Writing 09: Intellectual Property

Question: Should intellectual property be afforded the same, more, or less protections than physical property? In today’s world, do IP laws encourage or prevent innovation?

When someone invents or creates a work the creator/inventor should be able to claim rights to their work. While this is the basic idea behind intellectual property and copyright laws we have seen these laws been taken advantage of and innovation stalled.  One of the biggest examples of patent laws being taken advantage of are patent trolls. Patent trolls are companies that don’t contribute and their only purpose is to extract money from the patent law system. There are millions to billions dollars at stake here and often companies which patent trolls threaten just pay a licensing fee to avoid an expensive and drawn out patent suit.

One of the most shocking parts to me of Thursday’s class was the discussion about licensing whether it was copyleft licensing such as GPL or permissive licensing. Bill Gates makes the argument if we want more innovation or better software the creators need to be able to pay. This is regards to his argument for intellectual property and software. This is against open source software and for proprietary. While I agree that with Bill Gates that charging a price for software will increase the quality of the software I’m worried that having more proprietary software could hinder innovation by decreasing the knowledge shared between developers.

Google is making another kernel Fuscsia that is a BSD license. This allows them to keep the proprietary code to themselves but still have ‘open source’. Google currently uses a linux os for their chrome books and linux is under a GPL license. Google is going through the pain and struggle of writing a brand new operating system so they can have BSD licensing and not share any of the proprietary code. The main motivator behind this change is money as if they change to a permissive license Google will not have to share all their code as they do with the GPL license.

John Deere in the past did not allowed famers to repair tractors that they have bought because John Deere put locks on the software so that those farmers had to come to a John Deere repair site to fix their tractors. John Deere claim they own the software on their tractors, but it seems odd that a farmer who buys a product from them can’t even fix it themselves. Now farmers are able to repair their own tractors because John Deere’s claim on this was obviously silly. This type of protection of IP hurts consumers and inventors in my opinions and I’m glad that there were laws removing protections of the software that John Deere owned.

Overall, I think the IP should have the same protections as physical property. I think that IP laws are meant to encourage innovation as they protect the inventor and encourage others to invent, however their should be restrictions on companies such as patent trolls who exist just to stop innovation or companies like Apple who want to have a monopoly on who can repair their computers.

Writing 08: Artificial Intelligence

Is artificial intelligence something that should be embraced or feared? Do you believe in the hype?

The technology around artificial intelligence is incredible and those who were on the projects such as Watson or AlphaGo are clearly genius computer scientists and mathematician. While these AI applications amaze me and I embrace them. I’m more interested in the impact of AI in regards to automation.

I think artificial intelligence can only help us. Being said we must ensure there are rules and regulations to avoid harm of actual humans. AI can allows us to do amazing things. I always see those commercials Microsoft puts out where scientists rave about how they can track endangered animals using AI by giving it thousands of pictures of the endangered animals habitat. This is one of many amazing things AI can do. I think one of the more ‘common sci-fy’ fears is that AI could ‘overpower’ the program and cause malice. I think this possibility is obviously far-fetched. A more real fair is the change of our economy. With AI and increase of automation in jobs this reduce the number of jobs for humans. While we have seen this labor shift change at the beginning of the 20th century there needs to be some sort of plan or help offered to those who are put out of work by automation.

Not only will AI change the service sector such as reducing the number of human truck drivers if a company figures out how to automate truck driving. Automation also reduces the number of technical jobs such as system administrators. There is no need for someone to manually update a system if it can be done automatically.  Like I’ve mentioned before this is not the first time we have had a huge labor shift. At the turn of the 20th century the number of farmers reduced drastically. This labor forced turned to people working in factories. The United States adapted and pushed high school for all young people. However, I’m not sure if the US will be able to adapt in the same way. Will we now push college on the majority of citizens? College is an extremely expensive and time consuming venture. I’m afraid automation of many “middle-skill” level jobs will cause a push for higher skills which seems like a great thing but I don’t think college is attainable for the majority of Americans. While in a perfect world I would love that, I don’t think this sudden shift caused by automation would increase the number of college educated Americans. It would cause a bigger income divide. Part of the conversation about automation is income inequality. With automation we will see the overall advancement of society, but the worry is that most of the benefit will go to a small percentage of the population.

