Category Archives: Social Justice

Avatars Fear to Tread

Avatar: what a thought-provoking movie about consciousness, energy, being, believing, seeing, touching… embracing the wilderness of “being-in-creation” and “being-in-the-more-than-human-world.” An Imax 3D experience that juxtaposes human greed and the artifices of techne with nature’s nourishing, all-renewing and all-restoring energies.

The storyline in Avatar is simple, rather the same-old-same-old story of colonization and exploitation that has occurred countless times on earth, and now on the fertile world of Pandora. Pandora is breathtaking with “floating” Hallelujah Mountains, bioluminescence in its flora & fauna, and a collective consciousness existing within the neural network of the forest. The Na’vi, the dominant species, have a radical respect for the equality of all sentient life forms, ecological awareness, spiritual virtues and a deep sacredness. My Avatar does not fear to tread in this elysian mental paradise.

A sad, sad contrast to the hungry, greedy, overpopulated, sick, ambitious and competitive matrix in which humans dwell and where “Angels Fear to Tread” (G. Bateson & M. C. Bateson, 2004, Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred). Why do we suffer so? Why are we unable to live responsibly, compassionately and lovingly? Why do we overfill our hearts and minds with self (and stuff for self) such that we have no room to love anyone/anything else? The seductive entrapments of narcissism, consumerism and hedonism keep us incessantly busy “looking after #1” such that we simply have no time to be still, no desire to listen… and no ability to see.

Upon second thought, we get glimpses of awareness in movies that cost over $300,000,000 to make with a further $150,000,000 for marketing and promotion to ensure that “we see”. With over $2 billion in revenue (so far), Avatar’s commercial success indicates that we are (at least) looking whilst being entertained. Ironically (or tragically) we need theatre tickets, surround sound and 3D glasses “to see” what it means “to be”.

We are one human family living together in a shared earthly home: it’s not mine nor yours, but ours. Mother Nature, Father God, sisters, brothers and sentient others: “I see you.”

Totally like whatever, you know?

A poem by Taylor Mali:

In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences – so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not –
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It’s like what I’ve heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we’ve become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

Technoethics (TE)

EggRobotoThe growing field of technoethics is based on the premise that it’s of vital importance to encourage dialogue aimed at determining the ethical use of technology, guarding against its misuse, and devising thoughtful principles that help to guide new technological advances for the benefit society in a variety of social contexts and ethical dimensions.

Technoethics is not only an intellectually analytical process, it is also a cultural product with serious implications for understanding some of the “none-too-visible” dimensions of how policies and decisions about technology are made.

Most people agree that technology drives our society, but precious few think about the way that technology changes our society, our morality and our ethical being-in-the-more-than-human-world. Technoethics is an interdisciplinary research area concerned with all moral and ethical aspects of a technological society. Typically, scholars in technoethics have a tendency to theorize technology and ethics as interconnected, co-constitutive and embedded in life and society. As today’s ethical challenges are so great and the dangers of the misuse of technology are so global, entailing a potential catastrophe for all humankind, we need a much higher level of public involvement with diverse perspectives to inform technoethics.

How might we develop a moral compass to use collectively as a gage for ethical thought and technological action, such that we can go forth together as a united human family without getting stuck in political divisions and cultural differences? How might we nurture a holistic and integrative technoethic that values compassion as the key motivation for our technological endeavors, such that our well-being and the well-being of our planet transcends technology’s relentless lust for progress, status, profit and competition? In addition to compassion, I believe that we need awareness of our vulnerability for being misguided in such a rapidly changing technological reality, as well as humility for the fragility of our planet. You might object that values of compassion, humility and vulnerability are unrealistic or of secondary significance, but the earth is our only home and as our human family faces the unknown frontiers of a technological world, what other option do we have?

PJ’s Philosophy of Technoethics:

The more we want to learn about technology,
the more we need to understand about being human.


