Archives for the month of: February, 2014

Code Academy. Casper Diamond is my name on Facebook.

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If you’ve paid any attention to the news in the past few years, you’ve seen the videos of mass demonstrations all over the world. Revolutions, civil wars, and mass unrest the world over. Occupy Wall St. Tunisia. Yemen. Libya. Egypt (twice). Syria. Thailand. Russia. Bahrain. Ukraine. Kyrgyzstan. Lebanon. Venezuela. The list goes on. And on. And on. The world is changing, and with the internet, we all have front row seats to watch it unfold the moment it happens.

Recently, Thailand has been teetering on the brink of a revolution. In 2008, business tycoon and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra fled the country, convicted by Thailand’s supreme court on corruption charges. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became prime minister (as she was second in command in the ruling political party in parliament, the Pheu Thai Party). In Thailand, corruption is endemic, perpetrated by every political party that has gained a majority in parliament in recent memory. On November 1st of last year, parliament passed a bill that would grand amnesty to Thaksin, clearing him of all wrongdoing’s committed since 2004. People filled the streets of Bangkok, protesting the amnesty bill. They opposed the amnesty, saying that it would set a terrible precedent for future instances of corruption. Several days later, the senate (Thailand’s upper legislature) rejected the bill, but the damage was already done. The people called for immediate removal of the Pheu Thai Party from power, saying that they had abused their power long enough. From a western prospective, the corruption is clear. A leader granting amnesty to her brother. The conflict of interest is clear and obvious. The protests are ongoing, and the chances for meaningful reform looks grim. The people of Thailand have a long and bloody fight ahead of them.

Late last year, Ukraine blew up. The president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was expected to announce a trade deal with the European Union. A sweeping, far reaching trade agreement that would potentially set Ukraine a course to join the EU. Then, on November 21st, Yanukovych announced that the talks suspended, and that Ukraine would establish closer ties with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (similar to the EU, but comprised of Russia and it’s allied post-Soviet central Asian states). Thousands of Ukrainians filled the streets of Kyiv, criticizing the government for being a corrupt puppet regime controlled by Putin’s regime. Vitali Klitschko, former heavyweight boxing champion and opposition leader in parliament, called for new elections and for Yanukovych to reconsider the trade announcement. These requests were ignored, and relations between the opposition and the government deteriorated further. On December 17th, Russia announced $15 billion in interest free loans that would be provided to Ukraine to prevent them from the country from defaulting on it’s debt. On January 16th, anti-protest laws (dubbed ‘the dictator laws’, by the protestors) were forced through parliament, giving the government vast and sweeping authority to ‘deal with the situation’ in a forceful and apolitical way. This incited an incredible amount of violence. People in the maiden (the name for Independence Square, where the protests were centered) began launching fireworks and molotovs at the police, now calling for the resignation of president Yanukovych and his government. By the 18th of February, Kyiv was on fire. The country was in revolution, looking at a full blown civil war between the Russian east and the Ukrainian west. Over the next few days, police began using live ammunition, firing at the protestors with AK-47’s and shotguns loaded with buckshot. It looked grim. On the 23rd, Yanukovych fled for Russia, convinced that his regime was on the brink of collapse. He was right. Parliament impeached him in a unanimous vote. Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison. The gross corruption and excess of the Yanukovych government became as clear as day.

 

The internet has fundamentally changed how these conflicts unravel. In a technological society, no longer can an oppressive government suppress information to the point where it can prevent the spread of the truth outside of it’s borders. The internet exists outside all borders. Outside all prior notions of political and ethnic boundaries. As the events in Kyiv were unravelling, me and my boyfriend were glued to the video streams that were being broadcast from the maiden. As the people in Ukraine fought against their oppressive regime, they were not alone. Far from it. The entire world was watching. Listening. Hoping. Praying. Years from now, historians will look back at the early days of the internet. Mass unrest. Protests on a scale never before seen. Oppressive governments fell. Toppled like dominoes, one after the other. Spreading like wildfire from America to the Middle East to Eastern Europe to Central Asia to South America and beyond. Who knows when it will end? No one knows. Gil Scott-Heron was right 40 years ago: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It will be live streamed.

You may have heard of the term ‘STEM’. It is an acronym that stands for ‘science, technology, engineering, and mathematics’. In short, it’s a catch all term for careers that rely on those subjects.

