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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Opinion | Column

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Around the Corner: Sentient computers? Never.

A common trope in science fiction is “what if the computer comes to life?” The plot of “Free Guy” (2021) — a mediocre film — for example, revolved around a nonplayer character in a video game gaining sentience and struggling to preserve it. The problem of what to do with a sentient computer is an enormously complex one — too complex, indeed, to address in this column. There is, however, another more fundamental question: How do we know when a computer has gained sentience?



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Ukraine at War: Fashion as an act of resistance, Part 1

To recognize the war in the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has famously refused to wear suits, appearing in public in army green t-shirts or hoodies with a tiny trident — the Ukrainian national symbol — and trousers, since the night of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Ukrainian fashion, shaped by the ongoing military battles, reflects the complex nature of feelings and characteristics surrounding the people of Ukraine in these challenging times: hope, strength and perseverance.


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The Strike Zone: Mitigating the threat of Ukraine fatigue

Ukraine’s unyielding resistance to Vladimir Putin’s autocratic aggression has improved the country’s reputation on the international stage and led to a powerful alliance between Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, the greatest test of this partnership has yet to come. There is no end in sight to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and Ukraine’s military is highly dependent on U.S. aid. Although the Biden administration has supported Ukraine rhetorically and politically, it is not surprising that Ukrainian leaders may worry that American politicians will not support a foreign war indefinitely. This strategic partnership is currently at a high point after decades of ups and downs, but future military aid could be jeopardized by a lack of support on Capitol Hill. Therefore, Kyiv faces external pressure to achieve sustained military success, as they must prove to Washington that military support is a worthwhile investment.


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The End of the World Has Just Begun: A pivot to Africa?

For the past few years, there has been increasing discussion in the foreign policy community about Washington’s role in the Global South: an often neglected part of international relations. With the primacy of the United States waning in institutions like the United Nations and in the Global South —17 African states abstained from a vote condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and one voted against it — the necessity for Washington to regain soft power influence over the region has been under a spotlight, as the United States seeks to preserve the global liberal order. Now, the time has come for a coordinated Africa strategy.




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Ukraine at War: Bostonians gather to recognize a gloomy anniversary, a year of the full-scale war 

Despite the cold and snow, on Sunday, Feb. 26, Copley Square was decorated with Ukrainian flags along with those of the United States, Poland, Latvia and others. Almost 1,000 Bostonians gathered in front of the Trinity Church to recognize the gloomy one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. People joined in to listen to the speeches of city officials and personal stories of Ukrainian students pursuing education in the Boston area, while collecting and sending aid packages back home and dealing with very complex emotions.


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Around the Corner: Averting the end of truth

AI has gripped the United States, as technologies like ChatGPT and Midjourney have astonished the nation with their uncanny abilities. Midjourney, an AI art generator, can convert a prompt into an art piece in around a minute, in any style or medium. It has effectively demonstrated that art, a bastion of human creativity, may fall to the machines sooner than was thought. Further, TikTok has seen another form of AI trending: deepfakes.


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MisCONceptions: Introduction

America is dying. Whether you believe it is ill due to climate change, rising bigotry and predatory billionaires, or moral degeneration, family breakdown and a loss of unity may vary depending on your political ideology. However, we fear that in a time of increasing polarization, marked by the demonization of the opposing side in echo chambers found on the right and left, Americans are failing to understand what those with opposing viewpoints truly believe. 


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The Strike Zone: Beijing’s precarious position

By transitioning from a centrally planned, collectivist economy under Mao Zedong to a free market system of “capitalism with Chinese characteristics,” China has undergone an economic explosion since the late 1970s, and many scholars see the nation’s continued rise as inevitable. China’s GDP per capita is quickly rising, and its annual growth has long outpaced the United States’, leading to predictions that China’s GDP will overtake America’s by 2035.


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The End of the World Has Just Begun: The imperial backyard

Empires are built out of chaos, and when they fall, chaos often replaces them. As we soon may learn, this lesson applies to Russia and its periphery. Ever since the 19th century, Moscow has ruled over the Caucasus mountains, much of Central Asia and its Far East territories, and to this day has remained the regional security guarantor in the post-Cold War era. But now, ever since the Russia-Ukraine war exposed the weaknesses of Russian military force, its authority in the region has significantly deteriorated. Unfortunately, it is likely that this slackening will only lead to intensified geopolitical competition. Besides the Caucasus and potential internal security problems, the Central Asian states are where this is most likely to occur.