Heidegger’s Questions Concerning Technology:

In Demythologizing Heidegger, Caputo (1993, p.137) talks about Heidegger’s questioning that is built by thinking and how we must preserve our space for dwelling: “The need for dwelling is not merely that we do not know the essence of dwelling but that we do not know that we do not know, that we do not know that this is necessary, what is needed most of all. What we really lack is thought, not shelter; what we really need to provide for is thinking, not housing… The house that we really lack is the house of being, the home we really need is to make our home in a thoughtful poetic language in which we can ponder the essence of dwelling.”

As Heidegger argues, the Questions Concerning Technology (1977) really matter. The quality of our lives and the very definition of life itself depends upon which questions get asked and who gets to do the answering. If we do not think the questions through ourselves, then (for better or for worse) the answers will be inevitably forced upon us. “But where danger is, grows the saving power also… Heidegger (1977, p.35) believes that the coming to presence of technology holds in itself what we least suspect: the possible arising of its saving power. As we get closer and closer to technology’s danger, the ways into its saving power begin to shine more brightly as we become more questioning. Revealing these questions is the essential nature of technoethics.

Do we want machines making moral decisions?

What are you reading these days? I’m slowly turning the pages of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrongby Wendell Wallach & Colin Allen (2009). An excerpt to share:

“Does humanity really want computers making morally important decisions? Many philosophers of technology have warned about humans abdicating responsibility to machines. Movies and magazines are filled with futuristic fantasies regarding the dangers of advanced forms of artificial intelligence. Emerging technologies are always easier to modify before they become entrenched. However it is not often possible to predict accurately the impact of a new technology on society until well after it has been widely adopted. Some critics think, therefore, that we should err on the side of caution, and relinquish the development of potentially dangerous technologies. We believe, however, that market and political forces will prevail and will demand the benefits that these technologies can provide. Thus, it is incumbent upon anyone with a stake in this technology to address head-on the task of implementing moral decision making in computers, robots and virtual bots within computer networks.”

Eeeeeek! Introducing the emerging (and rapidly expanding) field of robot ethics, Wallach & Allen convincingly argue that as robots take on more and more responsibility, they must be programmed with moral responsibility and moral decision-making abilities. The authors think that even if moral agency for machines is a long way away, it is necessary to start building a functional kind of morality in which artificial moral agents possess basic ethical sensitivity (as robots are already engaged in high-risk situations, such as the Predator drones and the more heavily armed Reaper drones now flying in Pakistan).

Yes, we need to examine, design and create more socially engaged robots and machines that are capable of telling right from wrong. However, if today’s ethical theories and human values are not adequate for living well in the world, then there will be subsequent challenges building artificial moral agents to think and act virtuously. For I believe the problem is not with our technology, the problem is with the people using/designing technology.

Despite all of the remarkable achievements of a technologically advanced society, humans are still a conflicting mix of genius/stupidity; love/self-hatred; peace/anger; wealth/poverty; modesty/narcissism; desire/delusion… I have yet to meet someone who has not suffered, who has no problems nor self-destructing habits, who has no worries. Historically speaking, religion has offered The Way, The Truth and The Light for contending with the evils of the human race, the problems of human suffering, and human death. Technology is now beginning to realize the dreams of theology, and I find this spiritually unnerving…

Can we build intelligent machines with a morality that surpasses our flawed human morality? If human-autonomy for robots is possible, should it be allowed? Else, do we want our robots to be forever relegated to a slave morality such that they will never make choices that are harmful to humanity nor threaten human dominion over the world?


Bethinged [bedingt]


Depending on whose numbers you look at, gaming is now a 30 billion dollar industry that is rapidly growing and evolving worldwide. These emergent and pervasive games are not only major cultural forces and ontological worlds that we inhabit, they are also ethical phenomenathat demand our ethical attention and our ethical scrutiny. Some questions that I am thinking about:

  1. What makes games ethical phenomena?
  2. Does the game design process present new ethical issues to be explored and developed?
  3. What kinds of ethical issues and moral responsibilities are raised by gaming technologies?
  4. How can we think about the relationships between games and the good life for individuals as well as for cultural quality more broadly?

