International Workshop, “Ethics, Wellbeing and Meaningful Broadband”

International Workshop

Ethics, Wellbeing and Meaningful Broadband

August 16 – 17, 2011

Chulalongkorn University

Introducing broadband to a country such as Thailand has faced a number of challenges. Many of these challenges are regulatory and political in nature. Many groups are vying for a lead position in the broadband game and no one wants to lose out. This has led to an impasse where nothing is moving. However, a brighter prospect appears to be on the horizon when a new law was passed recently setting up the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) which has the responsibility and the authority to lay out regulatory framework for broadband network. Hence it seems that Thailand will have its own broadband network soon.

Nevertheless, a new set of challenges are emerging as a result of the introduction of the broadband network. When the physical infrastructure is there, these new challenges include how the network will be used to the best interest of the public as a whole. We have introduced the notion of “meaningful broadband” to refer specifically to these new challenges. How can broadband communication be “meaningful” in the sense that it responds to not only the demand for economic growth, but also the need to maintain the values and goals which are not so directly measurable? These values and goals comprise the meaningfulness of people’s lives. Meaningful values, for example, are present when the people do not become a mere cog in the giant economic wheel but retain their sense of purpose and direction that is ethically positive. Hence a number of questions and challenges emerges: How can broadband use be integrated into the traditional lives of the people so that it does not become a mere tool of the new seemingly all-powerful values of consumerism and globalized commercialization? How can broadband fit with and even promote the values that are meaningful to the people?

This is the rationale for the international workshop on “Ethics, Wellbeing and Meaningful Broadband.” A number of internationally recognized scholars have been invited to the workshop to share their viewpoints with leading Thai thinkers and members of the public to find ways to respond to the challenges of ethical and meaningful broadband use mentioned above. The workshop aims at answering the following questions:

1) How to operationalize “sufficiency economy”? The Thai constitution has a requirement for each Thai ministry and agency, including its regulatory agency, to further “sufficiency economy,” a principle laid out by the Thai king. The principle has affinities with the Bhutanese principle of “Gross National Happiness.” How is this requirement of either Sufficiency Economy and Gross National Happiness being operationalized? Of it is being ignored, why and which government agencies are innovating on this theme. As a new regulatory agency tied to the theme of digital convergence (linking broadcast and broadband), NBTC represent a new opportunity to position Sufficiency Economy as an overall driver of digital convergence strategies, integrated into the frequency allocation (spectrum management) and taxation strategies of the new regulator as well as establishing a new interface between regulation and “human development” which is a traditional concern of ministries such as public health, culture and education which have been totally isolated from telecommunications regulation.

2) How to pre-empt government censorship of the Internet? Recently political constituencies and governmental factions have furthered internet censorship in Thailand and in other Asian nations. This is particularly evident regarding online games, gambling, pornography, and (in particular countries), certain themes such as Lese Majeste, Singapore’s sensitivity to criticism, China’s sensitivity to human rights arguments, Arab countries sensitivity to protest movements fostered by the internet. Censorship is an example of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” because exclusion of web sites via censorship often prevents a country from receiving benefits from internet-based learning in an effort to achieve specific goals and much internet censorship is ineffective and unenforceable for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless we can expect censorship to continue and grow unless “national broadband ecosystems” emerge that that are meaningful to citizens and nations. In particular, needs of vulnerable citizens (the poor, the uneducated, young children) must be protected. What can be done in the design and regulation of new technologies to attracted ethically valuable applications technology and discourage negative impacts? What can be learned by the effort to develop “quality of life indexes,” e.g. those underlying Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH), to provide objective measures of technologies that enable policymakers to exclude or attract certain technologies based on their anticipated ethical impacts?

3) Rethinking “media ethics” for the broadband era: What is the track record of “media ethics” strategies to limit harm from television and encourage voluntary compliance by Hollywood or music-makers? What has/hasn’t worked in influencing behavior by large number of users, e.g. young children? What are the obstacles that have prevented better success of media ethics strategies? Now that the broadband era is introducing multimedia convergence how is the media ethics field changing? What new opportunities and challenges is it facing. What can be learn from South Korea and other broadband-saturated nations? How to effectively integrate media ethics considerations into broadband policies before a nation embarks upon its broadband-enabled transformation?

