Championing responsible innovation in partnership with the Bassetti Foundation
Author: Jonny Hankins
Jonathan's Author Bio: Co Editor of the International Handbook on Responsible Innovation, and author of Responsible Innovation, A Narrative Approach, Jonny works for the Bassetti Foundation in Milan publishing articles on innovation and responsibility on their website and in academic and trade journals and also blogging about his interests. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Responsible Innovation and member of the the Virtual Institute of Responsible Innovation
In my work at the Bassetti Foundation I have written extensively about food, its production and how technology has entered and continues to encroach on everyday provisioning.
I wrote an article about how milk from cloned cows entered the food chain last year, and then how some cloned cows went missing in Scotland, probably ending up at the butcher’s shop and on to somebody’s table, but this week I let you in to a story that goes much further.
A fat cow
Scientists in Holland have managed to grow meat from stem cells and later this year aim to have enough to make a hamburger. I don’t know if they plan to eat it though, it will cost about $300 000 to produce. Although this sounds abhorrent as well as quite expensive, they have good reason to try it. Many experts believe that current food provisioning techniques are non sustainable. As the population grows more people require more food, but leave less land to use in its production, and this presents one problem. The second issue is that large scale meat production is one of the biggest carbon producing industries on the planet.
Meat production is also physically very damaging for the environment, there have been many articles written about beef production in Argentina and Brazil causing problems for the rainforests. Meat production is also inefficient. In order to produce meat (for example beef again) you need to feed up a cow, and cows eat a lot. The protein gained from the cow is equal to 15% of the protein it eats, so you have to feed a herd of cows 100 tons of protein for every 15 tons produced.
So could this new type of production help feed the planet? It will certainly have to overcome a few hurdles, production price will have to come down obviously and I imagine protests and general dislike of the idea, but OGM is everywhere nowadays (unmarked in the US I believe) and you can get used to anything if you try. The point is that it can be done, the technology exists and once done on mass it will be done cheaply.
Facebook is again in the press, this time about its proposed sale, or if you like the sale of the data it has collected about you and me, but Christopher addressed this issue in a post a couple of weeks ago, and I would like to raise another issue involving the mighty corporation.
Facebook state that they have over 800 million registered users, and that more than half of them use their account on any single day. Incredible stuff, it seems they have a lot to sell, but here in the US several states are trying to tackle a serious ethical and moral issue, what happens to their data when users die?
What happens when users die?
In the world about one person in every 113 will die in a year, obviously Facebook is generally used by young people who are relatively rich in that they have access to a computer, so this rate would be much lower, but even taking that into account thousands of Facebook users must die every year.
And that leads me on to the point of this, one of my more morbid posts. If these people haven’t made a will or named a benefactor for their account, what happens to the data? The current legal state of play is this; in the event of a user’s death their next of kin does not have the right to alter or take down their Facebook page. Obviously if they were in possession of the deceased person’s password they could do it (although it might be illegal to do so), but without this information they have no way of removing the data.
This is not only a question of privacy, but also of tact. Many families suffering bereavement do not like to see the deceased’s Facebook page open to the world, or even worse see the photo of their loved one in their ‘friends’ every time they open their own Facebook account. The issue is being addressed in the US with several politicians pushing for legislation that would allow family members access to deceased people’s pages, and Facebook do have a policy on freezing the accounts of dead people but it is a painfully slow process. They require death certificates and other documentation all of which takes time and is probably a very unpleasant experience.
The NC Times and Wall Street Journal both carried articles this week about a young man who posted a picture of himself with a gun in his mouth before commiting suicide and the problems his family had getting the photo removed. It remained for some time and caused a great deal of distress to many people.
On a slightly lighter note you might like the idea of life after death, and fortunately now you can have it, with the new ‘digital afterlife Facebook application’ called If I Die.
Yes you can post on your wall directly from the grave (preparation required while still in life) and communicate with your friends here back on Earth.
I have written about Facebook on a couple of other occasions regarding what I see as far from clear privacy rules, and you can read them here and here if you are interested, and you can download a free will and testament here if you feel you need it.
