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Scary Stuff


Talking about cyberwarfare today was weird. It was hard for me to formulate an opinion on how to respond to Russia’s aggressions because I don’t understand the culture or the regime; I don’t know how they would react to anything. In this case, clandestine efforts (like sending spies??) may be necessary to gain more insight on how their culture works and what vulnerabilities they truly have. I have to admit that I’ve never really thought about cyberwarfare much, and I hadn’t considered how the United States should respond to Russia’s interference in the election at all. After our discussion today, I’ve realized how difficult it is to think of an effective response, especially with a government that doesn’t really seem to or want to care about Russia’s interference. I’m hesitant to take an aggressive stance, but it seems like Russia will not stop their aggression until they face some significant push-back. I think that using informational power (for example, disseminating the photographs and bios of dead soldiers) can be effective and it is also not a blatant act of war; in this sense, its effects can be even more powerful because they may not be predicted by the public. Cyberwarfare is very scary to me because I feel like I know nothing about it and I really don’t know what to do about it because I’m unsure of the information I’m getting about the issues. While I know that I should not be content with my ignorance, it seems to me that cyberwarfare is an issue that is best left to “professionals”. I think that something needs to be done about Russia and that the US needs to step up their security game, but I have no idea what things can be done and I don’t know if anyone does. I hope that people who actually know what’s going on will be heard and able to make smart decisions for the country. Our guest speaker today knows a lot more than I do and I would say that I trust his ideas and suggestions.

We also touched on labelling of social media content today. It’s interesting that this idea we talked about a few weeks ago is actually a new bill being passed around right now. I see how there are several complications that may arise in passing the bill, but I hope that it goes through because it is a step in the right direction and the complications can be dealt with. It really is on the social media platforms to ensure a certain amount of security for civilians, and they have a responsibility in preventing the public from being misinformed–since social media nowadays has so much power and influence over people, they also need to take responsibility.

The Responsibility of the Individual


With so much information available on the web, there is no way for people to process everything. Since nobody truly owns the internet, the individual user can technically choose what kind of content they want to see. However, users are often unaware that they use applications that encourage them to think and act a certain way (e.g. for political purposes). For example, a couple years ago I downloaded this application that gave me a “digest” of news around the world; I thought that it was a more efficient way to glean information. I didn’t realize that it was a very liberal source that was subconsciously influencing the way I perceived the world. Although this is problematic, I don’t think that it can be prevented; it is impossible to have a completely objective news source that has to filter through all the news that happens around the world–how can anyone/anything decide what is more important to people without forming a subjective opinion or algorithm? This connects to the very difficult question of how to “govern” the internet.

In this respect, I don’t think we should put the responsibility of correctly monitoring the internet onto the big social media platforms and the government because there really is no correct way to monitor this thing that is the internet. Of course, I think to a certain extent, the government should require companies/websites to be transparent and display “labels” like the ones we talked about last week, informing the viewer that, for example, a certain video is a paid advertisement. But because the Internet is such an open system that nobody truly owns, it seems to me that putting responsibility onto the individual rather than onto the government (which can’t really exist in terms of the internet) would be way more effective in preventing problems like the potency of fake news outlets. If I knew that the “digest” I read every day had bias, it wouldn’t have such a powerful effect on me.

It is true that companies try to manipulate users, and indeed the government can/should lay out some general rules that try to stop this from happening, but the user needs to be aware of the information they expose themselves to. The topics discussed in this seminar have been extremely enlightening for me and I think that they are very important topics to be discussed. Perhaps implementing more of this discussion in elementary/high schools could be a step in the right direction.

Culture of social media


I found myself thinking about our trust in online sources after our discussion today. All of us acknowledged the presence of fake news and expressed some trust issues regarding news sites, and I think that this is a reason that makes it very hard for important issues to get exposure online. It’s hard for people to get motivated about pretty important things because the presence of so much fake news makes it very hard to make a well-informed belief. Professor Smith mentioned that only after two hours would he be able to make a relatively well-informed opinion, and he is a genius.

