Writing 09: Intellectual Property

There are different forms of intellectual properties which should be treated differently. Patents were formed in order to protect intellectual properties and provide inventors the legal right to exclude others for reproducing or incorporating their properties for certain amount of time; in return, the technology would be disclosed to the public. At a first glance, this seems like a fair system. If you invent something after years of effort, it would be unfortunate for someone else to copy your work and make profit off of it. This would encourage inventors to keep creating new technology and sharing it with the public which in theory would form cycles of inspiration and new creations. However, this system can be taken advantage of. People can utilize patents to limit certain products to themselves and make it harder for other people to use it or improve upon it. Sometimes corporation would continue the time limit of their patents by producing new patents with subtle changes. In this sense, intellectual property should be given less protection than physical property in order to push for more growth in technology. Another form of intellectual properties are copyrighted materials. Rather than patents which cover new inventions and ideas, this covers more of consumer ‘goods’ like music and movie. In this modern of internet and social media, it is relatively easy to get access to pirated content. The issue is how people deal with it. I believe that it is ethical for users to “test” copyrighted works of others, especially if the products don’t have a trial. Sometimes, softwares can be misleading and not be good as promised. But once the users decide to keep it, they should pay the full price of it. The producers behind the product worked for it, and thus they should be paid for it. I can understand why people would pirate expensive softwares like Photoshop, but I don’t think it is the same situation for music which can be ‘tested’ on YouTube. If people get access to files, I believe that ethically they shouldn’t share, even if they bought the item. Just because you bought a ticket to a show doesn’t mean that someone else can reuse it. On the other hand, if you want to import files from CD to iTunes for moving it to iPhone, I think that is understandable. As much as people want free things, they should also try to pay for the services they get. I believe that overall IP laws are too strict, at least in the United States. For example, Monsanto basically force farmers to use their seeds because even if a seed is found on their property which could have been blown over from nearby farm, they will be fined. They also must annually rebuy seeds instead of reusing seeds from previous crop. Furthermore, in terms of music and movie, people face a lot of backlash over similar tune or content. Given that there are 7.7 billion people in the world, I am sure some people will have similar ideas. For example, pyramids are found in different parts of the world. As long as people don’t blatantly copy each other or share direct content, it should be tolerated.

Writing 07: Censorship

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right. From the US Constitution to other developed nations, freedom of speech utilized for news, advertisements, music, and such. It prevents the government from detaining civilians for any unwanted messages and enables the people to speak out. With the help of the internet, people now have greater access to the public and can get a wider audience on a global scale. It plays a main role in gathering people such as for the Hong Kong protest. Governments should not have the right to force censorships on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as they can misuse this for their own agenda. However, this does not mean these companies should just allow people to post whatever they want. This would hurt their platform anyways as people would start to assume that the social media is not an accurate method of getting news and information. Governments should encourage and push for these companies to start enforcing better flagging/reporting system. Most sites implement this feature already; unfortunately, it is on a basic level. It only enforces disturbing images or adult content. If anything, some content still manages to bypass these filters. It does not do much for fake news or hate crime. Because the sites should not censor any user’s posts or content, they should allow everything to be posted (except for legal concerns such as copyrighted material or photo/video taken without consent), but have an alert system that notifies any viewers that the information is wrong. For example, if someone wants to post on Facebook, “Notre Dame is an all male school,” it would still be posted. But it would have a badge in the corner or somewhere to mark it as invalid information. Of course, things would get harder to filter out especially with meticulous details. However, it would be nice to see the US government implement it for the presidential election which brought an immense amount of fake news. With growing research in AI, it could, one day, be a useful tool. For posts such as “Hillary Clinton killed 100 people,” it would mark it as not true. Social medias should also warn users for any links to news medias that are notorious for false information or bot generated pages. Not only would it help the users and make the world a better place, but the companies themselves will get a better image from it too, and more people will trust them. I am all for freedom of speech, but there shouldn’t be a forceful push for regulation. Rather, the government should provide incentives or tax cuts for companies that bring benefits to society. If not, it would be seen as censorship which I am sure the media would make a bigger deal out of. Just like driving a car and owning guns, everything is better and safer with some sort of rules. The government is not going to get rid of the rights, but making sure the world is a better place.