Well first a big thanks to Christopher for nominating me for this 7 links challenge post, and I will get straight into it. I should say that a couple of my choices are more like web articles than blog posts because there is no way of commenting, but as this is how I got into blogging and because the vast majority of my posts have historically been in this format I include them nevertheless (apologies if this is bending the rules). Now at last anyone can comment upon them here and I am all ears.
The Lucky 7 strikes again
My most beautiful post involved an interview with a member of the US Congress, Michael Capuano. Congressman Capuano represents Boston and Cambridge, home of MIT, Harvard University, Boston University and 30 other research institutions, and the ward once held by President Kennedy. I was interested in the politics that lie behind technological development, and as he represents more scientists and global research organizations than anyone else on the planet I wanted to speak to him.
My wife thought I had lost the plot as I started sending e mails to Congress, but as you can see I did get in touch with him, he granted me an interview and I posted the transcription in its entirety and wholly unedited on the Bassetti Foundation website (with his clearance).
Without doubt my most popular posts are within the series I wrote here on Technology Bloggers about the environment. Some of the posts created a lot of discussion and all in all the series got more than 50 comments. Within the series I would have to say that ‘Engineering a Solution to Global Warming’ was the most popular, and it certainly stirred some debate.
Although it passed by relatively unnoticed (a bit off target for Technology Bloggers but posted anyway) I would say that my most controversial post was that about US immigration. The post talked about the fact that technology has allowed US borders to move overseas and many travelers now enter US jurisdiction in a foreign airport before even boarding the aircraft. The ethical and political implications seem to have gone unnoticed however by the general public.
The most helpful post is about buying spyware on the net, again on the Bassetti Foundation website. I did not buy anything I might add, but used the post lots of times to provoke debate in the various Italian secondary schools I worked in as an English teacher. Among other more obvious products the post is about mobile phone technology that allows a person to listen in to another person’s conversation and receive copies of their texts. All you need is the box or serial number from your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband’s or anyone else’s phone. You order the software over the Internet and it is downloaded directly into the phone (any smart phone will do) without the owner’s knowledge when they go online, and you spy. Some even allow you to listen to the surrounding area when the target phone is turned off using the inbuilt microphone. Not legal to use in most countries but legal to buy.
My most surprisingly successful post involves an interview with Marta Milani, one of my ex students, also on the Bassetti Foundation site. Marta took up athletics while at school, and after leaving she became a member of the Italian Army athletics squad. I followed her career until one day I saw that she was competing in an international meeting where Oscar Pistorius (a South African athlete who races with 2 carbon fibre legs) was competing. I have an interest in prosthetics as one of my other posts here shows, one day having a new body part might seem a good idea, harder wearing, does not burn, stronger etc, it’s only like having a crown on a tooth or a new hip or knee after all. I tracked Marta down and interviewed her about the place of technology in sports. A couple of years later Marta managed to qualify for the World Championships and in an incredible result got to the semi-final. She will also be competing in the Olympics this year as current Italian champion over 400mtrs, and as a result my post gets a lot more readers than I ever imagined. Unfortunately the interview was conducted in Italian although the introduction and summary of the conversation is in English.
Probably my first foray into blogging was and remains the most underrated post. Posted on the Bassetti Foundation website it did not receive any comments. The post is entitled ‘Drugs for People, Not for Profit’ and is a report on changes in how drugs companies conduct their business, the ethics and marketing involved in the production of new medicines and the falling rates of new patents. It was is a complex post and took a lot of research (and reading) so I was rather disappointed, but I learnt from the process.
Well I would have to say that I think my most excellent article appeared on the Innovation Excellence website in their blog entitled ‘Responsibility in the Processes of Innovation’. Although it didn’t receive any comments it was widely circulated, and I think that it is my best written to date. The article really looks like it could be published anywhere, it doesn’t look like a blog or even an online publication but resembles old school academia, and in fact I took the base from an entry in the Dictionary of Social Sciences about Responsible Innovation that refers to the foundation that employs me. I cannot take all the credit though as the piece is very much a joint effort, I translated the base article from Italian and expanded upon it.
Writing about your own work creates a strange sensation, particularly if you want to talk about it in glowing terms as required by some of the categories above, but it makes you think about your public voice. As I don’t know 5 other bloggers I am open to volunteers for nomination on my part, applications below.