Episode 70: "The End of Thirst"

According to the United Nations, 1.2 billion people already suffer from severe water shortages, and that number is expected to increase to 1.8 billion over the next decade, in part because of climate change.
— Sam Kean, "The End of Thirst", December 2015 issue of The Atlantic
Water recycling is a proven technology: California recycles hundreds of millions of gallons each day for irrigation and other uses. So what’s stopping recycled wastewater from going directly to our taps? Human psychology. The very idea of drinking it disgusts many people. They view such water as irredeemably dirty, little better than toilet water.
— Sam Kean, "The End of Thirst", December 2015 issue of The Atlantic

Although many of us may not think about it, water has always been and continues to be a precious resource for life on Earth - human and otherwise. As the global population has increased, however, supplies of fresh water have begun to dwindle. Various scientists, governments and communities around the world have started to think of solutions in response to the potential problem. This week, we react to an article in The Atlantic which deals with this issue. What are our preconceptions surrounding water and what ends would we consider pursuing for our own survival as a species? 

Episode 67: "Robots Have Emotions Too"

In our research, we showed how a simple, small robot could pressure people to continue a highly tedious task—even after the people expressed repeated desire to quit—simply with verbal prodding.
— Dr. James E. Young, "How to Manage Robots and People Working Together"
Research has shown people feel less comfortable around robots who break social norms, such as by having shifty eyes or mismatched facial expressions. A robot’s personality, voice pitch or even the use of whispering can affect feelings of trust and comfort.
— Dr. James E. Young, "How to Manage Robots and People Working Together"

This week we analyze and respond to an article written by Dr. James E. Young.  He and fellow researchers conducted studies to determine the current sentiments human beings have towards robots. Their research indicates that people have an inherent impulse to personalize robots and imbue them with intentions, emotions, social abilities and attachments. He theorizes that in future, steps should be taken to facilitate productive, prosperous working relationships between people and robots in a variety of settings, including combat and other dangerous environments. We use this article as an entry point to discussions about humanity as it relates to robotics and how robots may substantially affect our lives in the future.

Episode 64: The Paris Attacks

Once again we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.
— President Obama, in November 13th statement on the attacks
Terrorists wanted to show the world that we were brutal and unjust, and we did our best to help them do that. Terrorists wanted a war, and we gave them one. And we lost. We lost by giving them the stupid, fearful, angry response that they wanted.
— Hamilton Nolan, "Terrorism Works" on the September 11 attacks

With the recent terror attacks in Paris, we felt it worthwhile to discuss their political, social and personal impacts. Various news organizations have covered the details and both citizens and countries around the world have united to mourn and grieve, but several factors appear to be overlooked. Among the responses, Syrian refugees have been blamed, similar terror attacks (like those in Beirut) have been seemingly ignored by the press and ISIS's intentions and goals appear simplified. As always, we do not have the answers to the questions we ask, but we find the dialogue to be both invaluable and necessary. Our thoughts go out to all of the victims of these recent attacks, as well as their friends and families.

Episode 47: The World of Online Relationships

Above all, Internet dating has helped people of all ages realize that there’s no need to settle for a mediocre relationship.
— Mark Brooks, consultant to online-dating companies, 2011
Let’s be real, there’s nothing wrong in a distant relationship that is honest but we must live in a realistic fact that phone calls are cool, texts are alright, tweets are chill, a Facebook message is okay, but nothing...I mean nothing beats seeing someone in person!
— Kemmy Nola
The market is hugely more efficient … People expect to—and this will be increasingly the case over time—access people anywhere, anytime, based on complex search requests … Such a feeling of access affects our pursuit of love … the whole world (versus, say, the city we live in) will, increasingly, feel like the market for our partner(s). Our pickiness will probably increase.
— Mark Brooks, consultant to online-dating companies, 2011

We're very happy to welcome Phoebe Lewis this week to discuss the nature of online relationships in the modern age. Not restricted to digital tales of romance, we wanted to examine how people behave both online and in reality as it parallels happenings on the Internet. We share our experiences, anecdotes of academic studies and offer insight on how to best navigate the ever-expanding realm of cyber-socializing.

Episode 39: Issues with Multitasking

When we think we’re multitasking we’re actually multiswitching. That is what the brain is very good at doing - quickly diverting its attention from one place to the next. We think we’re being productive. We are, indeed, being busy. But in reality we’re simply giving ourselves extra work.
— Michael Harris
We are the generation capable of doing many things at once, without enjoying any of them.
— Dinesh Kumar Biran
How often have you heard people brag about what great multi-taskers they are? Perhaps you’ve made the same boast yourself. You might even have heard that members of “Gen Y” are natural multi-taskers, having lived their whole lives constantly switching their attention from texting to IMing to Facebooking to watching TV— all supposedly without missing a beat. We even see training classes designed to teach managers how best to multi-task their Gen Y staff, the implication being that asking someone to focus on a single task through to completion has now become ridiculously old-fashioned for, if not downright heretical to, the new world order.

Don’t believe it.
— Michael Hannan

This week we wanted to consider something all of us do in this day and age: multitasking. Several studies and experts conclude that it has detrimental effects on both our mental processing abilities and our productive potential. Certainly it does not originate from one source in particular and we address several responses to the issue which permeates various aspects of our lives.