Assuming that we come to know ourselves through our experiences, then what might your gaming experiences (or lack thereof) teach you about yourself? What might be revealed about your ethical being-in-the-world in-interaction-with the technological? How are you bethinged by technological things thinging (simultaneously dependent upon, indifferent to, immersed in and inhabited by technology)? 

We are all members of one human family, sharing one fragile home within a vast infinity of technological possibilities. When you rewind back through gaming’s world history, what do you see? Fast forward to the future: will we look back with dignity or with indignity for what gaming technologies are, how they evolved and how we made them to be?


New ways of Being with Technology: Beggar Robots

Increasingly, the marginalized and materially deprived are not allowed to ask for money in public spaces, and the well-off are remiss to give money to the homeless. However, what if the beggar is a robot?

The Beggar Robot project designed by Pavle & Sašo Sedlacek tests the hypothesis that the “haves” of society will show more sympathy to the “have-nots” if they communicate from a safe distance via a technological interface. Socially excluded people can rent the Beggar Robot for a day and exploit the possibilities of technology to beg for $$$ in the name of the poor.

The Beggar Robot 1.0 was first tested in 2006 in the biggest shopping center in Ljubljana, Slovenia (where they do not allow humans to beg, but excitedly and curiously welcomed the Beggar Robot). Beggar Robot 2.0 is now bringing robotic charity to public spaces in other countries, adapting to the local context and language using open source software. Built using scrap parts recycled from junkyards and second hand stores, the Beggar Robot bears a consciousness for a world dominated by the ideology of endless development. Will we start to see Beggar Robots of the Next Generation on every street corner in the future? What happens when the novelty wears off?

Ingredients for “Žicar/Beggar”
2 – 4 old computer boxes
Accumulator or Computer power supply (both can be included)
1 or 2 CD-rom units for hands
Small TV
Sensor of motion
DVD or WHS player
1.5 A voltage regulator 12/5 V=
Inverter 12V=/220V Hz 100W
Relay 220V Hz
Pulser 0-20 sec. and Relay 12V=
Amplifier for speakers (optional)

More info:

The Juxtaposition of Social Change and Gaming

Times are changing in our technologically connected world and the way we think about games needs to change too. Games do much more than entertain us and research shows how games offer inherently engaging environments for learning complex concepts that are difficult to teach, like sustainable development and global interdependence.

I am most intrigued by the growing genre of serious games about real-world issues, games that encourage youth to become more responsible citizens, including: Becoming a World Hero (UNICEF), eLections: Your Adventures in Politics (Cable in the Classroom), Freedom HIV/AIDS mobile phone games (House of Learning), Climate Challenge (BBC), Re-Mission (HopeLab), Whack TB (Families USA Global Health Initiative), A Force More Powerful (International Center on Nonviolent Conflict), Play the News (Impact Games), Stop Whaling (GreenPeace UK), 3rd World Farmer (IT University of Copenhagen), McDonald’s (MolleIndustria), Karma Tycoon (Do Something Inc), Planet Green Game (Starbucks), PeaceMaker (Impact Games), Nuclear Weapons (The Nobel Peace Prize), Free Rice (United Nations WFP) and Fatworld (ITVS). I advocate that these games for change offer important opportunities to reach and engage youth with the social, cultural, technological and political issues effecting their lives and futures.

According to a large-scale quantitative study on Teens, Games & Civics (Pew Research Center, 2008), 97% of all American teens play some kind of video game: “Game playing is universal, with almost all teens playing games and at least half playing games on a given day.

Not only is gaming ubiquitous in the social and leisure lives of youth, it also occupies an increasingly important role in civic and political life:

76% of gamers help others while gaming,

52% report game-play where they think about moral and ethical issues,

44% report playing games where they learn about a problem in society, and

40% report playing games where they learn about a social issue.