I personally feel afraid of seeming ignorant online and facing the wrath of justice-seeking essay-commenters, so I often shy away from expressing any sort of opinion online–especially political. I feel like this fear of being judged online is a prevalent issue, and that’s one of the reasons why people are so much more interested, or, at least, aren’t as scared of expressing interest in more trivial things (like the smart refrigerators I referenced last post). If they make a mistake in a post about these subjects–not improbable with the mass of fake news everywhere, nobody is going to come after them in a malicious way. On the other hand, people get very triggered by politics and it is scary to express political beliefs without spending a long time making sure you know everything about every candidate’s political platform, family history, insurance company, dentist, etc. because someone will roast you for being politically ignorant or insensitive. At least that’s the sense that I got during the election–this crazy roasting culture online really polarized the web because everyone wanted to be affirmed in an echo chamber and people were too scared to have discourse with people of differing opinions.

I personally rarely use social media to express meaningful opinions. My posts are all very light-hearted and un-political, and most of the content on my feed is also this way. The click-bait articles about random things are very annoying but they seem to be more comfortable for people to associate with. This in turn encourages more fake news, because stories become exaggerated and shortened to become popular sites. The culture of social media is very interesting for me to think about and I would love to plan a final discussion on this topic. I follow a lot of younger kids on Instagram, and I’m seeing a whole new social caste system based on tags and the location of the tags on photos where none of the tagged people appear. It’s a completely new community that is constantly evolving.



It was really cool listening to David Eaves talk about the concept of open government. I had never heard of it before this class, nor did I really consider how technology would be used to help the state/government. Whereas I am lucky to be exposed to these concepts and have the opportunity to have discussions with really knowledgeable people, I don’t know how much of the population will really be engaged on this issue. I find myself focused on how technology affects me on a much smaller scope (like new devices, new apps, etc.), and I feel like lots of people would rather learn about smart refrigerators than open government. With a decreasing attention span fuelled by the instant gratification brought upon by the Internet, it may be hard for important concepts and ideas to gain traction. It seems like soon enough, the government will be able to do some really crazy things and people will be so distracted by smaller things on social media/random things on the Internet that they won’t even know what’s happening (@Trump and his tweets–I read an article about how he was using his controversial tweets to distract the public from some troubling bills he was signing). 

I think that it’s good that David is pessimistic about the future, because his pessimism doesn’t completely takes all his hope away; rather, it stimulates some wariness that is very important when considering security and privacy matters. David talked about how a future step in terms of how technology will make a huge impact is related to the government. The analogy to the printing press was very helpful for me to visualize this and see how it could ultimately make the state/government much more powerful while giving the illusion of empowering the individual. The entire concept of nationalism was galvanized by the printing press, and who knows what new concepts/feelings/ideas will be sparked when the government really takes advantage of new technological mediums. With all the data that they have access to, everyone may be manipulated without even knowing it. This is definitely already happening, but as time goes on, the scale to which it brainwashes people could go to the extreme. In this sense, having an open, more transparent government would seem to be the right move.

But I am also not entirely sure how this open government thing would work. I can imagine a huge nightmare where people try to set the guidelines and standards that determine what data is open versus what data is closed, and I also think about how David said that we really cannot underestimate the difficulty for government and any organization to radically change their fundamental strategies. I’ve always imagined that the government is very secretive, so making this change seems like a very difficult task. This reminds me of  my fruitless struggle to convince my parents and grandparents to reconsider their extremely troubling conservative/traditional viewpoints. At this point I think I’ve just given up because I get too frustrated and it really doesn’t seem like they will change their minds.

