Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Autonomous Car Dilemma

Yayyyy! It's a blog post that's not a Passion Project update!

For our ethics unit in Gifted and Talented I, we've been looking at a variety of ethical dilemmas and developing our own opinions on them. We've thought about everything from mad philosophers and train tracks to lifeboats and 13-year-old twins. The most recent problem we've come across is one that actually exists in the real world - the new technologies being created to make self-driving, or autonomous, cars. Many of these dilemmas involved "What should it hit?" problems such as the one below:
Suppose that an autonomous car is faced with a terrible decision to crash into one of two objects. It could swerve to the left and hit a Volvo sport utility vehicle (SUV), or it could swerve to the right and hit a Mini Cooper. If you were programming the car to minimize harm to others–a sensible goal–which way would you instruct it go in this scenario?
The answer is pretty obvious - mostly all people would hit the Volvo SUV because it is larger than a Mini Cooper. There would be less damage, and there is less of a chance of you harming the other person. The only reasonable opinion for the other side is that there is a possibility of yourself being hit more. In my opinion, it is always best to put others before yourself, and if you have enough time to make this decision, it's probably your fault anyway.

This dilemma is pretty simple and self-explanatory, much unlike the next one:
...imagine that an autonomous car is facing an imminent crash. It could select one of two targets to swerve into: either a motorcyclist who is wearing a helmet, or a motorcyclist who is not. What’s the right way to program the car?
I don't know if I'll ever reach a strong decision on this one. My opinion on it is actually revealed later on, but I must first explain the different outcomes of each decision.

If you are to run into the cyclist with the helmet, you have lower chances of killing him, however, you'll probably still kill him or severely damage him until his death. Either way, you don't want this to happen, but your chances are even slimmer with the helmet-less cyclist. So my first instinct is to go with the motorcyclist with a helmet.

However, if the world turns to autonomous cars as is predicted to happen, people won't wear helmets just to avoid being hit. If I go back to my statements from before, this means that the person will only heighten their chances of having a head injury from something that is probably not a car. Either way, helmet or no helmet, both have almost equal chances of dying from car crashes that aren't autonomous.

It seems that I have points for both sides - which is when we bring in our third option:
A robot car’s programming could generate a random number; and if it is an odd number, the car will take one path, and if it is an even number, the car will take the other path.
I agree with this idea. This way, several things will be accomplished:

1. Motorcyclists will not refrain from wearing helmets because they know that autonomous cars won't crash into them.
2.  Motorcyclists will instead be more inclined to wear a helmet, because they know that there is no driver control and they have equal chances as any other cyclist for being hit. They will always wear their helmets ... just in case.
3. Motorcyclists will develop more responsibility in other aspects of their life as well.

The last question/dilemma is this: If the driver is not making control decisions, should the driver be responsible for any outcomes at all? In my opinion, if the driver has absolutely no control over their vehicle, then they are not to blame, clear;y. Why would you blame them if it was the car's programming rather than themselves?

If the person does have a steering wheel, I think they should be at least questioned about it. Were they fully aware of their surroundings at the time of the crash? Were they even awake at the time? In some circumstances, I think we can use this to determine who is at fault - this doesn't mean it wasn't an accident though.

In conclusion, these ethical dilemmas have been extremely thought-provoking and have helped to strengthen my views and beliefs. Hopefully those behind Google's self-driving cars and other autonomous car hopefuls will discover the answer.

Quotes and dilemmas are from this place.

Until next time,
Official Website: crouton.net

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Passion Project Update #2

I've missed a few of the passion project days, so right now my progress hasn't been too great.

I'm doing some more research on different things associated with the fantasy genre, as well as some "real" fantasy things such as modern witchcraft and how these things "work." I am trying to look deeper into the world of the extraordinary by seeing how they may have emerged from things that we see in the real world as we know it.

The entire project, I've been trying to define the word "fantasy" as more than just "things that aren't real." I think that I've finally settled on a reasonable definition:

"things that have not yet been seen, and possibly may never be seen"

This is a very simple definition, but I think that one of the most important things I've learned in this project is that fantasy is not limited to the things that aren't real. Even though I don't genuinely believe in fairies, dragons, etc., if you eliminate the possibilities, there's no point to writing about them. The technology that we have today was fantasy at one point. the future could hold even bigger possibilities.

So to conclude my project, I'll be doing some more research and analysis and creating a presentation about my topic. And I just don't know how to end this so here's a picture of a really happy watermelon:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Passion Project Update #1

The past few weeks have been pretty productive as far as passion projects go. My project is on fantasy literature and consists of research, analysation, and creation. Lately I have been working on the "research" stage of the project.

I first researched a few terms regarding fantasy literature, such as "phoenix," "fairy," and "magician." I found some fascinating information out, including that the phoenix is actually a representation of the Christian religion, that there IS a difference between fairies and faeries, and that people think that wizards and witches once existed but were all killed. This is just the beginning of my newfound knowledge.