We even talked about Catholic social teaching which encourages us that the economy must serve people. With automation that will reduce the number of jobs and prosperity for low to middle skill workers. We should not let just the top small percent increase in wealth. It’s important to look out for people who will suffer with initial job loss from automation. While I think automation and AI are incredible technologies and we should embrace them we should also consider the consequences that may come with these literal life-changing technologies.

Writing 07: Censorship

Two very American concepts are capitalism and free speech. Both of these are major topics even in the technology world as well. Net neutrality there begs a question should we regulate Internet Service Providers? Should they be allowed to ‘censor’ the internet by choosing what content is blocked or slowed down (throttled)? This questions are understanding of capitalism. In regards to free speech what should be allowed on the internet and not allowed on the internet has become a hot topic. Especially in light of the shooting in El Paso that occurred this past summer where the gunman posted a anti-immigrant manifesto before he committed his crime. Who should be able to decide what kind of content is allowed to be posted online?
Not having net neutrality in a way censors the internet. If there are websites that are blocked or throttled from users being able to see them and consumers are only able to see certain content because Internet Service Providers only let consumers see content the ISPs want them to see is censorship. I think having a monopoly isn’t a great thing and there does need to be some regulation on how much ISPs can throttle or block certain websites. Before Tuesday’s class I was on the side that the all internet service providers should be allow equal flow of legal content, but then there were examples of times when we might want some content to be blocked so we could view other content. For example, streaming video services. At times we might want our internet to only allow data from streaming video come through so our videos can come in faster. I still am on the side of net neutrality, but I think there should be at least a little bit of regulation on it.
The internet is not necessarily a right as we do not need the internet to live, but it shouldn’t be just for the rich. The scary side of net neutrality is that internet service providers could become so powerful if they are allowed to block or throttle certain websites making their customers pay to see that content. Obviously, this would widen gaps between the rich or poor. What if internet service providers block an educational website and only rich kids could see it? That doesn’t seem right. I understand that ISPs claim net neutrality helps them innovate and create better technologies, but it still like everything else in our market should be regulated a little bit. A free market is a nice concept, but a little regulation on business keeps our society in check and diminishes the gap between rich and poor more than capitalism.
In class on Thursday there were opposing views of what should be censored. One student, Seth, said that any speech that incites violence should not be allowed on the internet. He was for censorship. However, another student, Katie, countered back by saying we know what is seen as hate speech changes. She begged the question what happens when the smallest act is seen as terrorism? I think that there b to be some sort of monitor on what you can say, however if there is not a violent act people should be allowed to say what they want even if you disagree with it without consequence from the government. 
There is a quote by Oscar Wilde where he says ““I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.”  I agree with this statement. Professor Bui actually called on me in Thursday’s class asking about my defense of censorship and Cloudflare taking down certain websites because of their inflammatory content and prompted me with asking what if the majority of people thought something normal or good was inflammatory. I think that in the case of 8chan Oscar Wilde would agree with me that it should have been taken down, but that’s besides the point. Specifically, he gave me the example what if we lived in a pro-choice world and people who were pro-life making statements were seen as hate speech. One he kind of vilifies the pro-choice side, which fair enough this is a Catholic school. However besides my personal view of abortion, my response to this example is I would be on the side that the pro-life people can say their piece and post their content on the internet. Stating that you are against a certain idea should not be censored in this case. There needs to be some consensus at companies that host websites of what their users can or cannot post online. Overall, I think tech companies or some sort of regulation should be allowed to take down content they think is so not appropriate for them to host.
Finally, I want to be clear I don’t support all censorship such as the censorship of thoughts and ideas, or dissent. I do support the censorship of hate speech that is so inflammatory it incites violence or harm to other human beings.

Writing 06: Corporate Conscience

The most important reason corporations should be held responsible for their actions is that they are made up of a group of people. A corporation isn’t one singular person, but it is made up of many people who each individually should have a responsibility to act ethically and morally. Therefore, the corporation as a whole should make decisions and act moral. The traditional business model where the purpose of a corporation is to benefits only its stakeholders and to only make a profit can lead to some possibly unethical decisions. In the case study of where IBM profited from Nazis using their computing power to track jewish people is unethical. However, they were not held responsible for their actions.