I feel very small when thinking about these issues because I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do about it. This is a bad approach but sometimes I just want to feel content with being ignorant because sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

AI is overwhelming


I remember when I was in fourth grade and I discovered Cleverbot with my friend. We said some pretty vulgar things and it responded with even worse things that previous users had said. This was an example of a chat bot that used users’ responses to build up a huge database; this approach is different from the idea of pre-programming the database before interacting with humans. Cleverbot passed the 2011 Turing test, but what is the significance of the Turing test? I personally don’t believe that it proves consciousness, and I don’t think any test ever will. The thought experiment outlined in Kerzweil’s paper is very intriguing: the gradual replacement of Ray’s brain with a nonbiological equivalent (a continuously conscious Ray) is essentially identical to scanning and reinstantiating Ray’s mind file into new (nonbiological) Ray, and then terminating old Ray. But even though the two results are essentially identical, the latter is much less accepted as having true consciousness. I remember watching WALL-E and Big Hero 6 (spoilers ahead!!!) and seeing the robots “die” made me really sad. Even though their memory chips or whatever had been saved and they were reincarnated into new bodies, I still felt weird about it. Many of my friends firmly believed that the robots were the same afterwards so they didn’t actually die but I couldn’t shake off the fact that they were different.

The conversation in class was so philosophical and at times I felt quite overwhelmed. I think one thing I really started thinking about is what we mean by intelligence. I do think the singularity will eventually occur, but I am also skeptical that it will happen within the next couple decades. I agree with Paul Allen’s view that achieving singularity will “require many more discoveries, some new Nobel-quality theories, and probably even whole new research approaches that are incommensurate with what we believe now”. I also struggle with the value of intelligence. I can’t help but feel that although the quest for higher intelligence is extremely important and valuable, we are failing to consider the rest of life. For example, I greatly appreciate the useful things that AI or technology can do for me, like wash my dishes, translate my essay, etc.. However, I have the privilege of WANTING to seek higher education and do other things with my newly found time. But many people are content with not freeing up so much time, and perhaps people should be more okay with moving at a slower pace; it is great if people can find happiness in doing the dishes, in farming, in doing things that the tech world thinks are boring/should be automated.

In no way do I think that we shouldn’t be pursuing great technological advances; I think that technology is extremely valuable and even if I didn’t, the research would happen anyway. I just think that sometimes there is this bubble in the tech world that needs to be checked up a little (with some philosophy/humanities) and people should be encouraged to feel content with what they have and what they want. I feel like the current researchers of the technology have to be so invested that they can’t really stop to think enough about the implications, but for the many of us, we don’t have to be so caught up in it and we can slow down a little and find pleasure in the smaller things in life.

The Internet of Things



Welcome to my severely delayed blog post.

I was never aware of how many companies there are that just buy and sell mass data. The fact that nobody really knows about these companies is slightly troubling, but even for people who know, what can/should you do? There are many benefits to having things tailored for you based on your data, but it is also annoying to realize that you are being manipulated (or worse, be ignorant of this fact). Technology is always like this; it brings about many good things, like efficiency and safety, but it also carries potential for different kinds of danger, especially concerning privacy and security.

As an uninteresting college student, I’m not personally very worried about data collection. People can collect data on my Amazon purchases, and I don’t feel threatened. But what if I become famous one day? Will click-bait articles exploit the fact that I buy lots of banana guards on Amazon? Details about celebrities are always being leaked in click-bait articles and it illustrates the issues surrounding privacy that need to be more thoroughly considered by the companies introducing new technologies. Average, everyday people are not always aware of the importance of these issues because they feel no direct sense of threat. In this way, data collection companies can remain in the dark and continue to buy/sell data. Companies can release new technologies that are embraced without enough consideration of privacy and security concerns. This is a problem, but honestly I don’t feel enough of a threat to do much about it.

Technology vs the economy


We talked a lot today about technology and how it could/would replace the need for people in many fields of work. There were many examples named, from having holograms of artists and singers to using robots to perform surgeries, and while the panic due to automation-induced unemployment is understandable, I don’t think that it is as bad as many people seem to believe; it will be a long time before robots will completely replace certain workforces, and new opportunities will be opened up by these technologies. The argument mentioned in the WIRED article speaks to this fact–in the grand scheme of things, technology will become more of an aid/assistant than a replacement for humans. The value of human interaction, craftsmanship, and creativity does not seem like it will be lost due to automation/technology. For example, synthetic diamonds can be created and sold for a fraction of the price of real diamonds, but the value of the real diamond is still appreciated and sought after. The less expensive, synthetic diamonds merely appeal to a different group of consumers who may not be able to afford the real diamonds, but this doesn’t take away from the value of the real diamond, especially as a “status symbol”. The same phenomenon can be observed in fashion; fast fashion offers a much cheaper way to purchase clothing that imitates “haute couture”, but it in no way replaces it.