Writing 06: Corporate Conscience

Corporations as a whole should be responsible and ethical for their behavior and purpose. Their business model shouldn’t prey on other people but rather help them in return for money. At the same time, corporations shouldn’t be required to follow certain ethical standards as long as they don’t hurt other people, even indirectly. I think that corporations should have the freedom to whatever they want as long as they don’t take advantage of other people and don’t go against their promised purpose and image. As much as we want everyone to be nice and caring for each other, everyone is just try to get food on their table, even if it means to do something shady. An example would be like a shady data company that takes people’s information. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up committing crime or selling personal information to other companies because that is what they are. However, if Chick-fil-A did that, then I would be against it, since their image is to be righteous and moral. Companies should stick to their image and not take advantage of any good image they propose to the public. If a company is going to be unethical, they shouldn’t make advertisements making it seem like they are good. Companies are also going to end up getting bigger, such as Google and Facebook. At their size, they bring in lots of profit and can afford expensive lawyers. There is nothing wrong with affording expensive lawyers, but companies shouldn’t start trying to go through loop holes to cut through corners. Companies shouldn’t also try to lobby for laws that will benefit them. From the gas industry to the tech industry, lobbying plays a big role in Congress to get certain laws passed. Governments should stand up to big industries rather than falling for money. Of course, all of this wouldn’t happen if tech companies weren’t so big. I personally have nothing against big companies, especially if they were started by hardworking people with great passion. However, big companies shouldn’t start ‘bullying’ smaller ones and try to dominate the market. Every companies, small or big, should have equal opportunities. All of this, again, goes back to the government. Government should, in fact, pass laws that will regulate such corporate action. Yes, some laws have been passed for monopoly, but that was in the mid 20th century. We are in a new generation with new laws and new technology. Governments should pass laws to regulate bigger tech companies to prevent them from one, getting bigger, and two, bullying smaller companies. There are so many cases when if a small company doesn’t want to be bought out, the bigger company just try to copy their technology at which point the small company dies out while the bigger company has a replica of their idea. Governments should have better intellectual property regulation to fend for small companies because at the end of the day, it is going to be small businesses that are going to follow laws better and help the economy better, not big corporations.

Writing 05: Privacy vs Security

Data has become so precious; some say it is more valuable than gold. Data is the driving force behind commerce and companies utilize it to reach out to more consumers and get them to buy their products. Data is not just numbers and statistics; it is also our personal information. Government want as much information as possible to gain the upper hand when it comes to controlling the people and making sure that their society is at harmony. By harmony, people following their rules, whether they are right or not.

I think that there is a fine line between individual privacy and national security. With more terrorism going on, both physical and digital, more security and surveillance have been put into place. Although I understand those who support national security, I believe that individual privacy gets more priority. People shouldn’t use ‘national security’ as an excuse to be able to get access to sensitive data. Yes, sometimes precursor to a terrorist attack might be discovered. But it just doesn’t make sense how the government has to go to such point to figure that out. Why can we start off with something less technologically advanced? Like guns. It doesn’t make sense how we don’t even have strict gun laws and we are trying to go after people’s data for national security sake.

Individual privacy is very crucial. Although people these days tend to give out their personal information to Facebook and Google unknowingly, I feel like once they know what they are revealing about themselves, they would be more cautious about their information. I have been raised believing, don’t trust anyone else except for yourself. I feel that I am the only one who can trust myself with my own information. Everyone else should keep their information to themselves. Although national security is important, human beings are bound to make mistakes. Furthermore, a government official is not going to be super careful about a random person’s information.

For example with the Apple case, Apple itself is the one who is going to care. Why? Because it involves their own products with their own business image at stake. The government and laws? Money and greed trumps everything. The backdoor can be misused and if the access is somehow given to other countries, then our national security could be further compromised.

Just as how the police or federal agents need warrants before entering houses, there should be some sort of ‘warrant’ system for data as well. People need to be notified if the government is going through their personal information. Just like how we have freedom of speech which means we have the right to say anything we want and voice our opinions, we should also have a right to withhold information, unless required under a legal requirement. I am all for the government try to get information for us. But there needs to be a strict system; not NSA just storing all our information.

If we don’t have more control of our privacy, who knows if Big Brother might come out to be real? … There’s already smart home devices that could be hacked.

Writing 04: Whistleblowing

Accidents happen.
No human beings are perfect. We learn from mistakes, and that’s how we improve.

Mistakes happen a lot in the engineering industry. Sometime we make hypothesis, and it might turn out wrong. The engineering and technology industry has room for mistakes and accidents. However, it shouldn’t occur in production and public stage, only in testing and prototyping phase. In engineering, we has various testings for a reason: it is so that such potential accidents do not happen in the real world. If technical accidents happen in the public, it is the fault of the leadership for failing to be cautious and detailed 100% of the time, especially when some executives decide to overlook small mistakes that could turn out to be big.

There might be moments when someone knows that there is a mistake and that if a product might be harmful to the user, but the higher up decides not to disclose the information. I don’t blame the executives; sometimes it is hard to admit problems as the company and the brand image might be tainted. For example, Samsung had a explosive battery failure with the Galaxy Note 7 and device protection issues with Galaxy Fold. Instances like these hurt the company. However, they eventually admitted to their mistakes and recalled the devices. Yet, there are companies that might not do these acts, and it could be people in the lower positions who are aware of the problems to speak out. Sometimes, they are not obligated to speak out. They should be obligated to know the impact of the issues and act upon their moral values. If it is a small glitch that is not harmful, it doesn’t need to be pointed out to the public. However, if that small glitch can kill several hundreds of people, then by all means, they should speak out.