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Ukraine at War: What is known about the spring offensive?

Kryvyi Rih, a large industrial city in Ukraine where my immediate family lives, is located 43–49 miles from the frontline, so many of the wounded soldiers receive treatment in its hospitals. Both of my parents are doctors, and our conversations about their work often leave me speechless. Recently, my mom was testing new methods of lung ultrasound diagnosis with a group of patients — volunteers, who are mostly military officers. One of them shared with my mom that during the retreat from a small town, Soledar, something small and sharp — likely a bullet or a missile fragment — hit his ribcage. 


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Around the Corner: We cannot abandon nuclear power

Our efforts to fight global warming, while increasingly significant, have not been enough. The prospect that warming will be halted at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the boundary between the bad and the disastrous, is growing less likely by the year. Indeed, the World Meteorological Organization estimates that there is a 50% chance that temperatures will reach 1.5 degree warming within the next five years. Given the increasing severity of the situation, averting this fate would be a monumental feat. The UN Environment Programme has warned that carbon emissions would need to be slashed by at least 45% by 2030 to accomplish it. If this target is to be met, significant changes will need to be made in nearly every facet of our lives. However, the most important facet is energy: the foundation of the modern world. Nearly three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector. Evidently, reducing emissions will require significant changes to how we produce and use energy. In short, clean energy generation methods must replace fossil fuels.


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The End of the World Has Just Begun: From fistfights to more?

In the waning weeks of 2022, a video circulated online of Chinese and Indian troops stationed in the Himalayas engaging one another with sticks as weapons. The clash happened near the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh, part of the disputed territory between the two states. Although this belligerent behavior seems par for the course, combined with other recent foreign policy moves by the Chinese government, the clashes in the Himalayas actually highlight a potential new or refocused strategy for China.




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It's Happened Before: The battle for America's soul

In 1892, an immigrant from the Russian Empire stepped off a ship into the bustling city of Boston with nothing but the clothes on his back. He did not come to the country by choice: Indeed, when he was younger, he did not imagine that he would ever leave his village, much less Europe. The situation in Russia had changed, however, and those of his Jewish faith faced increasing violence and attacks by mobs, while the state hardly lifted a finger to stop them. In the United States, he worked hard and brought his family still in Russia over, one by one. It was a good thing too: If they had remained, they would in all likelihood have been murdered by the Germans in the Holocaust. The U.S. saved his life, and the life of his family. It also saved the life of his unborn descendants, who came to prosper in a way inconceivable in the “old country.” That man’s last name was Berlin — he was my great-great-great-grandfather.


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Ukraine at War: Coping with trauma

The majority of people, including those whose countries are not affected by wars, are stressed before the holiday season. As everyone is wrapping up a year of work and a semester of studying, let’s explore how Ukrainians cope with psychological tension from the war ahead of the harsh winter. In the past few months, missiles from Russia demolished more than half of Ukrainian energy infrastructure.


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The End of the World Has Just Begun: A new way forward

The next three decades — at least — in global politics are bound to be a wild ride. Even if my previous columns are incorrect in their predictions — and I do hope that the scale of the global collapse and regional conflicts to come will not be as devastating as I fear — the major trends of depopulation, deglobalization and the result of the regionalization of economics, politics and security remain certain. Another almost-certain constant, though, is the United States’ primacy. What should the United States do with all this remaining power, and its relative position in the international system?


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Ukraine at War: Russia violates international law by kidnapping Ukrainian children

Freezing during the first weeks of the war in a village in the western part of Ukraine — I had to flee there from Kyiv on Feb. 24 — I thought about the war stories that are not yet being told. Since the full scale invasion, journalists in Ukraine have revealed a solid amount of reports, helping to see the conflict through human eyes. Due to the scale of the war, however, the international community hears only a fraction of Ukrainian tragedies. The kidnapping of Ukrainian children is one type of the Russian war crimes that is often overlooked.