It may seem like common sense to say that our country relies heavily on these careers. Maintaining America’s dominant position in the world requires a large workforce with proficiency in these fields. American businesses require large numbers of engineers, designers, and knowledgable technicians to design and manufacture the products that we rely on everyday. The cars we drive? Designed by mechanical engineers. The gas in the car? Extracted by petroleum engineers. The computer I’m typing this on? Designed by electrical engineers. The equipment in hospitals? Designed by biomedical engineers. The energy that is produced to electrify your home? Produced in plants maintained by nuclear engineers.

Obviously, we need people trained in STEM careers in order for our nation to function, and the reliance that we have on these careers is only going to increase over the course of the next decade. In fact, the projected increases in the number of STEM jobs far exceeds the growth in other sectors of the economy.

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Source: http://www.ed.gov/stem

On average, the wages that STEM careers provide far exceed those of non-STEM jobs.

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Source: http://www.esa.doc.gov/Blog/2011/08/03/stem-where-are-women

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people are receiving education in these fields. People just aren’t interested in becoming proficient enough in these subjects to acquire the required degrees and certification to obtain these types of careers. In fact, this problem is grave and systemic. According to the Department of Education, the United States currently ranks 25th in mathematics and 17th in science among industrialized nations. That is pitiful, and it needs to change if the United States is going to maintain it’s relevancy in the coming decades. How can we possibly compete with China when they’re churning out competent STEM trained laborers by the millions?

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Source: http://www.lee.edu/stem/grads-by-nation/

As a human biology major, I am extremely happy with the growth that STEM careers are projected to receive over the next decade. It increases the probability that I will receive a well paying career, through which I can support myself and eventually a family. Unfortunately, I seem to belong to a small minority of students who share my dream. The supply does not exist to meet the growing demand for STEM educated workers, and it’s going to really harm all of us if it does not change soon.

Break out those math books, kids.

I am a junior and I am a human biology major. I chose to study this for several reasons: the medical industry is extremely broad and growing (increasing the likelihood of me obtaining a job when I graduate), it is a science that has few math requirements (arithmetic is not my strong suit), and (above all) I want to help people. With my degree, I hope to become one of two things: a nurse or a paramedic/firefighter. The thought of sitting in the back of an ambulance and doing CPR on someone in cardiac arrest excites me greatly. It’s the perfect way to help those who need it most. Who needs help more than someone who would literally die without your assistance?

Information technology and computer science have changed the field of medicine completely within the past several decades. Things like MRI machines, ultrasounds, mammograms, colonoscopies, pap smears and countless other recently developed technologies have transformed the field of medicine into one of preventative care (rather than one that fixes illnesses as they crop up). Using these techniques, doctors can predict the probability of one developing an ailment, and thus can prescribe lifestyle changes to prevent it from developing. This alone has the potential to save and/or improve countless lives. Several decades ago these advancements were unheard of. In the 1960’s, electroshock theory treatments and lobotomies were common place, ruining countless lives due to impure ethical standards and medical ignorance.

Last summer, I took an EMT certification course at Hudson Valley Community College. In the course, my instructor told us of a study that was conducted several years ago that attempted to analyze the pace of change in the field of emergency medicine. Their findings? Every 10 years, 35% of the established protocols are revamped or changed completely. That is insane, and the pace of change is only going to increase.

I am entering the field of medicine at a very interesting time. Long established techniques and technologies are rapidly changing as we obtain more knowledge about our bodies and how they work. There is no telling what will be standard practice 10 years from now. 3D printed prosthetics? Cloned organs? It sounds like science fiction, but it is not. Before we know it, these new technologies will be common place in hospitals around America.

When Arthur C. Clarke said: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, he was right. If doctors from the 1960’s walked into a hospital today, they wouldn’t believe their eyes.

Webster has two definitions for citizen. The first: ‘the fact or status of being a citizen of a particular place’. The second: ‘the qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community.’ To me, the second definition is more true. Yes, citizenship is a legal construct. We are ‘citizens’ of America, which grants us certain rights and privileges in the eyes of the American government. This does not capture the whole picture. There is more to being a member of a state than citizenship.

In fact, in order for a society to function properly, we (as citizens) are entrusted with the health and management of the state. Because we exist within a democracy, the most powerful weapon that we have to prevent mismanagement and tyranny is our vote. Leaders implement bad policies? Corrupt? Inept? Vote them out. Influence others to use their votes. Organize. Make some noise. Disobey the establishment. The people of lesser democracies dream of such political freedom.

This is our civic duty. Our incredible responsibility as citizens to see that our country continues to function to serve the will of the many, not the few.