With certainty, the growing genre of games for change matters and the research questions are piling up. How do we learn about social justice by playing video games designed for change? What is the pedagogical potential for long-term thinking and deep conceptual understanding beyond the simulated game-play? What are the relationships between in-game experiences and real-world engagement? How might the popularity of gaming ignite interest in civic and moral leadership? Can communities of gamers playing together learn to change their attitudes and actions at both the individual and collective levels of society? How might gaming contribute to student success in school settings by making learning more responsive, meaningful and relevant?

Games for change is a new frontier of unknown opportunities as research is just beginning to understand how simulated learning experiences transfer to the real world. While the potential for games is breathtaking, a positive advocation is not complete without a serious reminder of the dark side lurking within diverse gaming experiences. We are circularly implicated as gaming plays an increasingly vital role in our lives: we make the gaming technologies that then shape who we are and how we exist in the world.

If the games we design and play have considerable effect upon our moral and social identities, then we have an enormous responsibility to create games that are valued for their contribution to the quality of life that is worth living. The current reality, however, is that gaming is a medium with distinctly political and/or economic agendas, and most games (including educational games) are created in the absence of any coherent theories of learning without a solid underlying body of research. As such, it is no surprize that the vast majority of the top-twenty selling video games contain heavily disturbing and violent content (Entertainment Software Association, 2008).

Games are not culturally benign and a major concern is the equitable representation of gender, race, class, religion and sexuality—and not the further dissemination of white, western culture. Access for all is another challenge for the serious games movement and no matter how meaningful games are, there is no magical built in guarantee that everybody will be included. Therefore, collaborative efforts between students, parents, educators, governments, social organizations and game developers are important to enable disenfranchised youth to participate in the learning opportunities afforded by digital networks and gaming technologies.

We need to be mindful of both industry developments and academic research, especially as gaming is evolving from a rather vexed history to a much sweeter spot within the field of education. Now is not the time for passive acceptance, it is the time for critical thinking and continuous questioning about the roles that games can and should play. My marked enthusiasm is not that I believe the world’s problems will be solved by simply playing games, but rather that game experiences stimulate new ways of thinking and open up questions for discussion about deep-rooted issues of social justice. For example, how might the future of education be shaped by playing games for change in the post-industrial school? What kinds of games will we need to play to learn and practice the social, organizational and technological skills required for participation in a globalized culture? How might massively multi-generational teams of students and experts join together to explore and solve real-world challenges by making social-change games?

Our children look to us to teach and inspire them in meaningful ways, and it behooves us to seriously consider how playing games for change might help humanity move towards the goal of a more benevolent future for our planet earth home. Playing video games can create a socially-responsive space for learning as well as an authentic pedagogical place for developing the sustained engagement that will perhaps make today’s gamers the most socially conscious generation in history. Parents and teachers, I hope that you will play these meaningful games with your children: for fun and for change.


How do we learn PEACE?