Clearly, these examples are corporations directly being involved in an unethical situation. However, what about a tool such as GitHub or GitLab being used for unethical reasons? In class on Tuesday Professor Bui brought up that GitLab has made a statement they will not refrain groups for using their services based on their political views. I agree with them to the point as long as that organization or business is not causing harm. I think this and many other examples prove that corporations do have a moral responsibility to do the right thing.

I want to shift the discussion to focus on huge companies. We live in a time of monopolies, and it is a bit scary to me. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple have so much power over consumers. They control a lot of the market and in my opinion are often more powerful than the government.

Facebook buying out its competitors such as Instagram and WhatsApp is absolutely an Antitrust violation that should have been stopped in accordance with US law. If Facebook was a cellular company or an oil company buying their competitors there would have been an organization to stall or stop the buyout. Corporations can absolutely be too big. When the consumers choice is limited it hurts them because the companies in power can charge more for their services.

I think AWS should be separated from Amazon as it’s own company. In class on Thursday we talked about how innovations in technology actually come out from breaking up big companies and from competition of companies in the same market. If there is no competition in for example cloud computing would the technology ever improve? There would be no pressure for a company to try and get a competitive edge because they would already have the competitive edge since they have a monopoly over a certain market.

The case study in which the EU fined Google for showing ads for their products from their search engine is the first really big stop for these giant technology companies. Google clearly broke the law the EU has and the company will have to pay consequences. However, it does make sense for Google to want to advertise their products first on their search engine. Perhaps, this isn’t an issue for Google showing ads that benefit their business on their platform but an issue that the company is simply too big. Perhaps Alphabet (their parent company) is too big as well.

Overall, companies have a duty to follow the law and adhere to ethical and moral standards. Companies themselves as well as the government should keep corporations in check.

Writing 05: Big Brother

 

Where do you draw the line between individual privacy and national security? In a democracy, which one is paramount?

A democracy is the idea of the public decides how they should govern themselves. Based on this ‘definition’ of democracy what Snowden did with revealing how much the government was surveilling its citizens and visitors would align with this idea that the people should be informed and be able to vote or decide what they want to be surveilled or not. I think a lot of the statistics shown in Tuesday’s class we saw that citizens did not want to be surveilled themselves. Citizens of the United States wanted to have individual privacy, however when asked if they wanted suspected terrorists to be surveilled the majority of citizens did not mind.

A lot of students in the class agreed with this idea. One student I think her name is Fiona, repeatedly said she didn’t mind if the government surveilled her phone calls, texts, email etc. because she did not have anything to hide. I agree with the point, but then consider if this kind of surveillance was used again a certain population. Also in situations of domestic violence. There are plenty of situations and arguments for times when individuals need their privacy.

The idea of Big Brother comes from a character that is always watching you taking care of you. I think Big Brother is more of a risk or threat to some populations than others. This is clearly evident in the New York Times article ‘How ICE picks its targets in the surveillance age;’. The story explains situations in which ICE used government surveillance to track down undocumented immigrants. Whatever your stance on immigration I think this is inhumane. This is not an appropriate used of government surveillance. This exemplifies how this sort of technology while it protects our national security endangers many people. This story is very sad and has vibes of other times in history where we use the technologies we have to ostracize a specific group of people.

In regards to democracy Professor Bui used the term Turn-key tyranny. We trust our officials to use restraint with this type of surveillance. There aren’t laws or regulations in place to restrain these policies. As we know because of Edward Snowden the public most of the time didn’t even know the policies put in place for the U.S. government to surveil its citizens.

Do we really want every part of our lives scrutinized? I think I value my privacy, but understand a strong need for law enforcement. If I’m being honest I do not want the government to be surveilling me or anyone else at all. However, I think there is a need for surveillance to prevent terrorism and other heinous acts. If there was a way to filter out information related to terrorism or other evils and only surveil instances related to that of national security would be the best solution. This clearly isn’t possible with the current technology (or maybe it is and there are organizations which really do just want to know everything about us). Overall, in a democracy the correct solution here would be based on the population and from class we saw most people care more about national security.

 

Writing 04: What good is doing the right thing

According to Roger Boisjoly, “[whistleblowing] destroyed [his] career, [his] life, everything else.” What good, then, is whistleblowing?