4) Predicting the ethical impacts of broadband: What are the best methods for scenario construction, forecasting and prediction of the ethical impacts of broadband? How can a “wellbeing society” be visualized and construction that involves broadband use? How can broadband contribute to wellbeing? How are the ethical impacts in poor uneducated countries different from advanced highly educated nations?

5) Technological determinism vs. human intervention: What are current views regarding the philosophical concept of technological determinism? What is the origin and development of this concept and what do we know from empirical research on this theme — from Pythagoras to Heidegger to McLuhan? What are the technologically deterministic viewpoints that now dominate the broadband era — and what corporate or governmental interests sustain these viewpoints? What opportunities exist to alter the course of next-generation broadband-enabled technologies in order to ameliorate their ethical impacts?

Registration

The public is invited to attend. However, space is limited. Please register with Mr. Parkpume Vanichaka at parkpume@gmail.com by July 31, 2011. Registered participants are invited for the luncheon before the main event on August 16. There are no registration fees.

Language

The workshop will be conducted both in English and Thai, and there will be simultaneous interpretation services.

Schedule

Workshop on “Ethics, Wellbeing and Meaningful Broadband”

Room 105, Maha Chulalongkorn Building, Chulalongkorn University

August 16, 2011

11.45 Lunch and Registration

13.00 “The Second Wireless Revolution: Bringing Meaningful Broadband to the Next Two Billion,” Craig W. Smith

14.00 “Content Regulations in the Broadband Era: Incentives and Disincentives Based Approach to Content Regulations,” by Akarapon Kongchanagul

14.45 “The Seven Habits of Highly Meaningful Broadband,” Arthit Suriyawongkul

15.30 Break

15.45 “The Anonymous Group: A Look at Online Rebel,” Poomjit Sirawongprasert

16.30 “Give Them the Tools, Get Out of the Way: the Liberisation of Communication and its Consequences,” Nares Damrongchai

17.15 Closes

August 17, 2011

8.30 Registration

9.00 Keynote Lecture, “Ironies of Interdependence: Some Reflections on ICT and Equity in Global Context,” Peter Hershock, East-West Center, USA

10.00 “Toward a Well-being Society Scenario,” Hans van Willenswaard

10.45 Break

11.00 “From Veblen to Zuckerberg: Past, Present, and Future of Techno-Determinism in Thailand,” Pun-arj Chairatana

11.45 Lunch

13.00 “Computer Technology for the Well-Being of the Elderly and People with Disabilities,” Proadpran Punyabukkana

13.45 “Meaningfulness, IT and the Elderly,” Soraj Hongladarom

14.30 Mini-break

14.40 “Media and Information Literacy (MIL): the Move beyond Broadband Access,” Kasititorn Pooparadai

15.25 Break

15.40 “Right Speech VS. Free speech: Buddhist Perspective and Meaningful Broadband,” Supinya Klangnarong

16.25 “From Meaningful Broadband to Open Infrastructures and Peer Economies,” Michel Bauwens

17.10 General Discussion – Where do we go from now?

17.30 Workshop closes.

18.00 Dinner, “Baan Khun Mae” Restaurant, Siam Square


Moral Robots?

One of the interesting things that emerged from the two conferences (SPT2011 and CEPE2011) I attended in the US in late May was that there were a lot of talks and discussions on “moral” or “ethical” robots. For those of you who are not in the know, robots now are much more sophisticated and much more advanced. The US military has been developing “killer robots” for some time now and it is common practice now for the military to send unmanned airplanes to target and bomb their enemy positions. Development of soldier robots is also in the making. The idea is to develop robots which can function much like a soldier, and in combat with the enemy the robot can of course shoot and kill. Quite a terrifying aspect.

Robots are not only being developed to shoot and kill. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are robots that act as companions for those who need them but cannot find one with flesh and blood. Robots are now replacing humans as companions or the elderly in nursing homes. At least this is happening in the West. Instead of having human companions, the elderly (and in fact not only them) are being provided with “companion robots” which look like either humans or cute pets, and are supposed to be tender and gentle. We can certainly imagine human-look-alikes that can talk and show (semblances of) emotions on their faces in nursing homes, providing the elderly with round-the-clock care and attention, much more readily that a human ever could.