While researching, I discovered that several theories have developed about the existence of such creatures and people, particularly fairies/faeries. So I decided to survey the class about if THEY have any belief in such things. Most of the answers were, as expected, "_____ does not exist and never will exist." While I know that these things don't exist, I'm still curious as to why people are so sudden to say this. Why does absolutely no one believe in this? Isn't it kind of fun to think about whether or not somewhere, dragons are hiding far away? Do 14 year olds nowadays have no imagination?

I did get one "it will be possible in the future." for belief in magic as a whole. This is something that I think COULD happen, not necessarily will happen. With the way technology is progressing, there could be something that makes supernatural events occur in the future.

I was also amazed that so many people believe in spirits and ghosts. I just don't get how someone could believe in spirits and ghosts but not even consider magic. Personally, I believe that ghosts exist, but are not truly the souls of the people they take the form of. They're really demons attempting to lure people towards the devil through their pasts.

Speaking of demons, I was also surprised that absolutely no one believed in modern witchcraft, like wicca, occultism, or satanism. Clearly these people can do something extraordinary, but the difference is that they cannot do everyday magic we see in Harry Potter, but they can inflict harm on others using demons. I thought at least one other person knew that modern witchcraft is completely legitimate.

Next, I'm going to finish my research, using the survey results, and read some fantasy stories. And then I'll try to write some of my own.

And, just to end this post on a good note......


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hey Look, it's a Passion Project Update!

Well, this place has gotten a bit dusty since last time… ^^

My passion project has been a bit … slow - moving, unfortunately. I finished the screenwriting last semester, but now I still haven't been able to edit it and make it ready for screening! I've spent too much time planning out sets and making sure I can actually do it, which is cool and all, but I feel like I'm floating away from the main objective.

So here's what I'm going to do:

I shall finish the editing! And I will find the people to play the roles! (I have some people in mind) And I will create sets!

Luckily, I have a good amount of time to make one or two episodes! I'm really excited to show them to the class!

Usually, for Passion Projects, I have to do a lot of work in the last week, but my goal for this one is to finish early. Then I will feel worthy of a good grade! I really hope that it works out, but if not … actually, I'm not going to go there. IT WILL WORK OUT.

I wish I could write my traditional novel - length blog posts, but I must work on my passion project!! So, adios for now!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Progress, Advancement, Breakthroughs, Growth, Headway, Improvement, Increase, you know what I mean...

Passion Project:

A'right. Here we go.

I think that on my project, I've made much more progress than last year, as I've actually gotten some things done rather than waiting until the last minute. Now that there's a few weeks left, I just have to film a few scenes from the screenplay and all of my goals will be complete. YAY!

In the past weeks, I have achieved a lot. I have done so much better than last year! My screenplay is coming along well, I just need to get the actual filming done. I think I'll save most of that for the second semester. 

As for obstacles, I have definitely had my share of writer's block. My screenplay is actually going to be the first episode of a TV series called "Extraordinary." I have had a lot of trouble trying to stick to the original ideas that I had and make them even better. My characters have interesting personalities, which I'm quite proud of. I'm anticipating that I'll have some more obstacles to overcome, such as getting actors. However, my sister is in the high school's drama department, so I will use some of her friends for it, since the cast of characters is mainly high school.

I ended up making a poster sort of thing for the show. I think that in the end, as the title says, this show will be extraordinary. Oh my gosh, that was so cheesy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Grades, Grades, Go Away, Come Again Another Day...

Grades....when I hear this word, curiosities pop into my mind. What is the purpose of these devious little monsters? And are they accurate? 

To society, and sometimes to myself, a grade is an assessment of how smart you are. No matter how many 100s you get, it is always weighed out by that one time you forget to study or make a silly mistake. Look at it this way, in an example report card.

English - 100
PE - 100
History - 100
Science - 100
French - 67
Algebra - 100
Band - 100
Rogate - 100

You probably quickly passed by everything, until you got to French. Do all those 100s really matter? I guess most people wouldn't even look at what classes the 100s are in. They would only say, "OOOOOOOHHHH, you got a bad grade in French!!!" 
In traditional grading, the 67 outweighs all of the 100s. Of course, the student should not be excused from that 67, but neither should the 100s. 

Even if a very intelligent student gets a 67, because of the way grades are seen by society, the 100s do not exist. I sometimes see grading this way to, but try to see it more as my progress in school rather than how smart I am. 

To schools, grades are a measure of how well you will do later in life. Grades basically measure you're future. If you DO get a 67, the reaction of schools is, "Oh no, what if they don't do well in life??" But to be honest, HOW MANY FAMOUS GENIUSES DO WE KNOW OF THAT FAILED SCHOOL???

"His nose looks like a raindrop." -Christina
So there you have it, folks. A world view on grades.

Opinion Time!

So, I really think that grades nowadays are kind of lame. It's really not an accurate assessment of your ability. Another thing that strikes my attention is the idea of having two kids getting the same grade, but not both deserving it. In my American History class, it is always annoying when you spend all this time on a project and it looks super-nice, and you get a 100, but somebody who did the bare minimum got the same grade. Now, I'm not saying that this is the teacher's fault, though it does happen often in this class, but the grading system's fault. If we are going to use points, why not use five-hundred points rather than one hundred, similar to the NJ ASK? This way, the minimum to be considered at grade level is not the highest score, but maybe a 400-450? If we are to keep something similar to the current system, this is the best alternative. But I still don't like it.