My answer the prompt for this week is What good, then, is doing the right thing. I think in Roger Boisjoly’s case he did the ‘right’ thing. He provided an honest answer to his findings. He encouraged the NASA administration to not allow the launch of the challenger to occur. He didn’t allow the financial and societal pressure of an incredible launch prevent him from telling the truth about his findings. Yes, he said his job and career were ruined, but if I were him I would feel better sleeping at night knowing I did the right thing.

The catastrophic even of the challenger exploding was a direct result of engineering failure where the O-Rings collapsed. However, this event could have been prevented because the engineers that worked on this rocket TOLD upper management about this problem. However, I do see how the management side didn’t believe the engineers completely. They did not have concrete, clear, data to support their claims that the O-Rings on the challenger would collapse completely in colder temperature. The blame for this falls upon the engineers for failing to support their claims about the O-Rings. In this case I think blame falls on both parties the management side and the engineering side, however, I think more blame is on the management side because they are the party which called the ‘go’ on the Challenger launch.

Part of why I think this event is so sad is that so many people were tuned in watching it on TV. The astronauts and school teacher on the Challenger knew there was always possibility of a fatal lift-off, but I wonder they knew about this specific problem with the O-Rings. This thought was brought up in Tuesday’s class, I forget from who, but I did not think about this point. I forgot about the human lives that were at stake because of this decision, not to mention the millions (maybe billions) of dollars lost from this rocket. All the technology and time so many people put into trying to get this Challenger off the ground.

There was another question in the prompt asking if engineers should always tell the truth? My response to that is yes, always. It’s better to be honest and uncomfortable, then lie. Giving false information can lead to unwanted consequences. Overall, I applaud Boisjoly for speaking the truth and giving his best recommendation to the NASA managers. Maybe not saying anything would have let him keep his job, but at least the family and friends of the crew members of the Challengers know what happened to the rocket from the explosion.

I hope that I can always feel free to tell the truth and hope my managers will respect and consider my response to any situation I encounter.

Writing 03: Diversity

Diversity to me, means that your organization, group. workplace, school, etc. looks like the population of our world. I push for diversity because  I enjoy meeting/talking to people with different insights and perspectives in this world. I think diversity doesn’t stop as sex or race. Diversity also come from thought, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. Having people in my life with different backgrounds and experiences is important to me. Creating a welcoming and diverse community in the tech industry is important I think for innovation.

Some of the discussion in class revolved around questioning the need for diversity. We compared the male dominated STEM fields to female dominated fields of K-12 teaching or nursing. I think it’s easy to get into a mindset thinking that “men and women are inherently different”, but I think there has been literally thousands of years of the propagation of gender roles to lead us to where we are today. Being said, I think it is important to encourage diversity in these fields, then let people decide.

Something else on Tuesday in class we discussed was the representation of role models or leadership at companies. There were students with opposing opinions. Some students argued that they didn’t need a role model that looked like them growing up, but other were opposite thinking it is important to have role models from underrepresented demographics to encourage diversity. I’m in another CSE class called “Case Studies for Computing Entrepreneurship”, and one of the speakers for the class Chris Slatt, an electrical engineer/tech entrepreneur for a lot of his career changed his career path and started a soccer club (it’s pretty cool/nice) meant to be inclusive for all, from diversity, income, skill level etc. The point of this story is he emphasized how they started a programming/interest in robotics sort of club to spark interest in some of the kids. He talked about when young people from minorities don’t have anyone in their family, friends, or people which looked like them how hard it is to enter a technology space widely filled with people who don’t look like them. I think the demographic of this class being mainly white male (that literally is the class not exaggerating) charged the discussion where not obliging to having minorities as role models is ok. Of course the majority of the class doesn’t see the need for a ‘role model’ that looks like them because they are already that way. It’s just a thought. I think one way to increase diversity is to diverse your leadership. To reach out to minority communities this is a game changer. We mimic people in charge of us and I think if the tech industry wants to diversify it’s people a good place to start is encouraging young people with role models.

