Friendman, Florida, Bostrom oh my!

What state is the world in? Is the world spiky or flat? As I completed the reading for this week I thought I knew the answer and I find myself unsure. I am unsure because I understand where each individual is coming from. In Thomas Friedman’s (2005) synopsis on why the world is flat the biggest argument made derives from the interconnectedness of the world. Distance no longer is a barrier as technology bridges people together by leveling the field.

On the other hand, Richard Florida proposes that the world is spiky based upon the population, economic activity, innovation, and scientific advancement. In Florida’s (2005) article, there are many spikes in developed nations and even more valleys in less developed countries. When reflecting upon both readings, I find myself agreeing more with Florida (2005) than Friedman (2005) because there are many locations worldwide that have more advantages than others due to a high population density. With more people in shared spaces, ideas can grow and foster to become more.

Aside from the physical state of the world, technology has greatly impacted the world we live within by becoming more accessible. I recall when I was in elementary school, the one computer for our entire classroom was an Apple computer with a green screen (like the photo below). Computers, over time, have become thinner and faster. Cell phones, once clunky and large are now able to fit into pockets. With the easy accessibility of technology, employers now have policies limiting/monitoring technology usage. With previous employers, personal technology was not allowed to be used during work hours. Limiting an employee’s personal use of technology is nearly impossible nowadays. In my organization, all employees have cell phones that are used for both work and personal usage. To provide a bit more information about my organization, we are a small nonprofit that provides training and technical assistance to the health centers within the stateapple-computer of Nebraska. Technology is a key instrument used to help staff retrieve files within our Cloud. Webinars are used to educate health center staff on new pertinent information. There have been a few days when computers were down and when this happens, no work is accomplished. Staff are unable to move projects forward without technology.

One final thought I have on technology is this. Technology has also allowed for artificial intelligence to prosper significantly. In Nick Bostrom’s (2015) presentation, he discusses how artificial intelligence could be as smart as a human and could even become much smarter, possibly even self-aware. Bostrom goes on to say assert the importance of controlling the artificial intelligence AI) so that the AI is smart, while also being safe. As I listened to the video, I thought of Tom Simonite’s (2016) article on chip designed to help facilitate deep learning within artificial intelligence. The chip allows for faster processing which would help achieve the deeper learning being referenced. I highly doubt controlling artificial intelligence is achievable.

12 thoughts on “Friendman, Florida, Bostrom oh my!

  1. The term for the myriad of personal devices at work is BYOD (bring your own device). As you note, many of these are now allowed on work networks. There are many headaches in IT around the security of these devices – since some are more or less secure. But there is lots of pressure to include them, especially from executives that demand it. The point is that the viral nature of the technology is a very strong driver for the spread of the technology. Even in secure government networks, the same pressure is there.


    • Excellent point and I could not agree more with your observations. First, I have friends that work for the federal government and the security on their work laptops is impressive as there are many steps taken to secure files.
      Secondly, while the demand for technology has increased, one thing that I have noticed is how technology has impacted healthcare organizations. I can personally speak to health centers in Nebraska and how switching from paper charts to electronic files has completely changed how medicine is practiced. When I worked for a community health center, each doctor had their own work issued laptop that was used when seeing patients and also taken home for doctors to add more notes to files when they had time. There was one doctor who I worked with that was older and struggled with navigating the electronic files. The doctor would ask for assistance to learn the software and how to use it. What is interesting to note is that this doctor knew the ins and outs of the electronic medical record than her colleagues some who were younger.
      With the reliance of technology in healthcare, one fear is being hacked by having personal health records compromised. There have been numerous reports of records leaked, one that impacted many consumers occurred by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. While technology has helped positively impact the healthcare arena, there are dangerous implications when data is compromised.


  2. Nice post. I remember my days at the Pentagon when we all had green screen computers, and one upstart Air Force Captain showing all of us a new operating system that allowed you to see color pictures on the screen! Radical!

