Nanoparticles and your health May 10, 2013Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
It has been a while since I have seen much news on nanoparticles and their possible effects on health. However, nanotechnology research continues, and new applications have been investigated. For example, New Scientist reports on some recent work applying nanosilver particles to filter water:
Thalappil Pradeep at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai and colleagues have developed a filter based on an aluminium composite, embedded with silver nanoparticles. As water flows through the filter, the nanoparticles are oxidised and release ions, which kill viruses and bacteria, and neutralise toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic.
This sounds great, but what about the nanosilver particles that are released into the water? The articles notes that their concentration is so low as to pose no threat to human health. Certainly, it might be preferable to high concentrations of lead and arsensic.
FastCompany features a short article on some recent research in nanotoxicology, on the potential of nanoparticles such as carbon nanotubes, to cause health problems in people. A recent study raises some grounds for concern:
A new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes–two nanomaterials often found in lightweight sports equipment and paints–can cause lung inflammation in mice and rats.
The report notes that, because of their diminutive size, nanoparticles can pass through the lungs and into the bloodstream, with uncertain consequences.
As ever, we face a dilemma of progress with the advent of new technologies. Do we go the precautionary route and wait until the new materials are declared safe? Or, do we proceed and introduce them into technological designs, not wanting to miss out on their promises of a better world, e.g., cleaner water?
Meteors: Imminent threat or occasional sideshow? March 8, 2013Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
With the recent explosion of the Chelyabinsk meteor over Siberia, discussion has once more been raised about what, if anything, to do about such events in the future. One possibility would be to construct an early warning system. Smallish meteors could be spotted perhaps a day or so in advance, their trajectories calculated, and preventative measures (of some nature) undertaken.
Current technology already seems adequate for this task, although much more equipment would be needed than is currently in place. Even with the best equipment, a fair measure of uncertainty would still attach to such predictions:
Once an incoming cosmic object is in the crosshairs, gauging the hazard will be tough. Its size and composition and, therefore, its mass will be highly uncertain, making it hard to predict the magnitude of the air burst, Boslough [a computational physicist at Sandia National Laboratories] says. Also complicating the picture are unknown rates of ablation and fragmentation as friction eats away at the bolide. Still, Boslough says, scientists will be able to calculate an incoming object’s orbital dynamics and issue a National Hurricane Center—style forecast, allowing authorities to advise people in the predicted impact zone to take shelter or evacuate.
That would be interesting to see on the Weather Network in the morning!
Then, there is the issue of what to do about the big ones, you know, rocks big enough to wipe out cities, or worse. There are many schemes for detecting and dealing with these objects, which have been much discussed already. You know, a bomb detonation might be used to alter the rock’s trajectory, or it could be painted white, thus changing its albedo and the force that sunlight exerts on it.
Another, non-technical issue is whether or not such a system, which is bound to be fiendishly expensive, is worthwhile:
Hard-nosed economists might wonder whether spending money on asteroid research—either for detection or deflection—is really worth it. After all, for all their drama asteroid strikes are rare, and there are plenty of other threats to worry about.
Suppose that, after a vastly expensive program, an awesome Spaceguard system is put into place. It may be a very long time–if ever–before it sees any action. In that case, it will certainly look like we have orbited a giant white elephant.
Of course, if we do not implement such a system, and that badass rock shows up, we will be pretty sorry. Such is the dilemma posed by problem such as this one.
New sporting technology at the Olympics August 10, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
Several new technologies have made their appearance in the London Olympics. These new technologies arise in many areas of the games, including security, broadcasting, and training. Here, I want to draw attention to some of the technologies that have gained my attention in the sports themselves:
- Oscar Pistorius, aka the “Blade Runner”, has made Olympic history for participation in the Games with his leg protheses, as Scott has already discussed. His participation caused some controversy concerning whether or not his leg blades give him an unfair advantage. It does not seem so, but the broader issue of how to view prostheses in the Games remains.
- The Mondotrack surface for the racing events has not been much discussed, although I have noted it in an earlier post. The material is specifically designed to produce faster running times. Presumably, the use of this surface will not affect the outcome of the races, in terms of the order of finishing since all of the athletes run on it. However, it may tend to undermine the credit that the runners gain from their finish times, especially Olympic or world records.
