Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Final Frontier: Preludes to Deep Space Travel

According to Technology’s promise, space is the next great frontier in the rise of human civilization. There are five major path-breaking space projects or activities which are projected to open up the limitless expanse of the universe in the next several decades. Starting in the near-term, space tourism promises to create a new industry and excitement attracting new sources of economic backing to expand space usage. Building on this new excitement, opportunities and economic backing, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will work to establish a moon based colony. This will provide and establish a launching point for planetary travels within our solar system.  Given the types of environments and distances within our solar system, the first destination currently being planned is manned missions to Mars. The final two areas that the human race will continue to strive are more difficult to achieve as they rely upon variables outside of our control. The first is extraterrestrial or alien contact and the final area is inter-stellar travel.  Alien contact is more about creating technology capable of identifying alien life rather than actually physically meeting or interacting with it. This is based on the final area of inter-stellar space travel (Halal, 2008). While the Alpha Centauri star system is the closest to our sun, the nearest star to our sun is Proxima Centauri at approximately 4.22 light-years away (Sessions, 2012). Even with a propulsion system that was just 1% of the speed of light, which is currently not possible today, it would take four hundred years just to reach Proxima Centauri!  Therefore, these last two goals and objectives are far term goals that could take centuries for mankind to achieve.  
The likelihood of all five of these predications occurring in the next 100 years is probably low. However, the likelihood of the first three occurring in this same time-frame are highly probable given that they reside within the control of the human race.

Halal, W. E. (2008). Technology's Promise. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Sessions, L., (2012). Downloaded from

Monday, November 12, 2012

Health Improvement Super-Trend

The super trend regarding health improvements, like every new development, technological improvement or futuristic trend, has both positive and negative aspects. While each of us would see that an increase in the health and subsequent longevity is a good thing at a personal level, this fact has directly driven two other super trends (Economic growth and Environmental decline): Each of which has negative consequences. It could be further argued that health improvements have actually driven every super trend identified. However technological and health improvements are, metaphorically speaking a circular reference; similar to the "which came first, the chicken or the egg"? Regardless, health improvements and the fact that we are now living longer, has driven an explosion in the population. This population explosion means that there are more consumers of goods and services. More people drive a greater consumption of resources which in-turn create significant economic growth. This increase in the consumption of resources generate negative impacts in the environment that ultimately cause its decline.
There have been some attempts to address the impacts of increasing longevity. China's official "Family planning policy" or the "one-child policy", was an attempt to stem the impacts of over population and it's impacts on a society. Programs of this type are rare as most societies see this as a direct impact on personal freedom and liberties and a very draconian and autocratic control over people's lives. However, few other options exist to address the potential impacts of extreme population increases. Some have suggested that the initial anemic response by western countries to the AIDs epidemic in African countries was a covert response to curbing the increase in global populations. While an interesting hypothesis, I believe that the slow response was more of an economic decision that impacted the humanitarian needs of third world populations. Unfortunately, economic decisions typically are at odds with humanitarian ones.
As with all trends that directly affect the life of a human being, only socialistic changes tend to modify the respective impacts. Two significant social changes that may slowly address the trend of health improvements are the changing views on abortion and the increasing age people are having children.
While Roe versus Wade legalized abortion in 1973, people still saw abortion as socially unacceptable with a social stigma. This view has been evolving with many now seeing abortion as an acceptable approach to unwanted pregnancy. In fact, cultural aspects of varying countries have also added a unique view to this by providing a method for gender selection. Since many cultures view certain genders, mostly male, as preferred over females, abortion provides a method to select the gender of off-spring. This of course will create impacts on population as fewer females will impact the ability of a species to reproduce. This of course may be off-set by the trend of increasing mobility.
The second social view involves increasing parental ages. As people live longer, many are now postponing when they have children. In previous generations, people, mostly women, had to choose between a career and a family. It was believed that the choice was simply one or the other and that both could not be achieved within a single lifetime. However, with the increase in health, longevity and lengths of fertility, many now believe that they can have the best of both worlds by focusing on a career earlier in their lives and later, using the economic benefits of a successful career to raise a family. This has the consequence of delaying or slowing the rate of population increase as a result of increased health and longevity.
In conclusion, I believe that only through various forms of social engineering can the impacts of these super trends be adequately addressed.
ReferenceCornish, E (2004). Futuring:The Exploration of the Future, World Future Society, Maryland, United States.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Klein Test Video

This is an example of an Animoto Video I put together using original music and diagrams from my dissertation. Given the ease of which this was created I can see the value of this medium as it can easy be used to provide an easy method supporting teaching as well as recreational usage.

Klein Test Video

Monday, November 5, 2012

Agora Analysis

The main objective of the Structured Design Dialogue (SDD) technique is that we don't want the many or the few to decide on the rule of governance. We must define a method, technique or process were politics is comprised of both majority and minority views combined into a combined view or the overall will of the whole population. SDD looks to form a problem resolution approach where we learn to make decisions through group association representing all groups, members and associations within the population. One of the methods offered by the SDD is developing a shared language that differs from current forms of communication. The concept is that in order to bring together disparate groups, new methods of communication or languages must be created to broker new ways of discussing and hopefully solving problems that apply equally to all members of the group.  

