Thursday, June 25, 2009

Government Blocks.. on MY Internet? Pt. 2

My rancour at our beloved Australian PM Rudd's Internet filter has been mentioned before. It seems that instead of getting the point he has decided to further heap affection upon the conservative ballot by adding another aspect to the mix.

Australian gamers will no longer be able to download any games with a rating above MA15+, no matter the server or game content. In fact the entire retail site gets blocked if they offer games above that rating.

Fuck that.

The lack of an Adult18+ classification is wildly idiotic on its own but this censoring goes far beyond the pail. What happened to "we're just protecting the children from paedophilia" Rudd? Oh I almost forgot the sheer number of legitimate sites already screwed over. Sites such as Wikileaks. Sorry you dislike people knowing what you're doing so much. Back in the day government transparency was sought for. Businesses get it too, the poor bastards.

Get your act together Labor. The average age of an Australian gamer is 30. If that's not old enough to warrant respect then why do the have the vote? This censorship must be stopped. IT experts have told Rudd that it's technologically idiotic. Human rights and activists have told him it's immoral. About time the Australian Public take a real stand.

So, dear reader, spread the word around your office, your social networks, family, friends, guilds and sporting teams. Write letters to local MPs. Most of all, get angry. I stated in the first part of this that I intend to stir up online activism, along with that in the real world. I am angry user. Hear me rawr.

In the media:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Don't Own My Genes? What?

I had hoped, in my heart of hearts, that people working in the forefront of medical technology would be more mature and altruistic than to do something as fucking stupid as patent a gene. The particular genes I'm so pissed off about are two which, when mutated, give a 60-90% chance of the person developing breast cancer. All up it seems that about 20% of our genes are patented already. What the fuck is with that?

In it's normal state, BRCA (1 and 2) is a cancer-suppressant. As mentioned a particular mutation can cause the opposite. There has been a test developed to see whether an individual carries this mutated gene or not. To me, this raises all sorts of moral quandaries but we'll get to them later. For now money is the target.

The patent for this gene is held by Myriad Genetics, preventing other groups from testing for the gene, studying, working with or even looking at it. In other words it's an intellectual monopoly with thousands of lives in the balance. They argued that because they extracted and isolated the gene it becomes liable to patent, rather than being called a discovery. Did the Curies patent radioactivity? Rutherford, the atom? Cook, Australia? I don't fucking think so. Not only were they not that outright stupid, or selfish, the patent office at the time would have hardly let such claims stay.

The gene itself occurs naturally, and to the best of my knowledge the methods of isolation are not some wonderful new invention either. So, in short, it's money grubbing. Both Myriad Genetics itself and the patent office seem to be scrabbling for cash and thinking through their pockets rather than through the medical profession. This kind of thing only hurts medicine, and the people who would otherwise benefit from the technology.

Of course the ability to identify high-risk genes like BRCA 1 and 2 raises issues of its own. Should having it affect health insurance? Should the availability of such tests be regulated? Should individuals be obliged to divulge the information to employers? Do people want to know? How should those with the gene conduct their lifestyles with that knowledge?

The health insurance question is, to me, a no-brainer. Such things are a shared rish within the community and as such one individual's susceptibility is cushioned by the people around them. My god, what a horribly communist idea! Yes, insurance companies are out to maximise their profits. This is where public health comes into play as a base-standard that should be upheld rather than the low class alternative. Unfortunate that the governing bodies run like corporations in the first place save the relative respect of shareholders.

Testing for this gene should be entirely up to the individual. Some will want it so they can know and act accordingly, others prefer ignorance. That's their call. If they do know then it's their business and right to divulge at choice. It's not something that employers need to make special workplace provision for, though psychological stress could be an issue. No doubt much of the resources in testing centres will go towards counselling and the like. If people wish to know let them.

In a similar fashion the actions of those who do know are up to them. One woman who had the test come back positive had her ovaries, fallopian tubes and breasts removed as a precautionary measure. Other options include stringent, regular checks such as screening mammograms. Or there's the option of ignoring it all together. More issues come into play with the idea of offspring crops up. I think that unless society is prepared to limit any number of other genetic distinctions in regards to giving birth (Let's not, okay?) they should leave this well enough alone, to the discretion of the parents. The offspring should be given the information for their health's sake, but what they do with that knowledge is up to them.