- The Quantum Timing system by Omega has received a lot of attention. The system is deployed in the swimming and track races, and can measure intervals to an accuracy of a microsecond. I assume that this increase in accuracy has resulted in fewer dead heats.
- Along with the timing system comes a new set of starting blocks for the track races. The blocks include a pressure sensor that measures when the runner presses against it, indicating a start. Any start that occurs earlier than 0.1 seconds after the starting gun is judged to be a false start. Sprinters respond in around 0.13 seconds, so the design seems reasonable. Also, each starting block has a speaker that plays the starting gun sound, ensuring that each runner can hear it at the same time, no matter what their distance from the starting gun is.
- The Tae Kwon Do events include body and foot pads with pressure sensors. The Protector and Scoring System (PSS) measures the force and location of kicks and punches, thus removing the need for human judges to estimate these from a distance. The same events also now include a video replay system that allows judges to review earlier calls.
- Although the Speedo LZR full-body swimsuits prominent in the Beijing Olympics are not allowed, many swimmers are using the Speedo Fastskin3 suits. These suits have some fancy features designed to reduce drag and thus speed up swim times.
One technology that I would like to see introduced is video review in the soccer events. FIFA, the governing body of the event, says that no system currently available meets its requirements. However, after a couple of calls in the Canada-USA match, I would think that a scheme analogous to that introduced in Tae Kwon Do might be a good idea.
What is true Greek yogurt? July 20, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
From NPR comes an interesting piece about food technology and Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is yogurt with a thick texture, making it almost a solid rather than a liquid. Traditionally, the yogurt is made in the regular way, but is then strained to remove some of the water content, leaving behind a thickened material that retains the slightly sour taste of regular yogurt.
(Rainer Zenz/Wikimedia commons)
Greek yogurt has become very popular in the US. Sales of Greek yogurt have taken off of late:
Last year, Greek yogurt accounted for 20 percent of total yogurt sales, according to market researcher SymphonyIRI, and 15 percent of volume sales. In each of the last three years, sales of Greek yogurt have surged more than 100 percent, while non-Greek yogurt has grown at a single-digit pace, according to consumer data tracker Nielsen.
Industry experts credit Greek yogurt’s tart flavor and creamy texture for wooing consumers from traditional varieties, and in some cases persuading them to start eating yogurt. Greek yogurt also has better nutritional credentials, with more protein and sometimes more calcium and less sugar.
So, it should be no surprise that competition for the American Greek-yogurt marketplace have heated up.
This point is where the controversy comes in. According to Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the yogurt maker Chobani, Greek yogurt is made through straining. Chobani uses high-tech centrifuges to strain away liquid so that its product achieves the required density. The result is yogurt that matches the taste and texture of the yogurt his mother used to make using cheesecloth in her kitchen back in Turkey.
However, other companies have created Greek yogurt by the addition of thickeners, such as starch, instead of the removal of liquid. Erhan Yildiz, and head of food research company Ingredion, invented a process in which such additives precisely re-create the taste and feel of strained yogurt, but at a lesser cost. Yildiz, who also grew up in Turkey and enjoyed home-made Greek yogurt there, says that the result is a yogurt that is, to all appearances, the same as the strained variety.
Hamdi Ulukaya argues that such products are not truly “Greek yogurt”. Instead, they are some kind of facsimile. So, we have an issue of authenticity: Is the yogurt made with starch truly Greek yogurt or not? It seems to reproduce all the perceptible qualities of true Greek yogurt but with a non-traditional ingredient. Does that matter? If you think so, would you change your mind if it turned out that some Greeks used to make their yogurt using thickening agents?
Of course, you could argue that Chobani’s yogurt is not authentic either, as it is made by using centrifuges rather than by pressing the yogurt through cheesecloth. Although both methods force the yogurt through some kind of sieve, the new method employs a non-traditional, industrial technology. Does that matter? Perhaps the Greeks who made yogurt by pressing it through cheesecloth might have jumped at the chance to use centrifuges, had such things been available.
(And neither is authentic in the sense of genuine, that is, actually originating in Greece the way that authentic champagne actually originates in the Champagne district of France. So, what we are talking about here may not be authentic “Greek yogurt” so much as authentic “Greek-style” yogurt, which might seem like an oxymoron to some people.)