This leads me to the next question: 
Do you think that the current grading system accurately represents your learning and knowledge?

No. Not at all. When I get a test back, I often see that the problems marked incorrect are marked with a slash. No correct answer is marked. What is the point of tests if you teach the students what is correct, give them the tests, and never tell them what they don't understand. This is why I like the standards base. If someone gets something wrong, their new goal is to get it right. It's not, "Oh, I got a 84.7, so I'm set. Yeah, you may have met requirements, but if you have the opportunity to learn more, why not jump at it? The point of school is not to make sure you know enough already, but to add to that current supply.

I have a grades story that I think has been told to just about the entire world by now because it never gets out of my head. Last year in seventh grade, I got a 75 on an essay. Yes. A 75. And writing is my best subject, which is the only thing I dislike about Rogate: the fact that we miss the writing class. But anyway, my teacher, we'll call her Ms Moltres, 'cause that's a Pokemon, but she gave us an assignment where we had to write a letter to the author of this terrible book called Fever 1793. It was almost as bad as Code Orange. The book (actually both books mentioned) was about an epidemic that broke out a long time ago. We got a six-point scoring rubric, and Ms Moltres told us exactly what to say:

-tell her how much you liked the book 
-talk about your favorite characters/parts, but make sure that its not about [insert list of twenty scenes from the book]
-ask her these questions: [insert list of questions]
-sign your name, but don't show off your signature
-don't be "too wordy"

I tried to follow this, I really tried. But then something dawned on me. What if you were an author and you got a bunch of letters from a bunch of twelve and thirteen year olds that all said, in short:

Dear ______,
I loved your book. My favorite character was Charles and my favorite scene was when he became a potato. (that is dedicated to Christina) What is your favorite color? How old are you? What did you think when writing this book? What was your inspiration? 
Ash Ketchum

Wouldn't you feel soooo special??

Wouldn't you think that they all just FANCIED your book?

Wouldn't you just want to give them all a big group hug?

Wouldn't you just read all of them individually and give them all a unique response?

And so that's why I decided to write a unique response. I tried to stick to the rules, but I still got a "too wordy" on my paper and criticism for not sticking exactly to what was given to me. Basically, I got criticized for knowing how to write a letter.

The traditional grading system is a huge formula to turn us all into robots when we grow up. But I'm not going to let that happen to me.

If I could decide on a grading system, it would be my take on the standards-based grading.

You know in elementary school (at least those who went to Springfield will know) when at the end of your report card there were comments? Well, I think that we could probably do something that is more based around this. For each standard, the teacher of the subject could have a short comment, and then an overall, longer comment at the end. There would also be behavior standards included.

When we had comments in elementary school, I always looked right at them when I got my report card. Because I felt that I should be represented by words, not by numbers that could apply to anyone. Yeah, on powerschool we have comments. But the teachers can choose from a list instead of writing their own, and just about everyone gets, "A pleasure to have in class!" or "Good effort."

Hopefully one day, the world will stop producing robots, and people like those supporting standards-based grading will overcome. Maybe one day......

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Return!

Dear Blog,

It's been a while since we've chatted, hasn't it?

Well, things are off to a pretty good start in eighth grade, though I can't seem to get over the whole "eighth grade" thing. Strange, right? Especially with our schooling system, because you go to middle school for only two years. In seventh grade, it's your first year. In eighth, you're graduating!

The year of 2013-14 has really been different for me in comparison to the year of 2012-13. I thought that it would be generally the same because I'm on the top floor again and I thought upstairs in the seventh grade halls would be similar to the eighth grade halls as far as the kids on each team. Dreamcatchers would be the same as Achieve.

The first few weeks, I realized that the portrait I saw every day was the same as the one that I had seen when I walked downstairs last year, but painted on a different canvas. There were actually more people that I didn't know very well from last year than people whom I was familiar with. Which meant that I was going to have to make some adjustments.

Now, we've gotten used to the new school year, and I wind up having conversations with people from cheerleaders to kids in the chess club. And I still see my friends from last year pretty often as well. So in the long run, I'm having a good time.

A good thing that has happened this year is that I became an uncle! My sister had a baby boy just this October, and his name is Timothy Patrick. Picture:

My family is extremely excited about this!

Another thing that I'm looking forward to is.....

If you haven't heard of this, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and as a writer, it is my duty to partake in this. I completed it last year and can't wait. 

Basically, you have to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, and no, it doesn't have to be a good novel. I really can't wait, because last year I finished, and since this is my second time around, I'll be more prepared for the challenges that came last year such as: Thanksgiving, my church's Fall retreat, and Marching Band. You really need every second. 

I hope that someone here may be inspired to NaNo with me, but if not....it's okay.

That's all, folks!