Unfortunately I doubt my ideas will have any impact upon government or corporations. I'm just a crazy teen after all.

The whole deal with medical corporations patenting genes is one which needs addressing. It's greed. It's harmful and disgusting. These patents represent but a part of the whole festering mess. The scientists and many individuals may have altruistic intentions but someone on the policy bench clearly doesn't.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Art, Science and Stupidity

It remains a mystery to me as to the constant argument between the Arts and Sciences as to which is more complex and/or important. The defenders of science argue that art is a load of pretentious bullshit aimed at making a lot of hype out of very little at all while the bastions of apparent creativity hold their noses in the air and scoff at just how materialistic science can be. In short, it's fanboyism amongst academia.

And really it's fucking stupid either way.

To begin with the people who are best in either field have abilities considered intrinsic to the others. Artists who demonstrate an analytical approach to their work (whether they're assonate or not) require scientific skills for the questioning of information and interpretation while scientists need to be creative in their thinking when it comes to the connections between different ideas and how to get from A to B in the ideas themselves. Scientists also need to be articulate in order to express their ideas to a wider audience. Artists need to understand the how of their medium. It all meshes together and trying to tear things off from other things is essentially no different to segregating genders just because they're different.

I would say that a lot of this debate comes back to pure stubborn tradition as they sidle around the middle ground which some professions, such as architecture, engineering design and the like, dance upon. To truly bridge the gap would mean not only admitting it didn't need to be made in the first place but would see each group validate the other and would naturally remove much ground for humour about just how snooty they can be. Here's looking at you XKCD.

For myself, I'm of both scientific and artistic traits. It's lots of fun to have that background and helps me to connect dots that just leap out of concepts. In many ways it comes into the idea of multiple learning styles, or multiple intelligences. This way of looking at things as people having a range of skills rather than segregating them off to be little science or arts nerds makes so much more sense. As a species we'd be much better off should these two areas interract more, and get over themselves.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Boot of a Challenge

The reality of the present world is that once you’ve covered basic needs like internet, food, shelter and the rest, all the gravy seems to be social image and worth. Status, in short. It’s about how we measure up to our peers, those who were once on equal standing with us. Success in this case could be termed as surpassing said peers. Little things like a wage raise or a particularly spectacular appliance can make all the difference in such a petty world.

And it’s also fucking stupid.

We as a culture surround ourselves with this ideal of merit being entirely comparable to everyone else. What other cause could possibly explain the severe stress that someone who could comfortably retire yet goes on working for the money experiences? They get respected for it. It’s about the attention that an individual receive due to the image they present. I can’t help but wonder why we bother.

I’m not so spineless and needy as to require the constant admiration and approval of everyone around me. No, I will not go shopping in trendy places to wear pretty skirts or cake make-up. I look good enough without that shit, and it doesn’t take hours out of my day which could be better spent writing angry angry things. As a population we need to start looking beyond the dollar sign, the manicures, the flash cars and the law suits against anyone who trusts us with the sensibility not to step off a cliff un-warned of by a sign, but rather by a bare patch of ground and a sudden drop. The metaphor extends to any stupid compensation lawsuit ever filed for the sake of money.

All of this comes at the expense of critical thinking and advancement of ideas. It’s a select few in our western world who take status to be the value of an individual’s thinking rather than the cash that results from it. This does nothing for the evolution we have subverted in so many other ways.

I do not need a popular image. I do not need wealth status, nor the anxiety which comes with it. I do not need a big house. I do not need a big car. I do not need expensive clothes. I do not need another fucking women’s magazine telling me that to ‘be myself’ I have to look like every other pumped-up princess strutting around the catwalk. What I want, what I really need, is plain and honest intellectual stimulation. I, like everyone else, need to have the steel-capped boot of a challenge stuffed into the flabby backside of complacency. It’ll bruise like a motherfucker, but it’ll be worth it.