Did you know there are well over 1,000,000 texts about peace… each read by an average of three people, including the author and the publisher? [source: joke!]
Who really wants to read about peace? From the reactions I receive about my interests in Peace & Gaming, peace is not generally valued as a cutting-edge or critical area of gaming research. Peace is just a lovely little old lady idea, merely a sweet or trivial topic of inquiry…
In my search for a more scientifically verifiable and rigorous approach to studying peace, I am enlivened by the work of world-renowned quantum physicist, Dr. John Hagelin (PhD from Harvard). Impressively, Hagelin’s work includes some of the most cited references in the physical sciences and his outstanding research contributions have earned him official recognition as a scientist in the tradition of Einstein. Dr. Hagelin is unique among scientists in being one of the first to apply advanced knowledge for the practical benefit of global human concerns.
According to Hagelin, permanent world peace is real and can be achieved by stimulating technologies from the science of consciousness. Yes, there is an actual science of peace because the field of consciousness is the field of unity, the field of bliss on a tangible, powerful physical level millions of times more powerful than a nuclear force… if we can just access it. Consciousness can access peace, as Hagelin believes, thus we need more peacemakers who develop their nervous systems to the point where they become lighthouses radiating peace. Together, these peaceful people will stimulate the unified field of peace, simultaneously strengthening and unifying the world’s diversity in happiness, prosperity and invincibility.
Dr. Hagelin sheds his light further: when individual awareness expands to become universal, it creates a ripple in that universal field just like it were a ripple in the electromagnetic field. When we stimulate the fundamental field of consciousness and unity, this ripple propagates in all directions at the speed of light. Research shows that to have a really powerful effect, you need these ripples rippling in close proximity to each other, thereby creating not a ripple, but a tidal wave of unity, peace and coherence. This coherence, unity and peace gets communicated through the field of consciousness and that’s why it is important to understand that consciousness is fundamentally a shared field that underlies and pervades us all.
Rather amazingly, the strength of numbers is such that it doesn’t take that many peaceful people to influence a difference. Hagelin’s research shows the that the radiated influence of peace in the environment grows roughly as the square of the number of people doing it together. This n2 (n-squared) effect amplifies the power to be enough to produce a demonstrable, repeatable, publishable effect upon crime rates, terrorism, even stopping warfare in war torn areas like the middle-east.
The Transcendental Meditation technique is described as a mental procedure that allows the mind to quiet itself and to practice of peace as a higher state of human consciousness. In October 2008, David Lynch (yes, the celebrated film-maker who is also a peace-maker and a long-time transcendental meditator) met with Israel president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem and secured his support for a large peace-creating group in Israel, to be composed of 500 Palestinians and Israelis who will practice the Transcendental Meditationprogram together. Hagelin’s research indicates that this group should be large enough to create a measurable influence of peace in the region.
Peace is a powerful technology, a quantum science that exists as a higher state of human consciousness. David Lynch explains this concept with the simple metaphor of how darkness goes away when the sun comes up. The sun doesn’t have to drive the darkness away, the sun just comes up and it glows. Similarly, once the unified field gets enlivened with a higher state of human consciousness, then negativity goes – it just goes…

// PJ

How do we learn tolerance, diversity & acceptance?

Please do watch this video: Instruction Manual for Life. I think you will enjoy how it deals with issues involving tolerance for difference, diversity and acceptance. Quite a profound message conveyed through the simple metaphor of a cupboard.

Light your way, PJ

Gaming as a Medium for Social Change.