There is also an issue of fairness here. Both yogurts compete in the marketplace as Greek yogurts but the recipe using starch is cheaper, thus giving that product a price advantage. Is that fair? If both should be considered Greek yogurt, then consumers can have their Greek yogurt at a lower cost. Yet, Ulukaya argues, identifying both as Greek yogurt would confuse the public regarding the strained product:
“That ruins the expectation in the consumer’s mind of how pure and simple this product is.”
Ulukaya argues that there should be legal definition of Greek yogurt, one that differentiates his product from the cheaper variety. This measure would work to his advantage in the marketplace but would also tend to dampen efforts to innovate improved methods of producing Greek yogurt.
My own feeling is that Chobani should look first to their own resources. An advertising campaign might well persuade consumers that Greek yogurt made without starch is a superior product, worthy of a little extra expenditure. This style of advertising and branding seems to work for organic products, so it might also work for authentic ones. Getting the government to enforce the establishment of such a distinction implies that there is a public interest in it, which does not clearly exist.
In any event, this story ties together some important themes of this blog and shows how technological progress can create novel challenges for society.
Adieu, Minitel July 12, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV100, STV202 , comments closed
The French Minitel system has been taken offline, as of the end of June 2012. The system provided an Internet-like service to French subscribers, who received a text-based terminal connected to a network through a telephone modem. Minitel allowed subscribers to access phonebooks, government databases, make purchases such as air and train tickets, and participate in chat rooms.
(Deep silence/Wikimedia commons)
The system was created around 30 years ago and had as many as 25 million users in the mid 1990s, according to the New York Times. There were still 810,000 terminals in service in 2012, according to The Independent, but this is not adequate to justify the cost of the service. Minitel, it says, was antiquated by the Internet:
There are still 810,000 Minitel terminals in France, mostly used by older people who dislike computers. There are still 1,800 services available through Minitel, although most people these days contact them (final indignity) through the internet.
The New York Times suggests that many of these stubborn Minitel users are farmers in Brittany, who use the service to access agricultural service and find PCs to be too fragile for their liking.
Yesterday, I discussed the obsolescence of shortwave radio or, rather, how it has become more and more specialized. It is interesting to compare the two cases to understand why Minitel is now dead whereas shortwave is not, even though both have been marginalized by the ‘net. One difference, I suspect, is that shortwave has a much broader reach. Although the French government did try to export Minitel, the attempt was not successful:
Early on, the French authorities had hoped to export their invention, but they insisted that the Minitel be sold as an “all inclusive” system, said Valérie Schafer, a telecommunications historian. That inflexibility helped make the Minitel a commercial failure outside France, Ms. Schafer said, especially given the varied telecommunications norms in Europe and elsewhere.
It seems that Minitel was too tied to the French way of organizing online activity. You might argue, correctly, that the Internet is tied to the American way of doing so, but that way proved to be more flexible (and maybe sexier) and, therefore, adaptable. Being limited to France meant that Minitel’s niche could shrink quickly once it faced competition from the Internet.
Perhaps other factors played a role. Since Minitel came to duplicate a set of Internet services, it would be hard to justify supporting both networks in today’s straitened economic times. The very centralization of Minitel meant that the whole system could fall to the budget axe in one blow. No one government could terminate the pocket calculator, even if it decided that this category of device is obsolete.
Undoubtedly, the causes of the demise of Minitel are complex. However, it is interesting to contrast the fate of Minitel with that of other obsolete technologies like the shortwave radio.
Shortwave radio: The end of an era? July 11, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV100, STV202 , comments closed
The recent edition of The Economist has an interesting little piece on the increasing silence of shortwave radio. It notes, for example, that Radio Canada International recently ceased shortwave transmission, a result of Government cuts to the CBC and other services.
Shortwave radio consists of broadcasts in relatively high frequencies. One of the key advantages of these frequencies is that radio waves broadcast in them tend to “bounce off” the ionosphere and reflect back to Earth. Thus, shortwave broadcasts can be sent worldwide from a small number of sources. Also, shortwave radio sets are relatively cheap, so that people almost anywhere in the world can afford a radio that is able to receive the broadcasts. The main downside is that broadcasts are sensitive to atmospheric conditions, so that signals arriving at a given location can vary quite a bit in strength over time.