    As to the coming self-awareness of computers, there was an interesting post this week that I am still trying to process…


    • Dr. Watwood,
      That article was great, but even more so by the author’s noting of the comments with either clarifying additions, or corrections. You don’t see that a lot, but it actually points out, similar to what Friedman noted, that it is impossible for us to be authoritative on something that is moving so fast and at such great measures. That alone would keep me coming back to that blogger.

      The ability to comment on blogs or articles is actually a huge value add for me. Notwithstanding a few trolls, it is often that the commenters keep the authors honest – or at least point out challenges with facts/assumptions/agendas.



  3. I can definitely relate to your recollection of technology being large and clunky. My dad was telling us over the holidays about how when he was in college he was running data and gathering it on punch cards and feeling like that was so incredible. I always loved science fiction and am amazed at how many of our current technologies seemed beyond our lifetimes not that many years ago. You mention that you believe that trying to control AI is likely not possible. I am curious as to the ultimate intent of your statement. Bostrom does suggest that we need to do what we can now to try to ensure some type of values are woven into AI development. I hope I am not an alarmist but when technologically savvy leaders such as Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking warn that AI could spell the “end of the human race” it is a bit disconcerting. Thoughts? Thanks – Tricia


      • Tricia,
        Thanks for your post. You are not an alarmist by any means. I think the views of Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are correct as there has been an upsurge of artificial intelligence books, articles, etc. about the “end of the human race”. I believe that with the expansion of technology, there is a possibility of losing our control i.e. power over technology. Dr. Watwood shared an article on how Google Translate learned to translate better on its own. For me, based upon this small scale example, I could easily see technology gaining the means necessary to become self-aware.
        In a bioethics course during my undergraduate years, we discussed what to be human would look like in the future. With the rapid expansion of technology, it is only a matter of time before human and technology become one. For example, nanotechnology has been and continues to be explored. One thought is to use nanotechnology to be able to target specific cancers and other ailments in the human body to cure us of diseases. There is even an organization that preserves a body in order to eventually bring the individual back to “life”. Yes, you read that correctly. Are you still with me? The organization is called Alcor and when individuals are close to dying many will go to the organization to live their final moments for preservation can begin as soon as possible.
        I recognize that I can discuss artificial intelligence for hours because I find it so fascinating. What are your thoughts on the “end of the human race”?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. There were numerous comments in your blog this week that resonated with me. One, in particular, is the comment you made regarding the computers in your office being down and the fact that none of the employees were able to accomplish much due to our reliance on computers and technology in general. I find it ironic that on the one hand there are some that fear AI will lead to the end of the human race but on the other hand, the second our cell phones stop working or the internet goes down, we are lost and find it difficult to complete even the simplest of tasks. How do we balance our need for technology with ensuring that technology does not get too far in front of us? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.



  5. Interesting post, especially you mentioning how reliable everyone is on technology now. In my job I can definitely relate to the idea that work grinds to a halt anytime a shared drive or e-mail stops working. But this dependency on technology also reminded me about something Nick Bostrom (2015) said in his TED talk. Once we get to the point of AI, if it seems that humans will be so dependent on computers that there will be no way to “turn it off” once a super intelligence becomes integrated in our lives. While I agree that there will be no way to “control” AI in a strict sense, Bostrorm’s idea of controlling through the alignment of values is definitely interesting.


    • Chris,
      This got me thinking of the reality that we give control away all the time, and always hesitate before doing so. Some of them are new, like using online banking (trusting the technology). But the fear of using banks (trusting the system) has always been an issue. But we often acquiesce for the benefits offered. Some other examples are inherited – Taxes for example. I want to control where the money gets spent, but have handed that control to my representatives – as well as how much taxes they take from me. The AI difference is not a difference in kind, but simply of degree. The amount of control that is implied is great, as we may well be so dependent on some of the “services”, that there will be little recourse to change the level of control given to the AI. We may not be able to uninstall the app or cancel our bank account. And the real implied difference in degree is that the control given to AI is ultimately existential – either in the consequences of some of the decisions it makes, or in the fact that it decides our existence is no longer necessary.


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