If we were to evaluate planning activities for technological change, as the diagram suggests we first need to evaluate and analyze the problem requiring innovation or change. The next step is to evaluate a specific triggering question that begins to isolate the particular issue we are hoping to resolve. Continuing to step through this process, what we see is a refinement of an issue drilling down to a specific, most important issue that requires a resolution. This step-wise refinement could be applied to any plan to address the implementation of an innovation or new idea.   
Schreibman, V., Christakis, A., (2007). New Agora: New Geometry of Languaging and new Technology of Democracy:  The structured Design Dialogue process, Downloaded from:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Delphi versus NGT

Compare and Contrast of Delphi and the Nominal Group Technique (NGT):

Both methods offer an evaluation methodology that differs in the fact that the Delphi method relies on expert assessment while NGT uses the learner's evaluation perspective. Within the NGT approach, all participants have an equal say in creating both the rank and ordering evaluation items. This allows the NGT course evaluations to identify both the positive and negative factors as identified by learners as well as the entire group’s rank-ordered assessments of the course's good and bad aspects. The NGT approach is more socialistic in nature by combining administration of an assessment tool (questionnaire) with an open discussion forum among the learners to assess and rank the results of the assessment findings. A benefit to this approach is that it permits the possibility of equal involvement by all group members minimizing the potential of disproportionate influence by overt or passionate individuals. However in open forums, it tends to be easier to provide positive feedback then negative feedback. This is especially true when disconcerted opinions are offered against the what may appear to be the general consensus of the group. Additionally, learners tend to be less critical and more positive when it comes to offering overall opinions. Moreover, when learners are critical, they may fail to account for cost or logistical issues that may be significant constraints. The Delphi research technique provides addresses areas where there are holes or section of incomplete knowledge about a phenomena. Delphi also implements a quantitative methodology. While Delphi it implements a quantitative method like NGT, it refines the questionnaires implementing several iterations to target specifics of the area of research.  
The two forces that would influence that use of one technique over the other is the knowledge level of the research area prior to investigation and the expertise of the evaluation target audience for sampling purposes.
If I were looking to explore a new innovation or idea I would tend to gravitate toward Delphi because of the numerous unknowns that typically accompany new innovations. I might explore a modified Delphi with more open collaboration I were looking for both market level insight as well as technical subject matter expertise.
Skulmoski G, Hartman F, Krahn J (2007). The Delphi method for graduate research. Journal of Information Technology Education; 6: 1– 21.

Dobbie A, Rhodes M, Tysinger J, Freeman J (2004). Using a modified nominal group technique as a curriculum evaluation tool. Family Medicine 36: 402–406

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Open Data applied to Medical research Data

John Wilbanks in his video proposes a logical extension to the concept of open data as applied to personal medical data. While open data typically supports data of a non-contextual origin, John Wilbanks poses the question, " What if medical or genomic experimental data on human were cleansed of all personal identifiable information than released to the world-wide research community?  Information related to medical research subjects requires informed consent and an extremely rigid process protecting the rights of test subjects and their respective privacy, However, John Wilbanks contends that this same rigid process is actually impacting our ability to extract information in a timely and efficient manner. Fundamentally, data collected from small samples can hide information that may be exposed in much larger samples. However, under current research guidelines, raw data collected for cancer research cannot be shared with researchers investigating DNA hereditary defects. However, what would happen if research subjects were asked if there data could be used for other areas if all personal data was removed?  One approach proposed by Mr. Wilbanks is to use a Portable Legal Consent for Common Genomics Research (PLC-CGR). This is essentially  an experimental bioethics protocol allowing for research subjects to consent to allow research subjects to accept that once the primary experiment is over, their data can be used  anonymously in other forms of research. This would essentaillly great repositories of big data where patterns may emerge that were hidden in the realms of smaller pools of  research data.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gesture Based Computing

Gesture-based computing allows users to interact in a virtual realm. Rather than simple voice or pictorial interactions, gesture-based computing allows for personal gesturing and natural human like interactions between individuals. We as a class are beginning to use this technology through developing and using avatars within Second-Life (SL). However, I think that this technology is still in its infancy as it is difficult to do activities beyond simple movement. However, applications such as SL are making significant in-roads into normalizing this technology. While there may be numerous examples of how this technology could have benefits, I also see problems with this as well.  We already see examples where kids and adults alike develop near addictions with numerous games on X-Box, WII etc.. Gesture-based applications could easily fall into this realm of "escapism" for a large number of both kids and adults. As new forms of input devices are developed that provide greater levels of interactive look and feel, the potential for abuse increases significantly.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012).
NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition.
Austin, Texas:The New Media Consortium.