These situations call for ethical reflection. A question that was raised during the discussion on caregiving robots was: What does this signify about our own situation? If we are to give our parents and grandparents caregiving robots, what does this tell us about ourselves? But there was another question. Imperfect as the robots are, they are still better than nothing. That is, if there is no one around to care for the elderly, then at least the robots can fill in the void.

I have written many months ago that a Japanese professor had already developed a robot replica of himself. He also created a robot girl that looked uncannily similar to a real girl. This of course gives rise to the topic of robot sex. Many have taken up this topic and discuss whether it is good or bad for a human being to have a robot as their companion and sexual partner. Does having sex with a robot essentially the same as masturbation, or is it in the same league as having sex with a real human partner?

This may depend on whether robots can be self aware and conscious. They are not capable of doing that now, or so it seems, but the harder problem is that we humans do not even have complete understanding of our own self-consciousness. We are still debating on what it actually is, and according to the Churchlands we are essentially deluding ourselves when we think that there is actually such a thing as self-consciousness, or consciousness for that matter. But if the Churchlands are right, then we are also deluding ourselves when we ask of robots whether they can be self aware or not. They can’t, because even we ourselves cannot, and in fact no being ever could.

Even if the Churchlands are wrong, we still have problems explaining self consciousness, so presumably we would have problems explaining why we seem to believe that robots can’t become conscious too.

Actually the problem whether robots can become conscious does not have to concern us here. What is more pressing is that robots are already around and they are working as soldiers or caregivers and many other things. What should we do with them? Is it possible to install some kind of “ethics algorithem” into their “minds” so that they become ethical? So a very interesting question is: Can robots become more ethical than us? If so, then what is left of us human beings?

Call for Chapter Proposals

Proposal Submission Deadline: July 15, 2009

Full Chapter Submission Deadline: September 30, 2009

Genomics and Bioethics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Technologies and Advancements

A book edited by Dr. Soraj Hongladarom
Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

To be published by IGI Global: http://www.igi-global.com/requests/details.asp?ID=641

Introduction
Today’s world is one in which science and technology play an essential role in almost every aspect of life. Almost all of the changes that are taking place are due to advances in science and technology, as can be seen in the emergence of the Internet, which has enabled information to explode exponentially in the past few years, and biotechnology, which has made such scenarios as human cloning and genetic manipulation of organisms an everyday reality.

Nowadays the two technologies are being seamlessly merged together. Genetic information technology, made possible by the use of information technology in the life sciences, has created a number of ethical and social concerns. It seems now that plants and animals, indeed potentially all organisms, are malleable to the needs and desires of human beings. The human genome sequence, perhaps what constitutes the essence of human beings, is now no more than a piece of information that can be stored and manipulated by computers, not unlike other types of data such as house registrations and health records.

This merging of information and biological technologies has created a whole host of questions related to its social, ethical, cultural, economic and legal contexts. What is most interesting is how one could understand these social and ethical ramifications in the context of the world’s cultures and historical traditions. The voluminous literature on the ethical, social and legal aspects of life sciences and biotechnology show that there is indeed a very large variety of problems related to the social and cultural contexts of science and technology. However, what is lacking in this literature is a sustained effort to comprehend the complex range of questions and issues that emerge when these scientific and technological advancements have found a way to the socio-cultural fabric of the world’s cultures, including, but not limited to, Asian, African, and European societies, cultures and communities.

Thus, chapter proposals for the book, entitled Genomics and Bioethics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Technologies and Advancements, are being called in order to fulfill this lacuna.

Objective of the Book
The objective of the book is thus to contribute to the existing gap in interdisciplinary research on comparative studies of cultural, social and ethical implications of genomics and bioinformatics. The focus will be ethical, social, cultural, and legal implications of genetics, genomics and genetic databanking as they are related to concrete cultural and historical traditions.

Target Audience
The book should be of interest to a wide range of researchers and academics, due to its interdisciplinary and integrative feature. Philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, scholars in area studies, computer scientists, biologists, geneticists, health care professionals, and policy makers, among others, should find this book useful for their work and research. The book could be a very good textbook for students in a variety of fields as well, including genomics, bioethics, bioinformatics, philosophy and others.

Recommended topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Cultural or religious perspectives on genomics, bioinformatics, databanking
• Legal perspectives from various countries on these issues
• Genetic privacy
• Property rights and personality rights in genomics and bioinformatics
• The role of informed consent
• Comparative studies of biobanking
• Genomic, bioinformatics and biobanking in developing countries

Submission Procedure
Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit on or before July 15, 2009, a 2-3 page chapter proposal clearly explaining the mission and concerns of his or her proposed chapter. Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by July 31, 2009 about the status of their proposals and sent chapter guidelines. Full chapters are expected to be submitted by September 30, 2009. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis. Contributors may also be requested to serve as reviewers for this project. Additional information regarding this publication can also be found at http://www.stc.arts.chula.ac.th/Genomics/

Publisher
This book is scheduled to be published by IGI Global (formerly Idea Group Inc.), publisher of the “Information Science Reference” (formerly Idea Group Reference), “Medical Information Science Reference” and “IGI Publishing” imprints. For additional information regarding the publisher, please visit http://www.igi-global.com. This publication is anticipated to be released in late 2010.

Important Dates
July 15, 2009: Proposal Submission Deadline
July 31, 2009: Notification of Acceptance
September 30, 2009: Full Chapter Submission
November 15, 2009: Review Results Returned
December 15, 2009: Revised Chapter Submission
January 15, 2010: Final Acceptance Notification

Inquiries and submissions can be forwarded electronically (MS Word or OpenOffice document) to:
Dr. Soraj Hongladarom
Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts
CHULALONGKORN UNIVERSITY, BANGKOK, THAILAND
Tel.: +66(0)2218 4756 • Fax: +66(0)2218 4755
E-mail: hsoraj@chula.ac.th
Book website: http://www.stc.arts.chula.ac.th/Genomics/

Safari 4 Public Beta

Right now I am typing this post in Apple’s new Safari 4 browser. The program has just come out yesterday and is now getting a lot of reviews, most of them positive I think.

If you are familiar with Safari, this browser looks rather the same as the previous ones. However, the main difference is that there is a page called “Top Sites” where you can see all your favorite sites in one glance. The first pages of the sites are displayed in a grid pattern familiar to those who use the Leopard system (10.5). Since I don’t own iPhone or iPod yet, I can’t tell whether this feature looks like the patterns there.

Another thing is that the tabs are now on top of the page itself. This takes a little while to get used to. At first I thought the new tab was not there when I opened a new tab. But then the tabs are on top, meaning that the look and feel of each pages remains the same after a new tab is opened.

There is one thing that Safari has not been able to solve. There are some web sites that the program just can’t open. Take this one as an example — http://researchers.in.th/ It is a portal for blogs by researchers in Thailand, but Safari just won’t open it. I thought the new version would be able to solve this problem, but it did not. When I opened it with Safari, I got only an empty page.

But after all this is a very good browser. There is also a version for Windows, so you might want to try for yourself. Just go to http://www.apple.com

There is one serious bug in the browser that either Apple or WordPress will have to handle. When I tried to add a link to a post here, the screen turn opaque as usual, but then I can’t fill in the blank to put in the link, and the screen freezes. So I was lucky to have another tab already open. I closed the frozen tab and open the live one.

New design

I have changed the design of the blog again. This time it should be easier on the eyes. This kind of shows how computer has evolved during these years. Perhaps some of us still remember the time when all texts on the screen are white or green under the black background of the screen itself. Yes, I am talking about the old DOS era when all that the screen could show was the text based letters.

So this will perhaps be the template for the blog for a while. Unless, of course newer designs come along…

Firefox 3.0.4

Good news. Mozilla has released the newest version of Firefox, version 3.0.4, which official recognizes Thai language. So this is long overdue considering that there are around 65 million native speakers of Thai language in the world. Those who would like to install this new version and have the Thai language browser can go to this link.