SDSU Digital Minimalism Life in A Noisy World by Cal Newport Essay

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Use the instructions below to write an analysis on Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World and include citation from one of the resources below to support the thesis.

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Although neither reading delves deeply into this topic, Dennett does mention substance dualism and the "mind body problem" which is a crucial part of understanding artificial intelligence; in order to create consciousness in other things, we first need to understand our own. This requires that we determine what consciousness is, and more fundamentally, whether it is the result of physical processes in our brain OR perhaps something that is immaterial, i.e. cannot be reduced to mere physical processes. This is important because if consciousness is the latter (immaterial), there is little to no possibility that we can create artificial intelligence identical to our own. However, if it is material, then theoretically it is at least possible to create AI identical (or very similar) to our own, even if we lack the capability at the moment.



No matter when or where they were made, or who made them, all technologies have political implications. Evan Barba, similar to Langon Winner in his discussion on artifacts and how they shape our politics, describes how everyday technologies shape our society in intentional and accidental ways.


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Philosophy 140 Final Paper (50 points) Due Tuesday, May 11th by midnight Final Paper Prompt: In the first part of Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, he presents his foundational argument as to why we should adopt digital minimalism into our lives. What are some of his main reasons for this conclusion? Next, identify an author from our course (primary source) that you think would either agree or disagree with Newport’s primary ideas, and explain why. Be sure to cite! Last, present your own ideas regarding Newport’s Claim. Additional Information: This paper is fairly open-ended, and I am not looking for any specific “correct” answer to any of the above questions. You’ve come to find that this class has covered a great deal of different areas regarding technology, so the range of possibilities is equally broad. The goal of the paper is for you to synthesize what you’ve learned and apply it to a contemporary issue regarding technology through Cal Newport’s text. Be sure to utilize key terms/concepts from whatever primary source that you have selected in order to have a thorough discussion. This is considered an analysis paper, which requires that you select a central topic, include a thesis statement that you will defend throughout the paper about said topic, and be sure that most everything in your writing should serve as support for your main point (thesis). *Please use MLA Format for ALL citations* *No minimum word count required; 4-6 pages should suffice if the writing is of high quality* Philosophy 140 Final Paper Grading Rubric Introduction and Conclusion ______ Introduction (0 - 5): Does the introduction contain a specific thesis statement (the claim you intend to discuss)? How well does the first paragraph introduce your topic and the issue in question? ______ Conclusion (0 – 5): How well did you state what you have accomplished in your essay? Do you convey the wider ramifications? Supportive Body Paragraphs ______ Content (0 – 15) How well did support your ideas with source content? Did you define relevant key terms? Does your writing exemplify understanding of both the key concepts you are discussing? Is your writing factually accurate? Did you demonstrate mastery of the materials you choose to discuss? Are the quotes you use relevant to your discussion? ______ Clarity (0 – 15) How clear is your overall thesis? Does each of your body paragraphs serve to support your thesis? Did you maintain focus throughout the paper, or were your ideas all over the place with little logical ordering? Is your terminology readily understandable? Are your ideas readily apparent, or is it difficult to understand what you are intending to communicate? Do you tie the quotes into the overall discussion with proper transitions, i.e. no “floating” quotes? Composition and Mechanics ______ Composition, Spelling, and Grammar (0 – 5): Is your writing clear form mechanical errors? Typos? Grammatical or spelling mistakes? Is it evident that you proofread your paper? ______ Mechanics (0 – 5): Did you draw upon ideas from at least one author from the class? Did you use parenthetical citation and cite your sources in MLA format? Did you employ at least three quotes total? Is your paper 4-6 pages in 12 point Times New Roman Font with 1-inch margins? Total (out of 50 points) Learning Guide Week 13: Daniel Dennett and Donna Haraway Assigned textbook readings: 1. Consciousness in Human and Robot Minds by Daniel Dennett , pages 588-591 (full article not required; end at The Cog Project) 2. A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway, pages 610-618 (full article not required) Blackboard readings: Haraway/Cyborg Manifesto Summary Videos: 1. Crash Course Philosophy: Where Does Your Mind Reside? 2. PBS Ideas Channel: Are We All Cyborgs? 