Another topic of discussion that came up in class was some students invalidated the experiences of discrimination or ‘slights’ other students described. This was kind of awkward and a little ridiculous. Some students thought examples or personal stories of discrimination were situations where a student read into it. Where they just thought it was a normal or the situation a student was in was dealing with an ‘asshole’. Personally, I shared how I’ve experienced a male partner in a group project not trusting the code I pushed to a git repo to be working or correct. A situation where I constantly felt I had to prove myself. The reason why this discussion is relevant to the topic of diversity is that fields which are not inclusive does not promote diversity.

I feel everyone I have worked with in school or at an internship has been very open and non-discriminatory. The only problem is specifically at my internship this past summer is I work with mainly white, middle-aged, men. Granted I was at a manufacturing company (GE aviation). I found it hard to find someone I relate to. I think everyone at work is very nice and welcoming, it’s just all one demographic. Which in my opinion should be different.

Overall, I think diversity and inclusion should be a moral imperative as my whole them of human belief revolves around recognizing each human should be treated with dignity and respect. Encouraging diversity I think enriches our lives and creates a more productive, loving community.

Writing 02: The Hiring Process

My journey during this hiring process has been sort of dramatic. I have tried to prepare for this by really figuring out what it is I want to do. Finding an answer for myself has involved talking to co-workers, bosses, professors, family, friends etc. I feel with all of that ‘talk’ I have been able to focus on a certain type of job I am interested in. Being a computer science grad with an interest in a software engineering job I have had to complete many technical interviews. I hate them. Everyone hates them. I just feel that often they have nothing to do with what the actual job entails and I am not good at giving an answer in a short amount of time. However, since they are a ‘necessary evil’ to the tech industry I have complete some practice problems, review course work from data structures or algorithms, and watch ‘Cracking the Coding Interview’ videos on YouTube.

Notre Dame has definitely helped me in the process of finding full time jobs or internships. The career fair is where I found my first internship and which led to a full-time job offer, and I have had friends from Notre Dame recommend me for interviews at other companies as well.

The hiring process in the tech industry very much revolves around a ‘technical interview’. This technical interview refers to where an interviewer gives a prompt and the interviewee is required to write out code to answer the prompt. While there is a need to narrow the number of applicants for a position and it saves a business cost to have potential employees complete programming exams before they are even chosen for a behavioral interview this part of the interview . While the technical interviews provide an effective way for companies to select employees it leaves me uneasy. What if someone who is skilled can’t perform well in that manner? I think there should be more of a balance between the technical and behavioral side. In class on Tuesday we were able to get into groups and talk about experience our peers have had when applying to jobs in the tech industry. Overall we agreed that technical interviews are the worst part about interviewing. Nikole mentioned that she didn’t see the benefit to the tech industry relying so heavily on the white board writing code part of a technical interview.

On Thursday Bui revealed to us results to a survey of salaries for those in the class with jobs offers. I was really surprised by the results. I didn’t realize 11% of my peers with job offers had an offer for 125,000+. That is an insane offer for someone with just a Bachelor’s degree and only some research or internship experience. That large of a salary makes me inquire the ethical part of what the company is offering. Clearly, the company is in need of someone with a computer science skill set if they are offering that much. I wonder what kind of pressure is involved with that job if you are compensated that much. I think any kind of entry level salary like that is really high and weird to think that I might be making more than my parent’s coming right out of college.

Overall, I think hiring in the tech industry is really efficient, however it might not be as effective for some companies. A lot of companies are testing you on little math problems, but does that translate to being someone who can communicate well, complete a job, or have a better understanding of computing overall? I don’t love the hiring process for the industry I am in, but I really don’t have a choice do I? I want to be employed as a software engineer so I have to comply to the industry standards of technical interviewing.

 

Writing 01: What is your identity and how does it impact how you see the world and how the world sees you?

 

This past May I graduated from my beloved Saint Mary’s College with a math degree! I most identify as an alumna of that college, a Saint Mary’s woman. Someone who is thoughtful, kind, intelligent (maybe), confident, faithful etc. Since I have taken classes at Notre Dame I often have felt like an outsider someone who never found a ‘clique’ to study with. I’ve felt that Notre Dame is much colder than Saint Mary’s. I actually applied to Notre Dame when I was 18 and didn’t get in. (Which turned out to be one of the best things to EVER happen to me because it lead me to Saint Mary’s.) I often felt like a fake and that I didn’t belong here. I still feel more allegiance to my little all-women’s college than Notre Dame today.  I feel Saint Mary’s gave me a different world view than the one I entered college with.