The article describes shortwave radio as largely a creature of the cold war: Shortwave provided countries, both capitalist and communist, with a means of getting out their message when other channels, such as newspapers, were blocked. In the post cold-war era, it seems, this need is less compelling.
Furthermore, notes the article, shortwave broadcasts have been superceded by the Internet. That is, instead of using a shortwave radio to listen to news, people worldwide can simply download their favorite podcasts. Thus, as the reach of the Internet increases, the utility of shortwave as a broadcasting medium decreases.
Of course, this tale of obsolescence is not so simple, as the article notes. The end of the cold war has indeed lessened the interest in countries on either side of the East/West divide to propagandize the other’s population. However, Internet access is not yet as cheap or widely available as are shortwave radio sets. Many millions of people in poor and remote regions still rely on shortwave to stay in touch with world events, for example. As such, the article notes, the Chinese government is expanding its shortwave offerings, and the Voice of America has no intentions of cutting back on its services.
Perhaps the moral of this story is that shortwave radio, like the pocket calculator, is not as obsolete as it might seem. Certainly, new technologies like the Internet have shouldered shortwave out of some of its old niches. Yet, the penetration of shortwave into some niches will not be equalled by the ‘net for some time. Also, long experience has enabled designers to make shortwave sets very cheap and reasonably robust, which is not true of Internet access technologies, certainly in remote areas. Thus, in spite of the demise of the cold war and the advent of the Internet, shortwave is not ready for relegation to the museum just yet.
Engineer fixes his own heart! April 16, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
This TED talk by Tal Golesworthy describes how he, a humble “boiler engineer”, devised a treatment for his aortic heart problem that was considerably improved over the standard medical treatment available.
The talk is impressive for its slickness (in part because of Tal’s self-effacing, “bespoke” manner of self presentation), and the tale of technological innovation that it relates. As Tal points out, the problem with his aorta seems to be one that many engineers would find familiar, a lack of tensile strength in the tissue. Surely, a supportive wrap would be an easier and superior solution to a replacement.
Tal’s talk is also interesting for the remarks he makes about the social issues in technological development. There were the differences of culture between engineering and medical communities to be faced. Tal also complains pointedly about the arrogance of doctors he dealt with who were skeptical of his ideas, and about the intransigence or incomprehension of bureaucrats whose permission or support he needed to proceed. Indeed, the story is a version of the old trope of the misunderstood mad scientist, whose brilliance is imperceptible to the lesser lights around him. Perhaps it would do to point out that some engineers are capable of arrogance and intransigence themselves.
In any event, kudos to Tal! His story will certainly be of interest to anyone concerned about how new technologies are developed and adopted.
Hunger Games: Where are the robots? March 26, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202, STV203 , comments closed
The Hunger Games movie has now finished its blockbuster debut, winding up in third spot for all-time take at the box-office on its premiere weekend. It brought in $155 million in North America, putting it in the movie bonanza stratosphere.
I have commented on the appearance of technology in the story earlier. At this point, I would like to briefly raise another technology-related point, namely the lack of robots in the Hunger Games world. Quite simply, there are no robots there. None are mentioned in the novels and none appear in the film (which follows the first novel pretty closely). Yet, the technological level of the Capitol clearly allows them to have advanced robotics. After all, they have high-speed rail, fancy hovercraft, force fields, and genetic engineering. Surely, there should be some robots vacuuming the floors or policing the Districts or something!
Perhaps the explanation is historical: Enemies of the Capitol employed robots during the Rebellion. Not wanting that to happen again, the Capitol has banned robotics. I do not think this explanation holds up, however. After all, the remaining rebels in District 13 are not under Capitol rule and are clearly capable of making robots. Also, they would, no doubt, appreciate the advantages of some surveillance drones. However, they do not seem to have any robots either.
Another explanation might be economic. The Capitol economy depends heavily on the use of coerced labor. That is, it uses its oppressive political arrangements in the Districts to get cheap labor out of the residents there. Since this labor is so cheap, the Capitol has no need of labor-saving technologies such as robots. A similar argument has long been made about the effect of slavery on the Roman Empire, one of the inspirations for the Capitol. The gist of this argument is that since the Romans had cheap labor available in the form of slaves, they then had no use for fancy machinery. This would explain the lack of an industrial revolution in Classical times.