3. Artificial Intelligence: Mankind’s Last Invention 4. Recorded Lecture Key terms and concepts: How are humans a sort of robot? Why is Dennett skeptical that humans will never replicate consciousness in a robot? What are the 4 common “arguments” against robot consciousness Dennett discusses? What are his responses to each argument? Origin chauvinism How does Haraway define a cyborg? What are Haraway’s three “crucial boundary breakdowns”? What does the “informatics of domination” refer to? What is the “homework” economy? Crash Course Philosophy: Reductive physicalism Substance dualism Interactionism The Mind-Body Problem Qualia Epiphenomenalism Mysterianism Crash Course AI: Three key problems in field of robotics Learning Guide Week 15: Andrew Feenberg + Langdon Winner Assigned textbook readings: 1. Democratic Rationalization by Andrew Feenberg, pages 706-714 (full article not required) 2. Do Artifacts Have Politics? by Langdon Winner, pages 668-678 Blackboard readings: Feenberg Summary Winner Summary Videos: 1. TEDTalk w/Evan Barba: Why we need to understand the politics inherent in technology Key terms and concepts: Feenberg Two “ways” (theories) why we haven’t democratized industrialization Critical theory of technology How did Max Weber define rationalization? According to Heidegger and Ellul, what have humans become? How Feenberg defines determinism The two theses of technological determinism Constructivism How is a bicycle subject to “interpretive flexibility”? How Feenberg defines hegemony The two “hermeneutic” dimensions of technical objects What dilemmas the trade-off model presents us What is the “technical code” of an object? Winner What two technologies “recurrently existed side by side”? How can an artifact be democratizing? How does Winner define politics and technology? Two ways in which artifacts can contain political properties Robert Moses + his New York overpass design Two kinds of choices regarding technology that can affect power/privilege in a community How is a ship at sea authoritarian? Two basic arguments that tech is inherently political (stronger/weaker) pg 674 Learning Guide Week 14: Evan Selinger/Timothy Engstrom + Hubert Dreyfus Assigned textbook readings: 1. A Moratorium on Cyborgs by Evan Selinger and Timothy Engstrom, pages 631-640 2. Anonymity vs. Commitment: The Dangers of Education on the Internet by Hubert Dreyfus, pages 641-646 Blackboard readings: Dreyfus Summary Videos: PBS News Hour: Microchipping Humans CNET: Elon Musk’s Neuralink Brain Chip Key terms and concepts: “Mobile me” period 2 questions about Friedman’s characterization of the invention of mobile computing CTM 7 metaphors of CTM Cyber-evangelists The Baconian challenge 6 advantages of Warwick’s technology implantation (the A’s, not the B’s) Warwick’s 2 propositions Clark’s 2 experiences of connections with tech artifacts The fallacy of CTM Hyperlearning Kierkegaard’s three stages How does the internet undermine commitment and meaning and how to stop it The danger of the “godlike” point of view How does the internet make us commit to quantity of information over quality How can one transform information into knowledge What happens if “everything is up for choice”? How does technology inhibit unconditional commitments? How can teachers pass on passion and skill to their students? Anonymity vs. Commitment: The Dangers of Education on the Internet Summary In this article, Hubert Dreyfus takes 19th century existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s thoughts on “The Press” and holds them against the internet to show that the gluttony of information available can lead one away from commitment (involvement) and from connection and from growth. According to Dreyfus, Kierkegaard saw three stages a learner must pass through if he or she is to have a meaningful life: aesthetic, ethical, and religious; the aesthetic and ethical, Dreyfus makes notes, could be integrated with information technology; however, the religious sphere could not. And of course, it is only this sphere that makes meaningful learning possible. Overall, people take interest in everything but are not committed to anything. Through this, there is also no responsibility – for the lackluster information that grows or for the people who waste their time muddling through the lackluster information. With no responsibility and with anyone being able to disseminate information, relevance and significance disappear. He expresses the notion that we all can become godlike because we can now, like God, have an omnipresent view of the world. Dreyfus states that for Kierkegaard, the only alternative “to this anonymity and lack of commitment was to plunge into some kind of activity – any activity – as long as one threw oneself into it with passionate involvement” (579). In discussing the three spheres, we learn that the aesthetic sphere is where we just have sheer joy in the quantity of information the internet provides, but we can’t live only in this sphere. Gluttony of information is not a way in which to live. In the ethical sphere, however, we are committed to involved action; it’s where we turn information into knowledge, something that a formal education facilitates for students. What is needed, ultimately, is the religious sphere, for here is where we make one unconditional commitment, a commitment that represents who we are and what we stand for and that narrows our scope of what’s important, thereby narrowing the information we take in. Dreyfus argues that the role of teachers is to help narrow this scope and generate this commitment via their interaction with students, something that online learning makes impossible. In the end, Dreyfus sees true learning coming from work represented “in the nearness of the classroom and