Here are some examples of recently developed ‘Serious Games‘ that are freely available for you to play. I’m interested in your questions, comments and thoughts…
Pos or Not (, released April 2008) is a viral online game that confronts the HIV/AIDS stigma. People from across the country – some of whom are living with HIV, some who are not – put their personal lives forward to challenge the stereotypes about who is affected by this disease. Based only on their photographs and personal information, players are asked if the individual is “Pos or Not.”  By showing that you can’t tell people’s HIVstatus by the way they look or by their gender, age and interests, the game confronts stereotypes about who is affected by HIV/AIDS while providing information about how to prevent the spread of the disease. Pos or Not harnesses the viral nature of the internet to effect a positive change on the HIV/AIDS issue so I encourage you to play the game and pass it on to your family and friends. Thanks.
Play the News (, April 2008) is an engaging, community-driven experience: “imagine fantasy sports meets the evening news.” Play the News is a web-based platform that brings interactive gaming elements to the online news media industry changing the paradigm of news consumption from passive reading to active engagements. Impact Games, the developer of Play the News, also created the PeaceMaker game which simulates the Israeli and Palestinian conflict in the Middle East.
Vinyl Game (, May 2008) is a socially responsible response by the European PVC industry’s commitment to sustainability. In Vinyl Game you have to manage the PVC life cycle from the production to the waste management. Your objective is to create a profitable and sustainable business by the year 2010. Go for it!
Activism NYC (, June 2008) is a street game in which teams race through the history of riots, protests, and activism in New York City testing their puzzle-solving skills in site throughout the city where echoes of the fight for justice and peace still ring. By visiting historic sites and searching for clues to the events that happened there, players will reactivate forgotten histories to engage social issues and struggles that were important then and continue to have resonance today. Activated by text messages from Re:Activism Central, the teams engage in site-specific challenges that reveal the details of each event and the strategies behind organizing street-based actions.
ICED – I Can End Deportation (, Feb 2008) puts you in the shoes of an immigrant to illustrate how unfair immigration laws deny due process and violate human rights. These laws affect all immigrants: legal residents, those fleeing persecution, students and undocumented people. The game’s purpose is to reframe the immigration debate from a discussion that looks at immigrants as criminals, to one that looks and creates awareness around immigration as an issue that violates human rights and denies due process of all immigrants – legal and undocumented.
Hurricane Katrina Hero (Global Kids Youth, July 2008) is a flash-based game in which the player assumes the role of a high school girl from New Orleans who has moved out of the city. The game is set in a dream she’s having about being in the Hurricane Katrina disaster trying to rescue her mother. The player moves through five different neighborhoods over the course of the first five days of the disaster. The player must learn about the disaster from residents, help distribute resources from the community, and rescue people trapped in their attics. The purpose of the game is to try and affect public misconceptions about Hurricane Katrina and the stereotypes that the residents were only victims or criminals. Also, the game is trying to renew attention to the disaster, because though the public has moved on to other stories, the struggle to rebuild continues for many New Orleans residents. Additionally, our game highlights tow of the most important actions in any disaster: effective communication and utilization of local resources.
CONSENT! (Global Kids Youth, Jan 2007) uses tools from the virtual world of Teen Second Life to create an immersive experience that challenges its players to make difficult decisions while learning about six decades of medical racism targeting African-American male prisoners.
Deliver the Net ( is a new game created by the UN to commemorate World Malaria Day (April 25). The challenge is to race against the sun and hand out as many insecticide-treated bed nets as you can to African families. The more nets delivered (before the mosquitoes come out) equals the more lives saved. When you sign up to play the game and confirm your email, a life-saving bed net will be sent on your behalf. The NET-O-METER shows that over 2 million nets have been sent to date.
What Would You Do (by UNICEF) is an interactive game that explores real life situations with regards to HIV/AIDS. Created by UNICEF Voices of Youth, this game is now available in Swahili.
Water Alert! (by UNICEF) is an educational resource on water, environment and sanitation where young people are engaged in an adventure of strategy and survival. The goal is to ensure that the people in this drought-challenged village, who are facing the threat of a flood, have water that is safe to drink and a clean and healthy school environment.
Food Force (, April 2005) one of my favorite games, is an educational action game that teaches kids about the problem of global hunger and the importance of humanitarian aid work. Developed by the United Nation’s World Food Program, Food Force has been downloaded by over four million players, a number that rivals chart-busting commercial hits like Halo or GTA.
Free Rice (, Oct. 2007) is an online internet game that donates 20 grains of rice to the WFP for every word that is correctly defined. Since the game’s release date, October 2007, the site has raised enough rice to feed over 1.5 million people for a day. The game has been embraced by young and old people, proving to be an excellent tool for teaching both vocabulary and the value of helping others in need. Free Rice has been a viral phenomenon and boasts numerous Facebook fan sites, including one page with over 63,000 members. Sign up, play and help feed the needy.
Real Lives (, released July 2007) is a simulation of life, from birth to death in any country of the world. Through statistically accurate events, Real Lives brings to life different cultures, political systems, economic opportunities, personal decisions, health issues, family issues, schooling, jobs, religions, geography, war, peace, and more. As you make decisions for your character and experience the consequences of those decisions you learn about the world and gain an increased appreciation of your own life cirumstances and those of other people. Real Lives’ purpose is to offer an experience of what life is like for people in other countries. The intended impact is increased understanding of the life circumstances of others.
There are many more games, such as Darfur is Dying (mtvU), World Without Oil, Ayati – The Cost of Life, A Planet Green Game (Starbucks), A Force More Powerful, 3rd World Farmer, and Becoming a World Hero.  Further, the future is bright with new developments that seek to harness the power of video games in the service of humanistic principles.
Bye for now, PJ!