In the case that they are silent, I am sure that by their conscious, they are feeling guilty. Even people are have witness a crime but didn’t say anything could be arrested. Engineers should think what would they do as if they or their close ones were the ones getting negatively impacted by the engineering disasters. Whistleblowing to a certain extent should be deemed heroic IF it was something serious. Whistleblowing furthermore should be done in such way more damage is not created. For example, revealing national security could impact our nation from our enemies. It could also get messy if the ‘mistake’ was purposely carried out for a greater good. For example, the military ‘accidentally’ killed 10 civilians. But what if from those 10 people was a terrorist who could have killed 1000 people. There are different levels of worthiness for whistleblowers. I would say whistleblowing however should be done when the impact of the benefit is twice as much as the impact of the damage. I don’t blame people who can’t whistleblow for things that have similar levels of benefit and damage, especially when their career is at stake. Particularly for the older people who have families to support.

Writing 03: Diversity

In order for the computing and technology community to work towards creating a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive community, there needs to be two main components: equal standards and early nurturement. Equal standards mean everyone must be hired at the same plain-field, and one shouldn’t be favored over another because of gender or race, but only based on the factor of performance. A male shouldn’t be favored over a female despite having lower score on his interview just because he is expected to perform better since he is a male. But a female shouldn’t be favored just to fill the gender gap. Asians shouldn’t be favored because of certain stereotypes as much as how other minorities shouldn’t be put at a lower standard. Even if it might not help with the gender gap and issues revolving around minority representation, everyone should be judged with the same standards. So how do we actually solve the issues? It’s simply early nurturement. We should have more programs that expose younger kids to computer science and technology at an earlier start. We should have tutoring initiatives for those who are from underprivileged neighborhoods. Companies should host events and encourage others to take part of the coding movement. Just lowering standards for hiring is not going to solve any issues. Also, teaching younger kids will teach males that females can code as good as them. This will create an inclusive environment for coders in the future.

I went to a specialized public high school in New York City named Stuyvesant High School. To get into this school, students must get high scores on an exam called SHSAT, which is like a mini SAT. Majority of the students are Asian (approximately 65%). Blacks and Latinos make up less than 10% of the population. The numbers are not proportionate to the entire population of NYC. People have been saying that the tests are wrong because it discriminates against minorities and how there should be special exceptions for those from underprivileged districts. Some even proposed interview and recommendation process. However, majority opposed this move. Why? It is a fair process that is based off of merit. There is no bias or unfair exceptions that might come from recommendations and interviews. There are around 3 students each year who are given special privileges that do not do as well in school because they are not used to the pressure of academia. They basically took up spots from 3 students who could have performed better. Eventually, non profit organizations realized the problem was early preparation in middle school. There are now programs that help lower background kids to reach the levels of others.

This is the right method. Indeed, there should be fair, equal representation of every gender and race. However, we shouldn’t lower standards or have bias that might discriminate against others. What we should really do is promote more programs that nurture kids at an earlier age. This will boost education as well as show the males that females can code good as well.

Writing 02: Employment

My overall impression of the hiring process in my industry is a bit hazy. First of all, I recently changed my industry from software engineering to more of a UI/UX field. I am still researching and slowly learning about the process from online resources and LinkedIn connections. It is a quite difficult transition as I have been always trying to prepare to be a software engineer. Furthermore, from my current knowledge of the hiring process for tech companies, I am familiar with only the selection part, not so much of the negotiation and contract agreement parts. There are lots of YouTube videos and Reddit communities that provide great insight into getting hired and advice on to-do’s and not-to-do’s. For my prior software engineering preparation, I would say the book titled ‘How to Crack the Coding Interview’ was very helpful in getting me ready for the two past internship positions which were more coding focused. The greatest help, however, came from direct talk and reaching out to the actual people in the industry and seeing what they want from new workers. I wish Notre Dame provided more resources in terms of hiring preparation. I do appreciate how they bring people from Google to campus and hold talks on resume and interviews. I wish there were more electives and workshops that would expose students to different fields of computer science and technology. Other schools have minors or tracks in UI/UX and I wish there would be something similar. Furthermore, the curriculum does catch up towards the senior year, but it comes at a slow start in the beginning and hard for freshmen to get internships compared to other schools like MIT and Stanford. For example, although Ramzi allowed me to take Fund Comp as a freshman because I already took AP Comp Sci and knew I was going to be dedicated to this field, the dean did not let me. The number of electives are pretty limited as well. I understand that the CS program at Notre Dame is not big as others, but I wish this would be something the college improved upon. (Also, I am still confused why engineers cannot do a CDT minor with track in UI/UX.) Anyways, I am satisfied with the hiring process from what I know from my prior experience. I do wish companies would directly let us know that we failed rather not telling us at all. I am still confused about the negotiation part as I am not well experienced in that. Also, the way I was raised was to just accept what I am offered, rather than asking for more. This will be something I will need to work on. Overall, I would say its efficient. It is not completely based on meritocracy and some people still get in through connections or affirmative actions but companies seem to hire the right people most of the time. Going back to the start of my freshman year, I would tell my younger self to not to depend on the school as much. Grades for discrete mathematics or logic design do not matter as much. Its more of the projects and the skills I can show to the recruiters.

