Conference Presentation

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Truly Human Enhancement: a Philosophical Defense of Limits by Nicholas Agar, is a book focusing not only on human enhancement in today’s society, but also on what should be the limits of enhancement.

A summary of the chapter I focused on can be given as a discussion of  how genetically enhancing people would result in an increased moral status that could cause negative consequences. Agar states that while the possibility of the consequences exists, they should be avoided. Raising a person’s moral status through genetic engineering can result in the destruction of non-enhanced humans, as they are now dispensable. Agar also believes this society of some enhanced humans and some non-enhanced humans will not work because there is no way to smoothly transition from our society now to one half full of unnatural creations that are still considered human and half full of the same humans that have always existed.

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Other chapters in Agar’s book focus on the interest behind genetic enhancement, as well as more details in enhancement itself. The chapter I focused on for my research was relating moral status to genetic engineering and the inequality that it creates.

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Key ideas overall in Agar’s book are the many ways that genetic engineering would change the world, and how that is a bad thing. This book is relevant to many topics not only from the conference presentations, but in general research, as genetic enhancement is becoming more and more likely. It is already happening on a lower scale in labs with foods, but there is also genetic engineering for humans at the theoretical level. It is very possible in the near future, that we could be trying out gene enhancement on humans.

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Whether you agree or not with genetic engineering in humans, it is an interesting topic to look into, and Agar’s provides his side as well as some counter points to the genetic engineering debate.

 

Works Cited:

Agar, Nicholas. Truly Human Enhancement: a Philosophical Defense of Limits, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2014, pp. 181-194. EBSCO, http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzY3NTc4NF9fQU41?sid=4f00f12e-ce1b-4ca1-aca3-2b288e94c1ce@sessionmgr120&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1

https://mitpress.mit.edu/authors/nicholas-agar

http://gmopeach.weebly.com/genetic-engineering.html

I will be presenting my research for the conference presentation on Friday, titled “Corporations, the Media, and Propaganda: A Modern Day Dystopia?” I will be discussing the influence and power of corporations, the media, and propaganda in today’s world and how they reflect a modern day dystopia. I will use my independent reading novel Champion by Marie Lu (as well as the other books in her series) and The Hunger Games to provide examples and support to my claims.

This presentation is one that you won’t want to miss, because I will be discussing real problems that are going on in our world. These are the sorts of problems that you read about in dystopias, but that most people do not realize are actually happening in real life! For example, did you know that in the past, big fossil fuel companies paid the US Chamber of Commerce to block energy reforms?! Big corporations and the government have become so heavily intertwined that we often don’t realize it!

In my presentation, I will continue to discuss how big corporations have gained so much power in our world, and how they control many aspects of our society. These points will be exemplified by the fictional corporations in Champion and The Hunger Games and how they had a lot of power. I will show the reflection of power in the real world by presenting what I have found about big corporations today.

For my other point I will be discussing the media and propaganda, how they go hand-in-hand, and how they hold great influence over our society as well. Once again this will be exemplified by the media and propaganda in Champion and The Hunger Games. Then I will discuss how the media has taken over our own lives with propaganda that we don’t always recognize.

We need to be fully aware of what is going on in our world, and how we have tip-toed into becoming a dystopia. My presentation touches on this issue, and therefore it is one you will not want to miss!

 

     In my presentation titled “Dystopian Obsession with Technological Traditionalism”, I will be discussing the conservative approach dystopias take towards technological progression. The presentation won’t be focusing on the analysis of dystopias; rather, it will look inside of dystopian texts and examine the pattern of hyper traditionalism with regards to technological innovation. To find these patterns, I look at several YA dystopian texts and one YA dystopian TV show. To maximize the power of my arguments, I chose only sci-fi dystopias, ones set in the future. This would have revealed a rather large gap in my argument: the existence of sci-fi dystopias prove that dystopias are not against the improvement of technology. I address this (and more) by asserting that the innovation occurred before the dystopia, not after. Furthermore, technological innovation that does occur is either done by the protagonist as a rebellion against an authoritarian government, or by the antagonist: small iterative improvements with the sole purpose of plot-progression.

     I also look into possible explanations for this seemingly arbitrary pattern. Regardless of the format, dystopias continue to opt for the status quo. Common quotes such as “this is the way it has always been” (coincidentally first quoted in ComputerWorld) are widespread.

The answer relies on a duality that exists within our societies today, and the author’s attempt to connect the two opposites, relieving the cognitive dissonance in our views towards future technologies. Not only do we look forward to (and fund) breakthroughs in science and tech, we have a deep-rooted fear of change. Whether we use isolation, social change, or skynet to manifest our fears of technology, the argument can be boiled down to one anxiety: change.

     The characters’ strange following of the mysterious pattern of traditionalism augments the author’s argument, regardless of intent. By explaining its purpose, we can further look into the purpose of literature and shows, revealing the fears fictional characters have towards technology that exists far far away.

Dystopian literature is a pivotal tool in critiquing current society and providing us examples, although some more extreme than others, of what could happen if we don’t change or improve our current society’s flaws. With this idea in mind, dystopian novels often try to create realistic worlds in which we can clearly see parallels between the society depicted and our own.  Therefore, the political and social climate the novel was written plays a key role in how these divisions of race, class, and gender are represented in dystopias. For my conference and research paper, I will be using my novel The Selection and other dystopian novels written throughout recent history to analyze the difference between female and male depiction in dystopian literature and how situations in society at the time they were written impacted this representation.