laboratory; never in cyberspace” (583). A Cyborg Manifesto Summary "A Cyborg Manifesto" is an essay written by Donna Haraway and published in 1985 in the Socialist Review. In it, the concept of the cyborg is a rejection of rigid boundaries, notably those separating "human" from "animal" and "human" from "machine". She writes: "The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust." The "Manifesto" criticizes traditional notions of feminism, particularly feminist focuses on identity politics, and encourages instead coalition through affinity. She uses the figure of the cyborg to urge feminists to move beyond the limitations of traditional gender, feminism, and politics; the "Manifesto" is considered one of the milestones in the development of feminist theory. Haraway begins the "Manifesto" by explaining three boundary breakdowns since the 20th century that have allowed for her hybrid, cyborg myth: the breakdown of boundaries between human and animal, animal-human and machine, and physical and non-physical. Evolution has blurred the lines between human and animal; 20th century machines have made ambiguous the lines between natural and artificial; and microelectronics and the political invisibility of cyborgs have confused the lines of physicality. Haraway highlights the problematic use and justification of Western traditions like patriarchy, colonialism, essentialism, and naturalism (among others). These traditions in turn allow for the problematic formations of taxonomies (and identifications of the Other) and what Haraway explains as "antagonistic dualisms" that order Western discourse. These dualisms, Haraway states, "have all been systematic to the logics and practices of domination of women, people of color, nature, workers, animals... all [those] constituted as others." She highlights specific problematic dualisms of self/other, culture/nature, male/female, civilized/primitive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial, God/man (among others). She explains that these dualisms are in competition with one another, creating paradoxical relations of domination (especially between the One and the Other). However, high-tech culture provides a challenge to these antagonistic dualisms. Cyborg theory Haraway's cyborg theory rejects the notions of essentialism (the view that categories of people or things have intrinsically different and characteristic natures or dispositions that make them what they are), proposing instead a changing world of fusions between animal and machine. Haraway's cyborg calls for a non-essentialized, material-semiotic metaphor capable of uniting diffuse political coalitions along the lines of simalarities rather than identity. Haraway takes issue with some traditional feminists, reflected in statements describing how "women more than men somehow sustain daily life, and so have a privileged epistemological (relating to the theory of knowledge) position potentially." The views of traditional feminism operate under the totalizing assumptions that all men are one way, and women another, whereas "a cyborg theory of wholes and parts," does not desire to explain things in total theory. Haraway suggests that feminists should move beyond naturalism and essentialism, criticizing feminist tactics as "identity politics" that victimize those excluded, and she proposes that it is better strategically to confuse identities, such like that of a cyborg, which is difficult if not impossible to define in traditional dualistic terminology like “human” or “robot.” Women, in this way, could become a blend of both the traditional concepts of “man” and “woman,” such that their identity is no longer reliant on such strict binary but rather a continuum between the two. A Cyborg Manifesto Summary "A Cyborg Manifesto" is an essay written by Donna Haraway and published in 1985 in the Socialist Review. In it, the concept of the cyborg is a rejection of rigid boundaries, notably those separating "human" from "animal" and "human" from "machine". She writes: "The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust." The "Manifesto" criticizes traditional notions of feminism, particularly feminist focuses on identity politics, and encourages instead coalition through affinity. She uses the figure of the cyborg to urge feminists to move beyond the limitations of traditional gender, feminism, and politics; the "Manifesto" is considered one of the milestones in the development of feminist theory. Haraway begins the "Manifesto" by explaining three boundary breakdowns since the 20th century that have allowed for her hybrid, cyborg myth: the breakdown of boundaries between human and animal, animal-human and machine, and physical and non-physical. Evolution has blurred the lines between human and animal; 20th century machines have made ambiguous the lines between natural and artificial; and microelectronics and the political invisibility of cyborgs have confused the lines of physicality. Haraway highlights the problematic use and justification of Western traditions like patriarchy, colonialism, essentialism, and naturalism (among others). These traditions in turn allow for the problematic formations of taxonomies (and identifications of the Other) and what Haraway explains as "antagonistic dualisms" that order Western discourse. These dualisms, Haraway states, "have all been systematic to the logics and practices of domination of women, people of color, nature, workers, animals... all [those] constituted as others." She highlights specific problematic dualisms of