Writing 01: Who I Am

At a glance, I am just a typical Asian. I used to be in my high school’s math team. I was forced to attend martial arts classes. I major in computer science with a heavy nerdy interest in technology. And of course, I have glasses, that’s a must. Others might confuse me for someone else. Back at home in NYC, there are hundreds more of me.

But what makes me Joseph Han?

Although I admit I tend to match some stereotypes, I want to be unique and I know I am. Unlike most computer science majors, I love design with a huge passion in my heart. Instead of arguing about spaces versus tabs, I love editing frontends to make it more visually aesthetic, and I love it more when I see people enjoying the improved user interface. Rather than wearing hoodies and jeans to work, I prefer to wear something more chic. And I have come to realize more of how much different I am once I came to Notre Dame. I’m not the typical upper class, white Catholic student from a private school in the suburbs of Chicago. Contrastingly, I immigrated from South Korea and attended a public school in the east coast. As an immigrant currently living in a city known for its melting pot culture, I have been exposed to many different beliefs and traditions. It impacted me to view society with a more open mind and heart and learn that others have different opportunities from me.

I come from a humble background, but I wouldn’t say that I am not privileged. I am fortunate to have a father who is a pastor and raised me with great faith and belief. Both of my parents graduated from top universities in Seoul and understood the importance of education to achieve goals in life. There are some people out there who may not even live in a two-parent household and their parents might not be well educated or have the right morals. The religious upbringing and experiencing my parents working hard in a new country has provided me the insight of privilege and how some may have more or less than others.

The fact that I am attending Notre Dame and will graduate with a computer science degree has some privilege in itself. Other students do not get to attend such a prestigious college nor do they get to experience the benefits like good staff and career fairs. I am still confused as to how other people will perceive me. Will people just group me into the image of the upper middle class that other Notre Dame students are from? Or will I be able to hold a different identity, something that I truly am? That will be something I will find out as I go into the workforce after graduation.

For now, I will just remain as Joseph Han, a South Korean immigrant from NYC, and have an open mind and understanding that the world holds people from a wide range of backgrounds and privilege.

Writing 00: What would you fight for?

For me, being an ethically responsible person means to not bring harm to other people and make the best possible decision to maximize any benefits. One shouldn’t make any decisions that will bring profits at the cost of other people. If anything, it is better to not make any profits if it means preventing hurting other people. Being an ethically responsible person also has a duty to utilize one’s potential and capability to bring greater societal good. It is rather unethical to be lazy and not use any gifts that we are born with. If we are wealthy, we should help the poor. If we have ‘super power’ to code, we should use it to create tools that will help others. There will be moments when we are given an opportunity to earn large amount of money for working for a company. That company might be developing tools that take advantage of people information. We have to take a step back and think, ‘is this right?’ We really have to think of the popular phrase ‘what would Jesus do.’

There is something called ‘The Matthew Effect.’ It derives from scripture in the Bible which states that the poor get poorer and the rich gets richer. It shouldn’t be like this. Everyone should have equal chances of fulfilling their God-given talents. So if we are raised in a household that was well off, we shouldn’t later work in life in positions that will hurt others. Instead, we should use our advantages to help those in need. As a computer science major, I look forward to helping those from underprivileged communities get access to resources to coding and learning basics of computer science. In the last three years of study at Notre Dame, I have learned a lot and it wouldn’t hurt to take an hour out of the week to tutor little kids. At the moment, it will be busy from recruiting season, but once I graduate, I look forward to giving back to society.

There will be obstacles in the technology industry. It is well known that in Silicon Valley that there is a bro culture. When I happen to experience someone getting negatively affected by it, do I tell HR? Or, do I just forget it in fear of myself not getting a raise or not being seen as fitting by other? There also might be occasions when the company is taking advantage of customers, and I will have to decide in between letting the public know or not breaking my NDA. With the rise of AI, we will soon have to determine what is worth more than others. Even lives. The easy answer is obviously to choose the option to bring greater good even if it means having to sacrifice something. But it is easier said than done. Human beings are always tempted by whatever brings them benefits. I am glad to be educated at Notre Dame which fosters values of Christianity. The environment and the student/staff seeks to help others and not think about themselves.