In terms of technology taking over service/retail, like Amazon Go for example, I think that this might occur for certain things like groceries and video game rentals, but the value of human interaction will allow many stores to keep thriving. Many cosmetics stores like Lush or Sephora offer valuable human interaction in stores, where employees develop a relationship with the customer. This experience cannot be replaced by a robot and so the demand for these stores will still exist. Technology can just provide more options for consumers; if they need something quick and convenient, they can go to somewhere like Amazon Go where no human interaction is needed, but if they want the experience of human interaction, other places will still exist.

I do think that the implementation of technology can bring about more profit and efficiency for both consumers and companies, but I think it is important to realize that while there might be a net growth in GDP, the distribution of the riches may be extremely skewed. I think that the rise of technology in the workforce comes with the consequence of even greater inequality, as only those with access to resources and education will be able to take advantage of the opportunities opened up with technology. I would imagine that much of the push for increased technology refers to growth in GDP, but a rise in GDP is not a good indicator for quality of life, since it really fails to take into account the individual experience. Inequality is a very pressing issue in today’s society and I wonder if the implementation of technology into the workforce will exacerbate this problem.

Another important thing to think about is how social media platforms/media in general can facilitate conversation instead of fuelling echo chambers. It is hard because, as Jacob mentioned in class, there was a study that showed how exposure to another perspective during the political election actually polarized people even more. However, I feel like the reason for this is partly due to the content that was shared; for example, most videos by liberal platforms straight up insulted Trump and his supporters, and if you were a Trump supporter, you wouldn’t change your opinions after getting told how stupid and racist you were. The content that is randomly shared by platforms should definitely be more neutral, but ultimately it is the individual who has to be open to viewing these different opinions. The problem now is that even if individuals want exposure to different perspectives, the media makes it difficult to find that content.

I look forward to further discussion on technology and its relationship with societal issues.


Standards, World Wide Web


Hello, World!

Something that really struck me in this discussion was how standards were set. OSI, a standard created by very smart people who held a lot of power, could not compete with TCP/IP even though there were many genius minds working to develop it and several countries adopted the standard. TCP/IP was the one that was implemented by the broad public, and used to this day. I think one important reason highlighted in Jim’s blog last week was the importance of simplicity; TCP/IP has less layers, and I think that this definitely made it simpler and not need as much theoretical calculation. The simplicity of the design of TCP/IP really needs to be appreciated, and the fact that there was a more hands-on approach with its development compared to a more theoretical/abstract approach for OSI also speaks to its success. I remember learning how in developing TCP/IP, you actually had to build it, whereas developing OSI involved a lot of discussion but not much actual implementation. The moral of the story is that you really have to try/experience something to learn and grow; merely thinking about it will not nearly be as useful. This lesson is actually very applicable to many aspects of life!

The World Wide Web was mentioned in the discussion as well, and I think the piece we read that talked about its challenges brought up some interesting issues. I find the spread of misinformation on the web to be extremely troubling, and this problem is linked with the lack of transparency in political advertising. Bots and algorithms nowadays track what people like to see (things that align with their beliefs), and bring up articles or other subject matters that reinforce those beliefs. Targeted advertising means that political platforms can say conflicting things to different groups, and with all the fake news out there, it is hard to search for the truth. Moreover, this phenomenon brings about other problematic things involving echo chambers and safe spaces, and the question of free speech comes into play. All of these topics are very pressing issues in society today that stem from the World Wide Web, and the plethora of problems could be a result of the openness of the web and the lack of centralized government. The openness of the Internet has been remarkable in shaping what the Internet has become today, and considering how it will shape the future is a very intriguing topic that I am excited to discuss.