self/other, culture/nature, male/female, civilized/primitive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial, God/man (among others). She explains that these dualisms are in competition with one another, creating paradoxical relations of domination (especially between the One and the Other). However, high-tech culture provides a challenge to these antagonistic dualisms. Cyborg theory Haraway's cyborg theory rejects the notions of essentialism (the view that categories of people or things have intrinsically different and characteristic natures or dispositions that make them what they are), proposing instead a changing world of fusions between animal and machine. Haraway's cyborg calls for a non-essentialized, material-semiotic metaphor capable of uniting diffuse political coalitions along the lines of simalarities rather than identity. Haraway takes issue with some traditional feminists, reflected in statements describing how "women more than men somehow sustain daily life, and so have a privileged epistemological (relating to the theory of knowledge) position potentially." The views of traditional feminism operate under the totalizing assumptions that all men are one way, and women another, whereas "a cyborg theory of wholes and parts," does not desire to explain things in total theory. Haraway suggests that feminists should move beyond naturalism and essentialism, criticizing feminist tactics as "identity politics" that victimize those excluded, and she proposes that it is better strategically to confuse identities, such like that of a cyborg, which is difficult if not impossible to define in traditional dualistic terminology like “human” or “robot.” Women, in this way, could become a blend of both the traditional concepts of “man” and “woman,” such that their identity is no longer reliant on such strict binary but rather a continuum between the two. “Democratic Rationalization” by Andrew Feenberg Summary Democratic rationalization is term used by Andrew Feenberg in his article "Subversive Rationalization: Technology, Power and Democracy with technology." Feenberg argues against the idea of technological determinism citing flaws in its two fundamental theses. The first is the thesis of unilinear progress. This is the belief that technological progress follows a direct and predictable path from lower to higher levels of complexity and that each stage along this path is necessary for progress to occur. The second is the thesis of determination by the base. This is the concept that in a society where a technology had been introduced, that society must organize itself or adapt to the technology. In his argument against the first thesis, Feenberg says that constructivist studies of technology will lead us to realize that there is not a set path by which development of technologies occur but rather an emerging of similar technologies at the same time leading to a multiplicity of choices. These choices are made based upon certain social factors and upon examining them we will see that they are not deterministic in nature. Arguing against the second thesis, Feenberg calls to our attention social reforms that have been mandated by governments mainly in regards to the protection of its citizens and laborers. Most of the time these mandates are widely accepted after being passed through the governing body. At which point technology and industry will reform and re-evolve to meet the new standards in a way that has greater efficiency than it did so previously. Do Artifacts Have Politics? Langdon Winner Summary Though he rejects what he calls "naïve technological determinism," Winner argues that "certain technologies in themselves have political properties." He indicates two ways in which this occurs: "the invention, design, or arrangement of a specific technical device or system becomes a way of settling an issue in the affairs of a particular community" or 2. "inherently political technologies" which "appear to require or to be strongly compatible with particular kinds of political relationships." Technical Arrangements and Social Order 1. The most commonly cited example from Winner's essay is the height of the bridges over park ways on Long Island. Robert Moses build them according to specifications that would discourage the presence of buses. "One consequence was to limit access of racial minorities and low-income groups to Jones Beach, Moses' widely acclaimed public park. Moses made doubly sure of this result by vetoing a proposed extension of the Long Island Roach to Jones Beach. This is a demonstration of technological design that enforced a particular political agenda. Lessig cites this as a case of architecture being used as a modality of constraint on behavior. Winner provides other examples of consciously political design: • • • "Baron Haussmann's broad Parisian thoroughfares, engineered at Louis Napoleon's direction to prevent any recurrence of street fighting of the kind that took place during the revolution of 1848," "concrete buildings and huge plazas constructed on university campuses in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970 to defuse student demonstrations," Cyrus McCormick's introduction of pneumatic molding machines into his Chicago reaper manufacturing plant in the 1880s, in order to "weed out" the skilled workers who had organized a local union. Winner points out, however, that "to recognize the political dimensions in the shapes of technology does not require that we look for conscious conspiracies or malicious intentions." There are other interesting cases in