Being said, I love Notre Dame and the opportunities I have been given from being able to earn a degree from here. I am white and catholic which is very stereotypical Notre Dame. I enjoy the Notre Dame football games and the CSE department here. I am definitely privileged. Though I am aware my family does not make as much as the median household income at Notre Dame I have grown up in a supportive loving home that was able to send me to college. I”m so thankful for them. They’ve always supported me in anything I want to and have encourage me whenever I feel lost! (shoutout to mom and dad)

Anyways, back to my identity, I like to think of myself as mixture of ‘hip’ hacker and mathematician. A hacker/mathematician who is artistic and methodical. I am quieter and timid in a work setting, so I definitely identify with some of the introverted stereotypical parts of someone in technology. However, I love meeting people and talking. I’m really proud of the math degree I have and all of the classes I’ve taken which supported that. I like to think that I approach a problem differently because of the experience I have had with pure math and proof-based courses.

I think the CSE department here does a really good job of graduating thoughtful well-rounded people. Yes, I have all these technical skills but I like to think the classes here have given me some sort of purpose. That I’m going to go out, get a job (maybe go to grad school) and do something that will make a positive impact on our world. I think Notre Dame’s CSE department has educated me in a way to consider what I am doing at work. Yes, one of my goal’s is to make a living and provide for myself, but I also am considerate of a company’s social justice or diversity as I’m deciding where I what I want to do after college. Being said I think Notre Dame as a whole has some strides to make and that they’r a little hypocritical in regards to what their mission statement is versus the actions the university makes, but I think I will be proud to say I graduated from the University of Notre Dame.

 

Writing 00: Ethics and Responsibility in my opinion

Question of thought for the first blog post: What does it mean to be an ethically responsible person and is that something you strive for?

First blog post wow! I’m not sure how casual these writings are supposed to be, but I want to keep them conversational. For me being ethical does revolve around a spiritual being or God. The framework we talked about in class which I think I most closely align with is “The Divine Command Approach”.  What is interesting though is the kind or type of God I believe in may be different then what someone else believes in. I believe there is a God that created humans and the world.  Therefore, every creature and the environment should be treated with a certain dignity and kindness. Each person on this earth deserves to have respect.

A lot of my personal views and beliefs reflect this idea that every single person has the dignity, free will, and sure be treated with a sort of respect or reverence. I would argue taking someone else’s life is one of the worst ethical crimes you could commit because you would be taking away a person who has their own thoughts, ideas, opinions, etc. The environment needs to be revered as well. We (as humans) were given the earth to live off of and must respect it. I recognize a need for the earth’s resources to live in modern day, but for me the respect to earth and to other humans are kind of intertwined! We live here on earth, this is our home and to disrespect or ruin our home could cause harm to other humans. Therefore, we need to respect the earth.

I like to think I try to be an ethically responsible person and respect others and the environment. In college at Saint Mary’s and at Notre Dame my education has raised my awareness and encouraged me to feel a sort of responsibility with the skills I have gained in college to USE them to help others and the environment. I  like to think my view of ethics is kind and sympathetic to the human person. I feel that I have been given many opportunities for whatever reason I was given these opportunities and someone else wasn’t well that’s another topic of discussion. Anyways, I feel obligated to use my skills to solve a problem to help other humans. It would be such a waste for me to have spent all this time in college learning so much just to not use them. I don’t want to guilt or judge the decisions of others if they choose to be educated in a field (gain whatever skills and don’t use them), but for me I feel obligated almost to do something. I think this type of responsibility is a part of the ethical framework my views align with and one part of me striving to be an ethical person is this obligation to ‘do good’, ‘contribute to others’, ‘help the environment’, etc.

In summary, my view of ethics revolves around letting people decide and live their lives how they would like as long as they do not harm themselves or others or the environment, treating others and the environment with respect, and contributing to help others and the environment. These views come from a belief that God created humans and the environment and out of reverence to creation I think we should respect it.

Thanks for reading! I’m excited to improve upon my writing and explore my thoughts deeper on these topics throughout the semester.