There are a number of problems with this argument. The Romans were actually quite interested in machinery and technology of many kinds. Also, periods of technological progress occurred during peak times of slave ownership in the Classical world, which you would not expect given the explanation above. In addition, slavery may not actually be as cheap as you might expect. Finally, there is the example of the Cotton gin, a machine invented in the late 18th Century for separating cotton fibers from their seeds. Previously a difficult process, the efficiency brought by the Cotton gin actually increased the demand for slaves in agriculture in order to produce the cotton to be processed by the machine. In short, coerced labor and labor-saving machinery, such as robots, are quite compatible in one economy.
Perhaps the Capitol has robots but not of the mechanical kind. The technologists of the Capitol seem quite happy to, and adept at, engineering organisms for their robotic needs. Think of the Jabberjay, a kind of bird designed in the Capitol that could memorize and repeat things that people said. The Capitol used the birds like surveillance drones, to eavesdrop on their enemies. Then there are the various muttations, creatures engineered as weapons to kill tributes in the Games or invaders of the Capitol city itself. (Perhaps the avox, a person who has been deprived of speech and made into a silent servant, could be placed in this same group of beings.) It might be more accurate to say that the Capitol uses robots but that they are the biological rather than the mechanical kind.
Why the preference for biological robots over mechanical ones? One advantage of bio-robots is that they can find their own energy sources, as opposed to requiring a network of power points as would electrical devices. The Hunger Games electrical infrastructure seems to be somewhat limited in scope, compared to the modern electricity grid. Robots that can forage for their own food might be more useful and flexible than robots that run on batteries.
Also, the people of the Capitol seem to have a kind of mania about controlling nature. They fence it off so that the people of the Districts cannot go out in the woods. They seem to dress their bodies and their city so as to distinguish them sharply from their naked and untamed alternatives. Yet, they depend on the Districts and their natural resources for survival. Perhaps their preference for bio-robots provides Capitol dwellers with a means to reconcile this tension, that is, to be separate from their uncivilized surroundings while being in total control of them. True?
Is this situation what our future holds? That is, as people become more urbanized and as the undomesticated world recedes, will we begin to prefer bio-robots over mechanical ones? Well, we do have glow-in-the-dark cats now. Perhaps that is a start.
Crowdfunding science March 20, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV302 , comments closed
A recent posting in this blog discussed the crowdsourcing of science. This measure makes it possible for people to donate their energy and expertise to the completion of a scientific project. However, what if you are interested in promoting the progress of science but do not have time or expertise to donate? Another option is crowdfunding, wherein people are persuaded to contribute money to the completion of a project. Instead of participating in a scientific activity, you can provide money to those who are willing and able.
(US National Archives/Wikimedia commons)
There are already several sites that facilitate crowdfunding of science. Basically, anyone can navigate to one of these sites and read over pitches put together by scientists looking to carry out some kind of research. If readers like the pitch, then they can donate money towards its completion. Part of the trick for hopeful scientists is to put together a persuasive pitch.
The appeal of some projects is easy to understand. Some are related to ecology and conservation. For example, Wallace Nicols wants money to study sea turtles living near drug trafficking sites in Mexico. One can easily imagine that drug trafficking is not highly compatible with sea turtle survival. Craig Packer is looking for funds to promote his study of lions of the Serengeti. There should be a ready pool of pro-conservation folks would enjoy contributing directly to efforts such as these.
Other projects are a little more quirky. For example, Patricia Brennan and Diane Kelly asked for funds to travel from Massachusetts to a farm in Quebec to study the (explosive) force of duck ejaculations. I can imagine that this study would appeal to some just because of its subject matter. However, it did not achieve the desired level of funding.
The prospect of crowdfunded science raises some interesting questions. For example, how will science be influenced by this novel source of capital? Jeffrey Marlow notes some of the pros and cons. As noted above, the public’s taste in science may or may not align with what work is the most worthy of pursuit. Projects that fit in with popular movements, such as ecological conservation or SETI Stars (looking for ET) should do well. Other projects, such as domesticating algae enjoy less traction with the public, even though they might produce worthwhile outcomes.