Women have been struggling to gain equality in our society for much of the past two hundred years. Through historical periods such as the suffrage movement or women’s liberation movement, men and women have been given more equal roles in society, yet today divisions still exist. As dystopian novels often critique the flaws of our society, when our society refuses to recognize the genders as equal, these novels provide examples of the downfalls of this lack of recognition, or the benefits when one challenges the recognition.

More recently, though men and women are more equal than ever, there still exists gaps in equality between the genders. Currently, difference in wage, political representation, and statistics in employment reinforce the gaps that exist in gender. Stereotypes and social norms still influence society’s thought and perception of the two genders and therefore the fight more recently has been toward changing the social climate of our society and the views of the genders.

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My independent reading book, published recently in 2012, The Selection, the strong, feminist lead America challenges stereotypes given by her society, where men are the providers and women are valued moreover for beauty than intelligence. The Selection emulates The Bachelor, where one man chooses from a pool of many women. The Selection seems to be a criticism of such shows like The Bachelor that objectify women.

Dystopian literature allows us to reflect on the current state our society and provides a warning of how portions of our society could worsen. In order to truly understanding the gender systems in dystopias, we must analyze the society at the time By doing so, we can deduce the root of the depiction of gender in the novel and how the dystopia seeks to address or overcome the flaw in gender divisions plaguing society.

Works Cited

Cass, Kiera. The Selection. New York, HarperTeen, 2012.

For my conference presentation on Monday, March 13th, I will be presenting the highlights of my research paper How an Author’s Perception of Perfection Influences His/Her Dystopian Society. I believe that “perfect” is a term that is relative to an author’s own unique life. I will use contextual examples from our readings thus far to point out where I see each author’s values showcased in their writing. I will argue that what a given author perceives as a “perfect society” will ultimately determine the type of dystopia that he or she creates. Consequently, I will bring up the fact that a lot of what authors prioritize in shaping a dystopian flaw is developed from their backgrounds, the way they were raised, and their beliefs. Additionally, I will give an overview of the key discoveries I have made, simply because there has not been much prior research done on the topic.

My presentation will begin with an outline of my thesis and my overarching thoughts. I will then give a brief summary of the origin of dystopias and the idea of “perfection.” I will then segue into literary examples that I use in my paper, such as Shatter Me, The Hunger Games, and Little Brother. In my presentation, I will analyze the societal flaws that I see present in the novels and I will consider how those relate to the authors’ backgrounds and upbringings. I also utilize two different samples of forums where people of varying ages have shared what they believe a perfect society to look like. One shares responses from a college-level English class while the other presents opinions from the older adult population, which helps me to contrast the varying values that different ages possess. With the ideas presented in the forums, I will extrapolate what I believe their dystopias would look like based on what they value when creating their utopias.

I hope that the synopsis of my research is intriguing to you, and that my usage of both concrete evidence and inferred material is interesting to you. In order to see where my research thus far has brought me, you will have to listen to my conference presentation and read my paper. I encourage you to reach out to me about any questions or suggestions you may have regarding my research-especially considering that much of it is being developed based on my own ideas.

Works Cited:
http://alexsb.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/utopia-vs-dystopia.jpg
http://www.clipartkid.com/images/59/presentation-t9a30r-clipart.jpg

As I continued digging into various resources for my initial research question “do people believe that consumerism can lead to dystopia?”, I now have an answer: yes, consumerism is a dangerous and strong force that can transform a capitalist society into dystopia. The evidence I found can be categorized into three divisions: the environmental, social and political impact of consumerism. Considering the limited scope of this research project, I will focus only on the social aspect, therefore raising a more specific question: how can consumerism cause a dystopia to form from a social perspective?

I will address the question from three levels of social analysis: from the most micro level—how consumerism affect individuals in a society, to the ways in which people interact, finally to large scale socio-economic classes that comprise the whole society. Details from the dystopian society in M. T. Anderson’s Feed corresponding to each level of society will be presented and parallels will be drawn to present capitalist societies using sociological analysis.

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BenHeine. “Consumerism.” Consumerism by BenHeine on DeviantArt.

On the level of individuals, consumption is addictive. In a consumerist society where consumption is promoted as the foremost necessity, consuming easily becomes an impulsive behavior as individuals are never satisfied with what they already own. This turns into a vicious cycle of personal insecurity and consumption, which likely gives rise to mental problems and anti-social behavior. When using social media to show off the products one buys, individuals are also branding and selling themselves as commodities. Such trading of personal identity defined by consumer goods homogenizes people and culture, thus dehumanizing people by forcing them to lose their true identity and uniqueness and shaping them into a uniform and supposedly ideal “one”.

In evaluating interpersonal interactions in a consumeristic society, such connections are severely undermined. In such a society where instant gratification and interest of self are valued, people participate less and less in public life and community values are corroded. Although people tend to socialize more through social media or entertainment activities, such as parties, they approach others with a utilitarian view, creating shallow relationships, which leads to increasing relational crisis in families and between “friends.” With businesses targeting consumers’ emotions in advertisements, people become more driven by emotion rather than logic. Such lack of rationale is also detrimental to personal relations.

From the highest level, gap between social classes are enlarged and the whole society easily turns into a power system. From basic economic analysis, it is fairly straightforward to conclude that consumerism causes accumulation of wealth in the upper class while exploiting cheap labor from lower class.  Such rich-poor disparity only increases with time, leading to complete division of people, which is usually one of the basis of dystopia. Another characteristic of highly developed free market economies is the concentration of power, which ultimately turns into authoritarianism. As it may be counterintuitive to imagine how free economies, “utopia of freedom”, can turn into authoritarian societies (typical of dystopia), I am confident that you will find the reasoning very logical and convincing as it will be presented in my research paper “Evolution of Consumeristic Society to Dystopia——A Sociological Analysis.”