Thoughts on the Evolution of the Internet


Hello world,

I find the openness and lack of governance in the development of software to be a very intriguing model for problem-solving. It’s remarkable how anything got accomplished through this system, because everyone had different opinions and could never settle on anything. Trivial questions such as right-left or left-right reading of bits took years and years of arguing to no definitive answer, and other arguments mentioned in the readings struck me as being so specific, such as what went on the left/right side of the “@” symbol of emails. Was the final decision reached by what the majority of people used? I feel like this system really pissed a lot of people off because there were so many different ideas and eventually only one of them would be standardized, but I see how it was overall a very effective system because so many ideas were shared and considered. Furthermore, a lot of problems just never reached a definitive answer. I think online debates nowadays are similar in the sense that there are no/very few moderators, and although no final consensus is reached, people learn about different perspectives and ideas nonetheless. This positive result argues for the necessity of free speech, but there are also many difficult questions concerning hate speech, what that constitutes, and how censorship may be required to facilitate free speech.

Another aspect I found interesting in our discussion concerned what was considered remarkable in the earlier days of the Internet. Getting a response to an email within 90 minutes was seen as revolutionary in the 1970s, and Prof Waldo mentioned the magical sense of being connected to the outside world only 3 times a day. There is such a stark contrast between that and our current culture that is fuelled by instant gratification. People nowadays are so used to getting instantaneous answers, whether it’s by text or asking Google, that we forget how to be bored. Instead of thinking of our connections to the network as being remarkable, we have built a reliance on it. When I’m waiting in line, I feel the need to pull out my phone because I don’t know how to be bored. We miss the opportunities to learn how to juggle or meet new people by constantly using our hand-held technologies to browse through cute animal videos or refresh our newsfeeds. There are movements now to recreate what it was like before, when people were not always connected. Trips like FOP help people disconnect from the world and be more mindful of the present. I have a friend who transitioned to using a flip-phone now and I have to dial her number every time I want to reach her (like what??). I personally can’t imagine myself not being near-constantly connected, but I see the reasons for wanting to be so.

I also wanted to share a small connection that I had when I read about the guy who got his razor back by sending a message through ARPANET. The amazing feeling that guy had reminds me of the way I felt when I was little and first started using MSN. My parents had forbidden me to use any type of social media, but my best friend at the time got an MSN account and convinced me to get one too. I remember the first time we had a secret online conversation, and that feeling of amazement and wonder, magnified by the sense that I was doing something “forbidden”. It’s the rush that people get when they’re doing something rebellious and it’s an addictive feeling; I think this played into the rise of using ARPANET to send personal messages instead of academic resources.

Our discussion today was super interesting and I look forward to next week!


Hello World!


Hello world,

So I’m still not completely sure what kind of stuff I’m supposed to write about in my blog but here we go! I finally finished the readings that we were supposed to do before class on Wednesday and I found the history of the Internet to be very interesting. I’m so used to the Internet being the way it is now, and I can’t imagine life without our high-tech devices that can process billions of commands in seconds. It was hard for me to see pictures of the giant, cumbersome machines in the “olden days” and realize that they were the predecessors of the MacBook that I am using right now. So much has been accomplished in this relatively short time period–the grind must have been so real.

It is also weird to picture that everything had to be physically connected, and that debugging required physical re-wiring. No devices were compatible with each other, so I can’t even imagine the frustration that people felt because when I can’t AirDrop pictures onto my iPhone from an Android, I already get pretty irked. From the readings, one thing that really struck me was the work ethic and dedication of all the people who were working on this huge project. The troubles regarding teamwork and making sure people were on the same page must have been so difficult because there was no Internet to share ideas and documents.

I have a faint memory in my childhood when my family had one big ugly-looking desktop computer in my bedroom, and all of us had to share it. I never used the Internet on that machine; I played this Hello Kitty game on it by inserting a CD into it. Now my MacBook doesn’t even have a place to insert CDs. This really shows me how much technologies have changed in such a short span of time. But I think a lot of modern day changes are just being used for profit, like how Apple always makes something incompatible so you have to buy more Apple products boooo. Anyways, I don’t know if this is enough writing but I am done.

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