Hey everyone!

You know that sugar is bad for you, right?

Then why do you still eat it?

Do you lack discipline? Have you been brainwashed into thinking that you absolutely need the kick?

Stop eating sugar. Save yourself.


This is the second analytical paper I wrote for my Religion: Conflict, Violence, and Peacemaking class at Dickinson College.

Of all the Western European countries with Muslim populations, France is perhaps the most unique and interesting because of the incredible sense of collective identity felt by the French, and the way they defend this identity in the face of Muslim immigrants who they feel “are challenging this identity through the hijab and other outward signs of Islamic adherence”. …


This is one of two analytical papers I wrote for my Religion: Conflict, Violence, and Peacemaking class at Dickinson College.

France is home to around 5 million Muslims, the largest Muslim population of any Western European country. Though the vast majority of Muslims have integrated into French civic life, over the last few decades, particularly from the 1990’s and into the 21st century, there has been an increase in conflicts between French Muslims and the largely secularized Catholics, that comprise the overwhelming majority of the French population. …


Blockchain has been said to be one of the most disruptive technologies of our time. A still fledgling technology, its applications are vast and its implications are notable as it has the potential to upturn entire industries from banking and healthcare to consumer goods/services like ebooks and rideshare services. What makes the blockchain so powerful is that it is a decentralized ledger that logs each transaction as an anonymous block in the chain. Because all the data in every ‘block’ is transparent, anyone is allowed to see the data, and it is this transparency that, ironically, leads to a highly secure system. This is because all the blocks have a hash value associated with them, as well as the hash of the previous block that is in the chain. …


There really is a case to be made for the Internet of Things (IoT): if all our devices, from our kettles, to our watches, to our musical instruments are connected to the internet, transmitting and receiving data, we can augment those devices, as well as our own experiences with them, in incredible ways. Smart watches already show the power of IoT, as they collect immense biometric data about us, so we can better ourselves physically and mentally. They can radically simplify our lives, and make them much more convenient. All our devices would ‘know’ us, our preferences: our exact routine in the morning, what temperature we like our shower, how hot we like our coffee, our preferred path to work, and beyond. …


Say we live in a time where autonomous cars are the norm, making each of the hundreds of decisions we used to make behind the wheel. Now consider that, for whatever reason, the autonomous car has to make a very hard decision: save the lives of oncoming pedestrians by veering off and killing the passengers, or keeping the passengers save by sacrificing the pedestrians. Even more gut-wrenching: say that the car must decide between swerving in one direction to save an old person by sacrificing a young one, or vice-versa. What would be the ethical decision here? …


We hear it more and more every day: that we are in the age of ‘post-truth’ — everyone seems to exist in an echo chamber that propagates their own political biases and reinforces whatever it is they want to believe. In the aftermath of the Trump presidency, and the many other authoritative, strong-arm individuals coming to power over the last few years, many have come to critically examine social media and the power it has in spreading fabricated news.

In Jonathan Albright’s paper, he discusses the many aspects of the spread of fake news — one of note being the lack of ‘transparency and trust’. Because people increasingly turn to social media to gather their news, they unwittingly use the algorithms designed to cater to their social and political views. Since few people know the complex algorithms in place in place that allow Facebook to recommend articles or posts, the sense of transparency between the journalist and the newsreader is lost, and therefore the trust between them diminished. Though the average user doesn’t realize it, they are offered content that is carefully filtered out and tailored to their interests and past interactions so that they can stay emotionally engaged, while, potentially, be completely misinformed. …


“Mass surveillance creates a prison of the mind” — these hard-hitting words were said by Glenn Greenwald in his notable TED talk, “Why Privacy Matters”. In it, he discusses several key features of mass surveillance, the main one being how human behavior is vastly different when we are being monitored. Human shame is such a strong force that we go to great lengths to be able to avoid it. By using the powerful example of the ‘panopticon’, he demonstrates how the notion of being monitored can be so harmful to the fundamental human behaviors of expression and a sense of freedom. …


I started the year feeling quite skeptical about working on an Open-Source project. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make meaningful contributions, or even understand a project of such size and scope as freeCodeCamp (this was the platform my team and I had chosen to work on). From its vast codebase to its several javascript frameworks, the task of becoming comfortable with the code, and being able to confidently make changes to benefit its community, felt overwhelming. I knew that I would need to face this fear as this was our senior seminar capstone project, so I warily began to wade deeper into the project and chip away at this trepidation. …


AI is everywhere. From our toasters, to our drones, to even our criminal justice systems, AI has played a significant role in our lives. Many areas that once were controlled and monitored by humans have been delegated to AI. However, as AI begins to play a greater role in more significant decisions, we must consider how our human biases can seep into the AI tools that then perpetuate those very biases and lead to an even more inequitable society. …

About

Sid Batra

My thoughts on web development, socioeconomics, and how to live a meaningful, examined life.

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