Deportation without Standardization

It was weird to see David Eaves in person when my first impression of him was through a video from seven years ago. Breathing human beings are more intimidating yet more relatable than their virtual counterparts.

Anyways, our discussion brought up the idea of an “open government.” I’m still not 100% sure what an open government entails or looks like, but I imagine it is accessible and easier to navigate for both the general public and government employees. Incorporating technology and the Internet into the government seems like a no-brainer to me; it’s already an inherent part of our lives. Why would we not want a more well-informed and involved population?

Honestly, I think that Donald Trump won the election in large part due to his Twitter account. It was honest, raw, and accessible. Beyond the face value of his immature trash-talking and whiny tantrums, people saw a real person. He clearly has the open sharing down pat, but I wonder how our democracy could improve if internal government communication were emphasized as well. It seems like the liberals and conservatives are split now more than ever, but I think intercommunication of the two groups would reap more benefits than this perpetual echo chamber.

For example, immigration and citizenship policies could be vastly improved. With our chaotic political climate, people are immediately picking sides. While I applaud people for desiring to stay informed, sometimes (most times) Facebook is not the best source for political information.  If the government had more comprehensible information available online, then I think everyone would be better informed and could sufficiently draw their own conclusions. Of course, this creates the problem of biased information and political agendas created by the people who determine which data sets and information get published.

One app I use to stay informed is Countable (I highly recommend). First of all, the interface is extremely user friendly and easy to understand. Countable notifies you of Congressional votes in real time. You can click on a certain case and read about both sides of the debate while seeing which side your representative voted for. If you disagree with their vote, then you can swipe on their picture and easily find their phone number to tell them what you think. It’s a wonderful app that encourages people to think beyond their black and white opinions while offering convenient ways to act on them.

Nevertheless, I wish my dad had something like this when he was growing up. My dad has become jaded in his political involvement which I don’t really blame him for. He was born in Laos during the Vietnam War and came to the U.S. as a refugee. To this day, he doesn’t exercise his right to vote because he doesn’t believe it makes a difference. On the other hand, my stepfather is an undocumented Mexican immigrant who deeply wishes he could vote. It’s been interesting to see the complexities of the American citizenship system, yet I still don’t completely understand it. Why is my father more deserving of citizenship than my stepfather? The process takes one million years too many, and its still not concrete or secure.

By creating more internal government communication, I think we could standardize the citizenship process in a way that makes it more approachable. Most immigrants are here to find more opportunities or jobs. They would pay your hecking taxes if you let them. However, the vague, complex process and constant articles of random ICE raids deter them from it. I am tired of hearing ill-informed people who were born into this country beg the question, “Why don’t they just become citizens like everyone else?” Coming from Nebraska, I was exposed to these comments on a daily basis. I clearly remember one girl asking, “But, if we built a wall, how would I vacation in Cancun?” Yeah, just let that sink in for a while.

Anyway, I am interested in how Estonia and India have incorporated technology into their citizenship process. I don’t know enough yet about how it works, but it seems readily available to everyone. If the United States could draft a similar system, then maybe we could end this immigration debate once and for all? That’s pretty ambitious, but all I’m saying is that it seems like everyone is fighting the wrong battle. Like, if the government really cared about how many people knew when the constitution was written or which territories the United States bought from France in 1803, then most current citizens would be deported. Some conservatives simply want immigrants to pay taxes which they would, but it’s not that simple. If we created an online template that was informative and standard for everyone, then this could eliminate all the ambiguous and insecure hoops we make immigrants jump through.

Post-Humanity

Our human experience is completely limited to our own; we can never truly know what it feels like to be someone else. In this sense, we understand consciousness and self-awareness through a deeply personal and intuitive experience without a concrete definition or defined boundaries between what dictates the conscious or the unconscious. Therefore, how can we determine when artificial intelligence crosses that undefined line?

We still don’t have a solid answer, but most accept that it will inevitably happen. It’s interesting that most people agree that something will happen although we’re not quite sure what that something is. A part of me hopes that I won’t live to see artificial intelligence become self-aware and independent, but another part is curious as to whether humans and AI could actually coexist. Since we keep pushing the definition of what sentient AI is, maybe it will forever be something of the far future, or about 10 years.

