Aaron Swartz was Right!

The current state of academic publishing is in need of big changes. Academic authors are signing over copyrights to the publishers who in turn charge universities exorbitant  fees for access to the work. The publishers have become bottlers of knowledge instead of disseminators of knowledge, releasing to the highest bidders and blocking all others from access. Aaron Swartz  simply decided it was time to take action.

“Those with access to these resources—students, librarians, scientists—you have been given a privilege,” he wrote. “You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not—indeed, morally, you cannot—keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.”

Aaron Swartz was a computer programmer who was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS (Rich Site Summary), which includes full or summarized text. RSS feeds can be subscribed to and readers can receive updates or new posts from their favorite web site(s). Aaron also was involved in the creation of Creative Commons (CC), a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works (articles) available for others build upon and to share. Creative Commons has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses free of charge to the public. The campaign Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was founded by Aaron in 2010. All of this and more from a young man born in 1986. The basic premise of much of Aaron’s work was that “Information was power, but like all power, there are those that who want to keep it for themselves…” Aaron Swartz was arrested in 2011 for making academic journals available to anyone who wanted to read them. The story of his arrest was covered by the media. Federal Prosecutors charged him with wire fraud and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of 35 years in prison. January 8, 2011 Aaron’s body was found dead in his New York apartment. In June 2013, Swartz was posthumously inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.  The above quote is taken from article about Aaron Swartz by Peter Ludlow, professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. You can find the complete article here: http://m.chronicle.com/article/Aaron-Swartz-Was-Right/137425/

Advertisements

Tracking Chromosomes, Castrating Dwarves

This is the title of a new paper by distinguished historian of eugenics, Paul Lombardo, available for download via SSRN here that recently appeared in the journal Ethics and Medicine. The paper focuses on Charles Davenport, who became the Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1910 and immediate set up the Eugenics Records Office there later that year. It was to become a major institutional force in the development of North American eugenics. While the paper concerns a small episode in the history of eugenics from 1929, what it says about consent, medical intervention, and disability will ring bells for regular readers of this blog. The abstract of the paper reads: Continue reading

Disability Ethics Bibliography

As part of our Work at the Disability Ethics Project, we have just launched a new Disability Ethics Bibliography. There are currently just over 600 references with abstracts and annotations in a RefShare format that is easily searchable with downloadable results. Of course, this is only a small sampling of the relevant materials and the bibliography will continue to be a work in progress.

We welcome your help in helping us identify more of items to include. I you have additional items to suggest for the bibliography please contact us for instructions on submitting items at initativ@ualberta.ca

Marcia Angell on Big Pharma

From the latest NYRB, here’s the start of Marcia Angell’s review of three recent books on medicine and money, with a focus on psychiatry, DSM, and Big Pharma:

Recently Senator Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has been looking into financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and the academic physicians who largely determine the market value of prescription drugs. He hasn’t had to look very hard.

Take the case of Dr. Joseph L. Biederman, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of pediatric psychopharmacology at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital. Thanks largely to him, children as young as two years old are now being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with a cocktail of powerful drugs, many of which were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that purpose and none of which were approved for children below ten years of age. Continue reading

Getting into the body of another

courtesy of World Science

Ever wonder what it’s like to be in the body of another person, psychologically speaking? Sure! Well, now scientists in Sweden have created that feeling in a couple of experiments:

In a first ex­pe­ri­ment, they fit­ted the head of a shop dum­my with two cam­er­as con­nect­ed to two small screens placed in front of the sub­jects’ eyes, so that they saw what the dum­my “saw.” When the dum­my’s cam­era eyes and a sub­jec­t’s head were di­rect­ed down­wards, the sub­ject saw the dum­my’s body where he or she would nor­mally have seen his or her own.

Continue reading

Dan Savage on Assisted Suicide and Religion

Dan Savage, well-known for his column Savage Love, has written a moving essay, “In Defense of Dignity” on the very recent death of his mother in The Stranger. It is cast, in part, in terms of the upcoming referendum ballot in Washington state on assisted suicide, I-1000. Reading the article, together with the comments in toto is highly recommended, but here’s an excerpt:

People must accept death at “the hour chosen by God,” according to Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the Catholic Church, which is pouring money into the campaign against I-1000. The hour chosen by God? What does that even mean? Without the intervention of man—and medical science—my mother would have died years earlier. And at the end, even without assisted suicide as an option, my mother had to make her choices. Two hours with the mask off? Six with the mask on? Another two days hooked up to machines? Once things were hopeless, she chose the quickest, if not the easiest, exit. Mask off, two hours. That was my mother’s choice, not God’s. Did my mother commit suicide? I wonder what the pope might say. I know what my mother would say: The same church leaders who can’t manage to keep priests from raping children aren’t entitled to micromanage the final moments of our lives. Continue reading

Three Cheers for Granta!

Cover of Granta 102, The New Nature Writing, showing a person in a semi-cleared field

Cover of Granta 102, The New Nature Writing, showing a person in a semi-cleared field

I am a long-time Granta subscriber, and it remains one of the most informative and fun things I read on a regular basis. For those not in the know, Granta is “the magazine of new writing”, published out of the UK, and it published issues 100-102 under the new editorship of Jason Crowley this year. It includes fiction and poetry, but also essays, autobiography, photo essays, and other forms of writing. Two things about it that might be of interest to readers of this blog.

The first is that under Crowley’s short-lived editorship (he has now moved on, or perhaps back, to The New Statesman), Granta now has a significant online component, much of which is free. You can go there and check out interviews with authors, weekly updates on relevant stories, recent events, and much more. Some of this complements the printed version, but much of it is free-standing and so of use to those who don’t subscribe to or otherwise read Granta. Two on-line items worth checking out are Continue reading