which "the technological deck has been stacked in advance in favor of certain social interests," even though this stacking may not have been a conscious choice on anyone's part: • • Failure to accommodate for individuals with disabilities has arisen "more from longstanding neglect than from anyone's active intention." Many recent federal regulations have been written to address this neglect. The introduction of mechanical tomato harvesters inspires the breeding of new varieties of tomatoes, which are able to better handle the machinery's rough motion. The combination of new equipment and new tomato breeds has had a dramatic effect on farm communities, which have been displaced by large agri-businesses. Inherently Political Technologies Many technologies, Winner argues, are inherently political, since their very creation and operation requires specific social arrangements: • • • • Plato's Republic emphasized that "no reasonable person believes that ships can be run democratically," since their operation requires the coordination of so many individual workers. Large ships require social hierarchies that one-person canoes do not. Friedrich Engels pointed out that complex technical systems, such as large production factories, can serve as a means to reinforce centralized control. As the systems get more complex, "central control by knowledgeable people acting at the top of a rigid social hierarchy would seem increasingly prudent." Winner also quotes Jerry Mander, who explains that "if you accept nuclear power plants, you also accept a techno-scientific industrial-military elite. Without these people in charge, you could not have nuclear power." Conversely, environmental activist have often lauded the democratizing qualities of solar energy, which tends to work against the concentration of power in the hands of large institutions. "Taking the most obvious example, the atom bomb is an inherently political artifact. As long as it exists at all, its lethal properties demand that it be controlled by a centralized, rigidly hierarchical, chain of command closed to all influences that might make its workings unpredictable." This is a "matter of practical necessity independent of any larger political system in which the bomb is embedded." Implications: Winner's arguments can be important to both creators and consumers of new technology. Winner points out that the political nature of certain technologies have been used by both ends of the political spectrum. And designers of roads have purposely specified the height of bridges to keep populations of lower socio-economic status out of certain areas. When considering technological change, Winner identifies two broad types of choices: 1. 2. "yes or no" on whether to adopt a new technology, and "special features in the design or arrangement of a technical system" for which the answer to the first choice was "yes." The most important thing to recognize about these choices is that they often go far being pragmatic concerns about what tool would be best or most cost-effective for a given job. Many amount to the selection of "forms of life," since they embody certain possibilities more than others. The "greatest latitude of choice exists the very first time a particular instrument, system, or technique is introduced," so "the same careful attention that one would give to the rules, roles, and relationships of politics must also be given" to such technological choices. In contemporary society, such decisions are often not recognized as such. The advancement of certain ends has become so ingrained in our thinking that we fail to recognize reasons other than those of practical necessity toward those ends. "In many instances, to say that some technologies are inherently political is to say that certain widely accepted reasons of practical necessity— especially the need to maintain crucial technological systems as smoothly working entities— have tended to eclipse other sorts of moral and political reasoning."
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Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport: An Analysis
"Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World" is a book written by
Cal Newport – a computer scientist whose literary works tend to lean towards psychological and
philosophical notions. In “Digital Minimalism,” Newport presents his foundational argument
about the dangers that the digital environment poses to society and the human mind. The digital
space plays a crucial role in the modern world. It offers people numerous opportunities like
learning and entrepreneurship opportunities and provides broad and instant connectivity to
people and processes worldwide, thereby improving communication and enriching the human
experience. However, Newport highlights that despite the many opportunities that the digital
environment presents to society, the digital world can equally have detrimental impacts (10).
Among the digital technologies that Newport discusses are social media, which he argues pose
real problems to the quality of human life. This paper discusses how the lack of self-regulation in
how one uses social media predisposes them to mechanisms that pose a real danger in one’s
ability to make the leap from raw information to knowledge.
Newport argues that the current online space is designed to hold our attention and interest
(12). At the core of social media application systems is a design to make users dependent on the
cycle of constantly checking updates and...


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