On that same note, I find it extremely difficult to imagine a world that doesn’t revolve around humans. I mean it took me up until about the 6th grade to realize the world didn’t solely revolve around me. Evolution tells us that humans and animals alike evolved from a common ancestor, yet something along the way diverged in order for us to deem ourselves superior. Cats, on the other hand, would disagree because they view us as big dumb furless babies.

Whether superior AI decides to obliterate the human race or simply disregard our existence depends solely on their desires and the role we would play in their lives. I think, or rather optimistically hope, that if humans did not pose a risk to the existence of AI, then they would have no reason to want to destroy us. Whenever I see ants going about their day, I don’t feel the need to squash them. However, if they invade my kitchen and contaminate my watermelon, then it is war. I think that insects/animals that are larger in size and more similar to our humanity are generally more sympathized with. For example, humans will not think twice about killing a tiny spider, but it is unthinkable and utterly inhumane to kill a dog. We have to take into account the cultural aspects as well. Cows are larger, but they are considered an essential meat group in the United States. As a result, slaughtering them by the thousands is commonplace. In India, cows are extremely sacred, so murdering a cow would be blasphemous and morally wrong. There’s no set rhyme or reason to religion, so perhaps AI would develop their own way of life and humans could easily be on their shitlist or a part of their holy trinity. There’s no surefire way to tell. OR, maybe, unlike humans, AI would be perfectly comfortable with existing without a purpose or reason and wouldn’t need to come up with arbitrary guidelines and values to justify and validate their lives.

To be honest, our discussion left me feeling muddled in existential dread with equal parts eager curiosity. My favorite part was when someone stated, “Happiness is overrated.” It got me thinking about when and how did I learn that achieving happiness through altruism and ~making the world a better place~ was the ultimate end goal? Is it something that is intrinsic to our humanity? Personally, I am a fan of films and books that end with a question, instead of some positive universal clich√© call-to-action of some sort, because they are unapologetically honest.

The Internet is Forever, and We are Immortal

With the speed at which technology is advancing, literally any object is a viable option to integrate into the Internet, even salt shakers with ambiance. I find it curious that toasters and refrigerators are always used as the quintessential Internet of things. I think this is because toasters and refrigerators emphasize that no simple or daily task is incapable of more convenience. Nevertheless, every time I go on road trips with my dad, I wonder how anyone ever got around with paper maps. I wouldn’t even know where to begin on a map because it was never something I needed to do. My entire driving career has been accompanied by mobile GPS, and everything else I rely on my phone for.

I remember in April 2016, my eccentric art teacher tried to convince me to switch to a flip phone (read: not a smart phone) for a month just like him. He had already given up his car which is significant in itself because we lived in suburban Nebraska. His idea captivated me, so I told him maybe after Visitas I would temporarily get rid of my iPhone because there was no way I could get from Nebraska and all around Boston/Cambridge without it. However, when I returned, I discovered that my phone contract would not end for another year and a half, so I couldn’t switch without paying about $300. My art teacher also realized he could not get rid of his phone because of some technical complication. Anyway, my point is that it is so much easier to gain technology than it is to rid ourselves of it. Even the people who are store our data find it far more difficult to dispose of it.

Not only is the technology we purchase financially binding, it also transforms our dependency into handicaps. We lose the skills we fail to use. Physically, it’s complicated and time-consuming to dispose of properly. The Internet is ~forever~ and for anyone to see. People are still pretty cautious about the content they post and who can see it. For example, seniors in high school will change their social media names to pop culture references or even just random objects similar to their name, so college admissions cannot find their Internet presence on social sites. They change their name and accompany it with a meme-like poorly photoshopped cover photo or profile picture. Mine was Brita Waterfilter.

Although it’s usually done for the meme rather than actually trying to conceal our online presence, it’s still peculiar that people must go through certain lengths just to be hidden. I remember how whenever I would have an existential crisis in the 7th grade I would delete all my social media for a couple days, and the relief that would result from it. However, I knew that some things I posted could be pulled up with a simple Google search. The Internet never forgets about us and, in a sense, immortalizes us.