Feb 182011
 
 February 18, 2011  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , ,

The University of Kansas Athletics Department has taken commitment and accountability to the next level: they have hired a legion of retired-folk (no, not The American Legion, but similar) to assure that their athletes attend class. The full article can be found in the Wall Street Journal’s riveting Life and Culture: Sports section.

First, I’ll set aside all jabs about Duke’s athletic superiority over that of the Jayhawks. Now, let us break down where two ethical questions may arise: one, should these athletes be tracked and two, why do the trackers have to be elderly people?

When I think of college, I think not of more rigorous academics, learning to live with another person, or consuming disgusting amounts of pizza: I think of freedom. Included in my freedom is the choice to attend – or not attend – class. By hiring trackers to check up on these athletes’ attendance, KU is eliminating a fundamental component of the college experience. Should they stigmatize these students on the basis that they are athletes? They forfeit many freedoms when becoming a student athlete, should the liberty to skip class and catch up on sleep every now and then be one of the opportunities forgone?

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Feb 092011
 
 February 9, 2011  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,

Photo credit: Sebastianlund via Flickr

In the era of aging baby boomers, we are concerned about many things: the death of social security, the rise of medical costs, and the overcrowding of nursing homes.  One thing that I am sure we have not considered is the rise of robots.

Yes, you heard (read) me correctly – robots.  According to a February 3rd BBC News article, Japan is pioneering `a caretaker robot for the elderly.  Ri-Man is his name, and he is currently on the market!

Given the declining birthrate, loosening family ties, and strict immigration laws, nursing home workers are in high-demand in Japan.  Leave it up to Toyota and Honda to decide that in addition to automated vehicles, they could produce automated nannies as well!  Ri-Man may be native to Japan, but he could soon be looking after of our baby boomers.  The U.S is also in dire need of elderly care-takers.

Although I was initially very excited by the technology behind Ri-Man, I quickly grew unsettled by the idea.  At first, I couldn’t pinpoint the source of my uneasiness.  After all, robots are appliances, and I use appliances all the time.  My coffee-maker brews my coffee, my microwave heats up my ramen, my straightener tames my hair – I even use an electric toothbrush for goodness sake!  So, why am I so bothered by Ri-Man when I am perfectly content to have technology assist me in every other aspect of my life?

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