a story about an encounter a student had on the subway. A homeless person was asking for directions to city hall because they could not remember their name. The student then spewed about how homelessness can be so dehumanizing. People ignore you and don’t even look at you because they don’t see you as a part of society. Not only is being homeless physically taxing, but mentally exhausting. People lose all sense of self worth. A common argument for homelessness is go out and find a job, but people fail to realize that homelessness can lead to a string of mental illnesses that need to be treated first. Throwing someone back into the fibers of society after being abused by it takes time. The discussion turned to mental health after this point was brought up. America’s view on mental health is ancient and unaccommodating. Mental health has to be considered as important, if not more important than physical health.

Homelessness has been increasing due to the pandemic. Homelessness is something America refuses to acknowledge because it goes against its capitalist agenda. The more we try to ignore homelessness the worse it will get. Next time you see a unhoused neighbor remember to give them a smile or a dollar; realize they are human too.

The rise in Asian American Violence: The politics of naming and its detrimental effects on the Asian American community

2020 was arguably the most difficult year we have experienced in our lifetime. We needed to adjust to the new normal: lockdowns, masks, not being able to see our loved ones. Millions infected with the corona virus and almost 50 thousand of them lost their lives to it. Millions losing their jobs in a terrible economy. Not to mention the BLM, one of the largest movements in history and a presidential campaign.

We entered 2021 optimistic. However, four months into a new year and presidency we are still battling Corona virus and extreme racism and injustice. With Donald Trump out of office, we are still reaping the repercussions of his administrations remarks, which is costing Asian Americans their safety and lives.

In March of 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic, Donald Trump addressed the nation about the growing number of cases and the widespread fear of the virus. After months of referring to the virus with the proper name, “Corona virus”, his rhetoric had switched. In Trumps notes, in thick black marker he crossed out the word “corona” and replaced it with “Chinese”. Trumps use of the word “Chinese” was a deliberate attack and attempt to place blame on an already marginalized community. After this remark, media outlets were quick to headline their stories with the phrases, “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese Corona virus”.

Reporters, scientists and even the FBI warned the public about the likely surge of violence against Asian Americans. The Asian American community faced a rise in hate crimes almost immediately. Late last year, the UN issued a report of the alarming increase of hate crimes against the Asian American community. It’s difficult to tell exactly how many incidences or reports there have been, since there is no governmental or organizational agencies keeping track. The advocacy group stop AAPI hate last year estimated 2,800 nationwide hate incidents. This year, reports are rising exponentially, and in an effort to gain awareness people have took to social media to post videos and their stories. The hashtag, #StopAAPIhate was founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning CouncilChinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian American Studies Department, San Francisco University. This hashtag has created a movement on social media platforms to bring awareness, educate others and provide resources to victims and allies. People have posted videos of incidents under this hashtag from either their IPhone or from security cameras, which are being used as evidence in cases to properly prosecute the attackers. The use of social media has been an overwhelming success, it has allowed the public to report incidents and proof, holding people accountable. However, these pictures and videos that are flooding social media expose the painful truth of a racist and violent America.

This social media movement has drawn attention and sparked a much needed conversation on race and anti-Asian violence in a post-pandemic world, but more importantly it should make us ask ourselves: Should the President be allowed to exercise their freedom of speech when it comes to race? Former President Trumps decision to call the virus the “Chinese virus” was xenophobic and incited violence against the community, he and his administration defended this label again and again. His racist remarks essentially made it okay to have an anti-Asian bias, and created coronavirus discrimination. Because of him, media outlets picked up on the term and it spread like wildfire, soon after millions of Trump supporters jumped on the bandwagon. If Trump didn’t use the terms “Wuhan Virus” and “Chinese Virus” the Asian American community wouldn’t be suffering such devastating losses, and this racist rhetoric wouldn’t change peoples perceptions of Asian Americans. Not only should we condemn xenophobic comments in relation to the Corona Virus, but all racist statements made by political figures in the media. Going forward, the President and other political figures shouldn’t be allowed to rope in their ideas with fact, there should be a thorough look over any speeches and statements made by the President. There should be a bill that prevents the President from using racist terminology and defamatory speech to ensure that this wont happen again.

Asian American discrimination and violence has always been apart of American history, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to South Asians beings detained and deported after 9/11 we have used them as a scapegoat during times of war and trouble. Donald Trump placing blame on Asian Americans during the pandemic is no exception. We have come so far these past few years to try and educate ourselves and make changes to end racism in all forms, and unfortunately Donald Trumps remarks takes us several steps back. Someone like the President, with massive influence over Americans shouldn’t have the ability to speak their opinion when addressing the nation, their words can be detrimental and cost thousands of innocent lives.

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/03/20/coronavirus-trump-chinese-virus/

https://www.healthline.com/health/rise-in-asian-american-discrimination-is-causing-mental-health-crisis

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a35549052/stop-asian-hate-campaign/

The Dangerous Effects of Toxic Masculinity

By Kat Paterson

Toxic masculinity plays a large role in many of the behavioral issues we see in men. Seeing as how men make up an extremely large portion of the population, their behavior affects everyone within our society. Some of the behaviors that happen within toxic masculinity are men’s need to do everything on their own, feeling shameful for being emotionally expressive, aspirations for overall mental, physical, and sexual dominance, devaluation of women, and rejecting anything that could be considered feminine. With that said, it is important to note that toxic masculinity in itself is not considered to be toxic. The problem is that toxic masculinity is purely a cultural phenomenon where the idea of masculinity has become weaponized and used as a means to define what it means to be a ‘man’. So as the ideals of toxic masculinity continue to spread and affect young boys and men in our society, what can we do to recover from the overwhelming amount of stigmas that have built up around men throughout human evolution?

For one, we can begin to break down the walls of masculinity and reshape the way that society views gender and consider how our gender norms are taught and reinforced. An example of this would be how most men never learn how to cook or clean for themselves because their mother always picks up after them and then once they are married their wife will usually take over those tasks, instead we can start to enforce men and women both completing house chores as opposed to it being a ‘womens job’. Another thing we can do it provide boys with nonviolent conflict resolution resources so that they can learn to solve problems without getting into a physical fight because oftentimes, men are not inherently or innately violent but they are never given the proper tools to de escalate any situation because society assumes they will solve their problems with their fists. 

There will never be a true ending to toxic masculinity since relinquishing it from our society will take years of emphasis on introspection and learning to take accountability. It is not effective to sit by and criticize the bad behaviors that have been presented by men, we have to start safely calling them out and safely keeping them in check if we want to see a real change within our society. By doing this we don’t just want to create better men, we want to create better humans because everyone will benefit by the dissolution of toxic masculinity. 

Sources: