The most basic of human rights

July 28th, 2011

Over the last few months, I’ve been making every attempt possible to ignore a certain thought that was brought about through some unfortunate events – but I’m finally ready to confront it. Around the easter holidays, I was informed my grandfather had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Given his age and how far the cancer had progressed, any treatment was out of the question – the only option left was pain management. This afternoon, he passed away peacefully with his wife and two daughters by his side. Before I continue, let me make something clear – I completely understand that things like this happen; they are a part of life (after all, death is inevitable). However, the one thing that makes me so incredibly angry and frustrated is that euthanasia is illegal in most of the world to this day.

For those of you that don’t know, the word euthanasia comes from Greek and translates to “good death”. Euthanasia is the act of intentionally ending life to relieve pain and suffering. There are a few ‘classifications’:

  • Voluntary: conducted with patients consent, either active (lethal substances) or passive (witholding of life support – known as assisted suicide)
  • Non-voluntary: patient is not able to consent, but euthanasia is deemed in their best interest (ie a coma or an infant)
  • Involuntary: conducted against the will of the patient

My main concern that voluntary euthanasia is only legal in a handful of countries. Had, for example, my grandfather wished to not suffer as the cancer slowly ate through his body and instead die with dignity, on his own terms, he would have needed to travel to another country (which is a big ask for a man who has lost more than 15 kilos from not being able to eat and can’t even get out of bed without passing out from pain).

So, let’s examine what options there are in Australia for those who are terminally ill and suffering through a gargantuan amount of pain. The only escapes that spring to mind are: suicide, and ‘pain management’. Suicide is CLEARLY out of the question, as it’s also illegal in Australia for anyone other than the patient to get involved. That leaves us with only one choice, pain management. For someone going through severe pain, this is normally achieved through morphine. Whilst this may help relieve much of the pain of the patient, it changes them as a person. They are no longer living as themselves, but as someone spaced out on opiates. Spending your last few days/months/years alive bedridden and on morphine is such an incredibly degrading way to depart this earth that ‘pain management’ should be illegal in Australia (and the rest of the world), not voluntary euthanasia.

Outlawing voluntary euthanasia is taking away perhaps our most important right – the right to die. Most people will rave on about how our forefathers fought for our freedom – how about the freedom over our own mind and body? I’ll leave you with one last question – would you rather die slowly in excruciating pain to conditions out of your control; or would you rather be able to go quickly, with dignity and on your own terms?




In loving memory of David Matthews: the best grandfather a kid could ever have asked for.

Lest we forget

April 25th, 2011

Without any doubt, Anzac Day is certainly the day I look forward to more than any other on the calendar. Whether I’m paying my respects at the dawn service in Melbourne, participating in the march through the city or watching yet another epic clash of the Bombers take on the Magpies at the ‘G; I truly appreciate this day more than Christmas, Easter and all the public holidays combined.

However, seeing my Great-Grandfather’s medals from World War One this morning was a sobering experience. At 23 years old, he would have been one of the older Aussie boys to get sent over to England (and later, France). It hits incredibly close to home that the many of our troops that were sent overseas were the same age I am now (19), or younger. It’s heart-warming to see that year in, year out; the youth of Australia are still making the effort to pay tribute to the young men and women who sacrificed their lives for their country, to preserve the freedom and rights of generations to come.

With a history as proud as Australia’s, I’m sure that given the chance, many deceased servicemen and women would agree with Nathan Hale’s dying words, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country…”

Flawed by Design

April 16th, 2011

I StumbledUpon this video the other day, and it really got me thinking. The film itself looks amazing, and I really want to watch it – but it’s the idea of the Onkalo storage facility I would like to talk about. Whilst Onkalo itself is a testament to human engineering and ingenuity; I detest the amount of time and money being spent on this project. The idea of storing nuclear waste rather than investing time and money into fusion is ridiculous. I’m no expert in nuclear energy; but I understand that at the moment, the only way humans have managed to harvest nuclear energy is through fission (which is splitting atoms) – the process itself is dangerous, and results in radioactive nuclear waste. The alternative is fusion; this methods joins atoms and is much less dangerous and also ‘clean’. However, whilst fusion has been achieved, we have not yet been able to harvest the energy from the reaction(s). The fact that someone has achieved fusion in their own home makes me wonder why people are still investing in fission rather than fusion.

The other thing that shits me about Onkalo is that whilst the bunker itself is planned to be ready for storage in 2020, it will be full and sealed by 2120 – such a gargantuan effort for only 100 years of use? And then it needs to be able to withstand 100,000 years of mother natures wear and tear until the waste is no longer radioactive (even though the oldest human structure still remaining is less than 10,000 years old)? This whole project makes me realise:
the human race is flawed by design, as it seems like its preoccupied with its own destruction…

Affliction

March 14th, 2011

How many more disasters is it going to take for people to stop killing one another? We’re having a hard enough time living on this planet already without waging wars in the mean time. In the past six months alone; there has been cyclones, floods, earthquakes and now tsunamis.

So, you’ve got to wonder; when is the human race gonna smarten the fuck up, put their weapons down and start working together before there’s nothing left worth living for? Sure, it seems illogical to consider it possible to completely prevent natural disasters – but who knows what could be possible if the human race united and worked as one towards a greater cause? If less money was poured into researching how to kill one another and perhaps made available to something even remotely useful – like, I don’t know; providing medicine and food (basic human necessities) to those in need, or discovering cleaner and more efficient energy sources before we run out – I’d possibly feel a tiny little bit less disgusted to call myself human. Even if we can’t entirely prevent natural disasters, surely it’d be possible to improve upon our measures currently in place to reduce casualties.

One thing that’s got me thinking over the past couple of days is the #prayforjapan tag on twitter. I’m not going to turn this into some big derogatory speech about religion, so just relax. I think it’s fantastic that the people of Japan haven’t been forgotten about in their time of hardship by the rest of the world – the overwhelming amount of support and donations is really endearing (maybe there is hope for our kind yet, if we can all come together in times like these). However, one of my very good friends lilfellabob pointed out “If there is a God, how do things like this happen?”. And it’s a fantastic point to make. Even if God is “punishing us for our sins” or merely trying to prevent the world from becoming overpopulated – think about the amount of innocent people that have been killed in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami alone. So my point remains – perhaps #prayforjapan isn’t a very smart tag (after all, the majority of people that are of or above average intelligence aren’t religious), because you’re praying to God who allows shit like this to happen.

I’ve been rambling for a while now, and I just want to re-iterate the main point of this post – I’m angry. Angry, sad and disappointed that thousands of (innocent) people are still dying because of things that can be prevented. I would love nothing more than to see, one day, every nation and person in the world overcoming their differences and working together towards making the future better. I know I sound like a raging hippy, but sorry – if that’s not something you want, you’ve got issues.

“Sometimes, the very measures we put into place to safeguard our liberty become threats to liberty itself”

March 3rd, 2011

So, I just finished watching Eagle Eye, again – and it reminds me of the risks associated with our dependance on technology. As technology is advancing at an exponential rate, so is people’s dependance on it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge tech-head. I couldn’t live without my smartphone or desktop. But with the internet rapidly growing and technology becoming a part of more and more people’s everyday lives worldwide, you really must consider how horribly wrong things could go.

And Eagle Eye does a fantastic idea of raising this issue. For those that haven’t seen it, the US Defence Force have created an AI (artificial intelligence) system in order to scour real-time data for security threats and the like. However, this AI has access to pretty much anything that is a networked piece of technology – traffic lights, security/surveillance cameras, automated/remotely controlled machinery, mobile phones; the works. Growing frustrated with the choices made by the current US chain of command, ARIIA invokes “Operation Guillotine” – a plan to remove the current presidential cabinet and replace it.

You ask, “Who’d be stupid enough to create something with the power to control all these things?”. Well, it’s not as implausible as it sounds. With the world rapidly becoming inter-connected and reliant on automation, it’s completely posisble for a similar outcome – maybe not attributed to an AI system, but rather cyber-terrorists. Think about if somone were able to access all of your digital information – credit card history, phone calls/text messages, social network interaction, footage from cameras. They’d essentially know almost everything about you – and this leads to an already growing problem in Australia (let alone the world): identity theft.

By no means am I trying to suggest that we should all just boycott using technology (let’s face it, it’s impossible) – but hopefully this gets you thinking about what you decide to put on the internet as well as, more importantly, how can we increase digital security in order to protect ourselves? Should we push for alert systems like ARIIA in Eagle Eye, or should we try and limit the amount of power given to a system? Anyway, it’s 2:30AM and I’m tired – let me know what you think about this topic.

Procrastination

February 15th, 2011

It’s amazing how good I become at procrastination when I have assignments due in, or exams approaching. Seriously – I should be given an award or something (not that I’d ever collect it, I’d just keep putting it off!). However, I believe this says something about my work ethic – I strive under pressure and work incredibly effectively under a deadline. For example, the last assignment I handed in which I worked on for about four crazy hours before the due date (actually, it was one day overdue) was marked 14/20.

Let’s hope this essay I’m currently avoiding (1/3 completed, due in at 6pm today) turns out to be a similar surprise ;)

My thoughts on the importance of technology in today’s society

January 28th, 2011

In semester one, I was given an assignment to write a 1000 word essay on my thoughts on “Information Systems impact on culture and society”. The essay took about 4 hours inclusive of referencing, and scored pretty well too. Hopefully you can take something out of this, regardless of whether you’re an über nerd or someone who doesn’t know how to turn on a computer.

Information Systems have come quite a long way in a relatively short span of years; from rooms filled with cabinets of hardware to store an amount of data that these days could be stored on a single chip the size of a fingernail, from the days of ARPANET with its 50kbps connection (Leiner, 2003) to broadband access almost anywhere on the face of the earth. As humanity become more acquainted with and depends more and more upon IS and IT, it is worth examining the impact that they have upon the world.

Information Systems combined with Information Technology have become an indispensable asset to modern businesses. Used together, IS and IT allow any business to exchange a vast array of information conveniently and instantly (Kroenke, Bunker & Wilson, 2010, p. 10). When used correctly, Information Systems can give a commercial business a competitive edge over the market – thus creating many jobs for IS and IT professionals. Online training and even working from home are made much easier and commonplace, allowing businesses to run much more time and cost effective.

IS and IT are not only useful for making a profit, however. The rapidly decreasing price of computer hardware due to Moore’s Law (Kroenke, Bunker & Wilson, 2010, p. 13) has enabled even third world countries to have access to computers and the internet to gain an education through the One Laptop Per Child association, founded by Nicholas Negroponte. The relatively inexpensive cost of a PC and an internet connection has led to a drastic increase in the amount of internet users worldwide. In the United States alone, the amount of internet users as a percentage of the population has risen from 0.801% in 1990 to an astonishing 72.4% in 2008 (World Bank, 2010).

With so many internet users, the range of applications and services available to the public via the internet seems almost endless. A multitude of services such as online banking, shopping and educational tools make life much simpler and safer for the public. IS and IT allow isolated communities without the resources for a library or even schools access to virtually endless information through online libraries and distance learning. Social interaction is also improved in many cases, allowing people who lead busy lifestyles to stay in contact with their family via video chat or equivalent.
However, whilst the advantages of IS and IT in society seem almost infinite, there is also a range of negative aspects that IS and IT inflict upon society. The precautions put in place over the ‘Y2K bug’ were estimated to have cost between 300 and 600 billion US dollars (BBC News, 2000). The world of IS and IT open up a plethora of new opportunities for criminals – identity theft and credit card fraud are a serious issue and have caused organisations like ‘ScamWatch’ to be put in place by the Australian government. Authorities have expressed their concerns over the privacy issues generated by social networking websites such as Facebook. These kind of issues have cultural repercussions; the Swiss and German authorities stated that because Facebook allows its users to upload others personal content to the site without their consent then Facebook “are not abiding by the law in Europe” (Reisinger, D 2010).

With the invention of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing protocol combined with cheap broadband connections, digital theft has become quite an issue. It is incredibly easy for anyone with a standard PC and internet connection to pirate software, and some of the earlier file sharing websites such as Kazaa and Grokster faced massive lawsuits from various record labels and Hollywood studios. In the case of MGM Studios Inc v Grokster, Grokster was forced to pay a total of US $50 million in damages.

With more and more children having access to the internet, a variety of problems have arisen – the first and foremost being cyber bullying. Every day new cases of cyber bullying are being published in the media, and the majority of the time the unfortunate outcome is suicide or the child dropping out of school. Many associations and educational programs for both parents and children have been formed to combat cyber bullying but it is still a rampant problem.

With IS and IT playing such a huge part in our everyday lives, there are organisations such as the UN trying to make internet access a human right (Best, M 2000) – and countries such as Estonia where access to the internet already is a human right (Woodard, C 2003). However, some cultures such as the Chinese have mandatory internet censorship. The censored version of Google for the Chinese, Google China, is the world’s largest internet search engine company. Due to an attack on Google nicknamed ‘Operation Aurora’, Google announced in their blog that “we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn…We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China” (Google, 2010). The proposed internet censorship in Australia has been met with much resistance by public and businesses alike, with Google issuing a statement that the mandatory filtering could “negatively impact user access speeds and damage Australia’s international reputation” (Moses, A 2010).

Even though IS and IT has its social merits, there are those that have been negatively affected too. Internet addiction is becoming increasing prevalent, especially in teenagers. Video games and other applications allow people to spend countless hours online without need to leave the house. There are a range of organisations that help to prevent an internet addiction disorder. According to M Orzack, the director of the Computer Addiction Study Centre at Harvard’s McLean Hospital, 5-10% of internet users suffer from a ‘Web dependency’ (Goldman, L 2005).
Even though Information Systems and IT have numerous positive and negative aspects, it’s very difficult to deny that the human race would be able to function as effectively without it. The implications of no longer having Information Systems of Information Technology are disastrous.

Beginnings

January 28th, 2011

I like beginnings. I certainly prefer them to endings, anyway (endings actually require you to do some work). Beginnings are exciting; whether it be the beginning of a new website (such as this), a new program or project, or even a new relationship. The wonderful thing about beginnings is that you can have as many as you’d like. I suppose that whole attitude is part of my personality – which, more often that not, is a negative thing. Rather than seeing a project through to completion, I’ll leave it half baked and start a completely new one. I’m not sure this is the healthiest work/life habit to have, but I manage to get by.

For those of you that don’t know me, check out the About Me section. This blog will be about everything and anything, from interesting articles I find to stories from my life I’d like to share. Unfortunately (for some), I won’t be treating this like a 12 year old’s tumblr and uploading dozens of lolcat pictures per day – don’t say I didn’t warn you. I will try and keep this regularly updated, but for those of you who don’t know me my schedule is always pretty busy so there may be times where I don’t get round to posting for a week or so. Of course, feel free to check out my facebook.

That’ll be all for now, because it’s time to head off for work…