Marlow also points out that crowdfunded science faces a sort of dilemma. The idea of crowdfunding is to make reasonable amounts of money available on fairly short notice. However, trying to do science in a hurry can present problems. What if the research raises some difficult ethical issues for instance? At a university, researchers usually need approval from an ethics review board before permission is granted to undertake research with humans or animals. Do crowdfunding websites have the expertise (or the mandate) to fulfill this function? Although some sites perform some form of curation, the usual quality control model in Web 2.0 is reputation management, that is, user reviews. Such after-the-fact assessment will not be proactive enough to regulate some work that might be funded through the Web.
Another issue would be the effect of crowdfunding on other sources of funds. Will grant agencies cut back on their funding initiatives if they believe that some projects could be funded through the Web? It would surely be a temptation in an era of fiscal restraint in government. Is that a bad thing? For whom?
Certainly, crowdfunding will be a blessing for some scientists pursuing work that otherwise would not go ahead. Also, it may increase interest and experience among scientists in how to communicate their work to the public. That, certainly, would be a good thing.
Technology in the Hunger Games March 6, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV100, STV202 , comments closed
The Hunger Games is a novel by Suzanne Collins, also adapted for the big screen in a forthcoming movie. (Careful: There are spoilers ahead!) The story is set in a future North America that has experienced a violent political upheaval, resulting in the formation of “Panem”, a country in which the capital city, The Capitol, holds tyrannical power over the other regions of the continent, divided into numbered districts. As a kind of punishment for a past insurrection in the Districts, the Capitol has imposed severe austerities on its hinterlands, amounting essentially to economic sanctions. In addition, the Capitol has imposed the “Hunger Games”, in which one boy and one girl from each District is deposited in an arena to fight to the death for the amusement of the Capitol dwellers. The heroine of the story is Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12, who finds herself selected as an unwilling participant in the Games.
Events in the book clearly have some precedents in reality. We have recently gone through an economic upheaval to which various governments have responded with cutbacks and other austerity measures. Also, we have had a season of political upheavals in Europe and the Middle East. So, the novel reflects something of the climate of the times.
The novel also utilizes some motifs from classical antiquity. The Capitol itself is reminiscent of Rome in its late republican and Imperial periods. Its residents even have the names of Roman politicians such as Cinna and Ceasar. The arena recalls the Roman Colosseum, where fights to the death were elaborately staged for the amusement of the citizenry. The story of children sacrificed to a colonial power is reminiscent of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur: The Cretans were supposed to have taken boys and girls from Athens and thrown them into the Labyrinth, where the Minotaur would kill them. The use of classical motifs helps to relate the story to our own culture while still displacing it from the present day somewhat.
The story includes some technology-related issues as well. The first concerns technology and progress. The Capitol exists at a technological level that is recognizable but somewhat more advanced that that which exists in the Western world today. For example, they have a high-speed rail network and hovercraft that seem to combine the functions of airplanes and helicopters. Also, the Capitol appears to have some approximation of the food replicators that were found on the USS Enterprise in Star Trek. In addition, they have advanced capabilities in genetic engineering. However, this technological progress has not been accompanied by moral progress. If anything, the advanced technology of the Capitol has turned its citizens into vicious snobs absorbed with only their own pleasure and their vendetta against the people of the Districts. On the contrary, the primitive technological condition of Katniss and the people of District 12 mark them out as noble and authentic. I can imagine Rousseau nodding with approval.
Besides being bad for the character of the Capitol dwellers, their use of advanced technology to oppress also points to a lack of social progress. Citizens of the Capitol use their technological advantage to exploit and oppress the residents of the Districts, whom they keep in backward and impoverished conditions. Whereas citizens of the Capitol can push buttons to obtain a meal, Katniss Everdeen hunts much of her food with a bow and arrows. We might like to think that technological advancement will bring about fairer social conditions, as has occurred recently in the Middle East, for example. However, the opposite has occurred in the world of The Hunger Games.
Although The Hunger Games is primarily a story of romance and peril among young adults, it is set against a background in which some interesting philosophical questions about technology are raised. Does technological progress tend to ennoble or to degrade people? Does it tend to make society more or less fair to them? Or does it have no real tendencies in either case?