Writing 09: Patents and Intellectual Property

Regarding pirating data, as I wrote in my reading quiz, I think that using pirated data is less of a crime that actually illegally distributing copyrighted data. I simply feel that as a consumer, if I use copyrighted data that is far less of a crime than actually maliciously producing and distributing known copyrighted data. With the emergence of third parties like Netflix and Spotify who stream the content, it is clear that there is a proper way to get copyrighted material to users. I think with these streaming services, especially in light of the streaming wars, the entertainment industry is moving towards free entertainment. Therefore, I don’t necessarily see this issue of copyright becoming a problem as the services become more affordable. 


I think patents are necessary to regulate ideas in a society that is completely focused on profiting off what you own. It is important, especially in America, to have strict ownership over your idea or creation because if you don’t, someone will sweep it out from under you and take your profit. Therefore, yes I believe patents and a way to regulate ideas are necessary. However, they should be managed in a much better fashion. As I wrote in my reading quiz, those who verify patents must be much more strict on who they give patents to and do not. The issue of patent trolls is concerning but evidently a result of a patent system that is broken. If patents were perfect, there would be no discrepancy between ideas. If idea A is patented and idea B is close to A, it should not receive a patent. The solution here is hard to nail down. On one hand, they are beneficial as I mentioned before. On the other, these patent trolls can be very detrimental to business and there is the question of whether they are even useful at all. I believe within this there is a middle ground in which I call for a much more serious deliberation over whether an idea is genuinely unique. I believe this to be the best motive to mitigate the frustrating effect of patent trolls. 


Regarding open source, I believe it is obviously a wonderful resource available for developers. However, there must be an incredibly seriousness of the developer to be responsible for their actions on the web especially using open source. When reading into both the Heartbleed and ShellShock bugs, I reflect on the importance to have an aware and always on the defense type of the developer. To prevent these issues from negatively affecting our developing experience, we must be proactive about knowing what we are using, who the source is, and reviews from others to ensure it is safe. I also think there is a responsibility when using open source to always cite where you get information from. Given that a lot of computer science is the act of googling and learning as one does, it is essential to document where one receives information in instances of viruses and basic coding practice.

Writing 08: Automation & AI

Artificial intelligence is definitely something to be embraced with caution. There are many sci-fi horror stories of AI completely absorbing the world in an utter chaos resulting in human destruction. For example, my mother thinks they will evolve to become more dominant than human beings. The reality, at least so it seems, is that humans are in control of the AI and that though they learn, it is almost always directed by human control. Therefore, if something like the scenario I just mentioned occured, it would lie on the human conscience, not some robotic super power. That said, the responsibility of AI clearly lies on the software developers. Software developers have the responsibility to develop AI that is safe, doesn’t cause harm, and upholds common moral standards. Engineers are not the only individuals in society who must hold responsibility for AI. Countless philosophers and great thinkers are and must ponder the issue of AI decision making. If AI evolve so closely to human nature, these individuals have the responsibility to debate and finalize essential questions. Should the AI of a self-driving car hit a child instead of an adult if it must? Should the car kill a driver? Should the AI choose to kill someone in self-defense? How do they determine what is reasonable for ‘self-defense.’ Though AI are incredibly promising, a lot of these decisions cannot be made my calculations and previous learning. Society has to inform these agents of notions regarding right and wrong–which is evidently hard to program. 


I believe AI and automation are amazing methods to improve quality of life and society. Though this is largely seen as a benefit, I understand the many costs. One of the articles mentioned that the most common job in the United States are truck drivers, which I found surprising. The article continued to explain that if driverless trucks were fully integrated, unemployment would soar. Though unemployment is certainly concerning, we have seen these types of revolutions before in the industrial revolution. A video in class mentioned an example when farming jobs were on the ultimate decline due to tractors and automation. To respond to this, society began to invest in high school education to provide a safety net for jobs. I believe today the situation is no different. Machines replacing workers should encourage workers to become more educated and get more jobs. As I am working for Amazon Robotics next year, I have thought about the implications of automating robots. I think that Amazon’s number one tenet is to be customer obsessed and focus on experience. Given this, the robots are enhancing customer experience through 1 day shipping and efficiency for floor workers. The concept as I understand it is trickle-down economics. Implementing robots makes Amazon efficient which allows them to spend more money on adding jobs with higher pay. In addition, the workers lives drastically improves as they don’t need to walk 15-20 miles a day. The end goal of society should be for everyone to have well-educated and better jobs. Our society must ensure the general workforce is educated enough to attain these jobs.



Writing 07: Censorship

The internet certainly is public service and fair access should be a basic right. I do certainly think though that certain providers should have the ability to charge for their services. By this, I mean that streaming services should be allowed to charge for their content. However, I do not think traditionally free services shouldn’t be throttled or require payment. For example, Google’s search engine, facebook, and youtube are all fundamental components of the internet that every person should have equal access. Every company, streaming service or phone carrier, is free to have their business interest in mind. Whether they promote hulu, netflix, or give free entertainment in another form, the business choice should be free and their choice to determine winners and losers in the market. However, the line is crossed when companies punish customers for using competitor services by throttling the other service.

While the idea of an open and free internet is wonderful, there certainly needs to be regulation to prevent civilian horrors. We now know that some of the mass shootings were preceded not only by online posts but were fully supported by online groups. These are the types of online activity that must be watched and monitored. I believe the government needs to create an internet regulatory service devoted to finding these types of internet activity. 

There are many unethical actions for companies regarding technology in the US. It is unethical to suppress dissenting opinions for governments. The other three topics are difficult because certain companies are allowed to do as they wish. For example, I don’t think it is unethical for a leftist media group to not promote information about Trump because it goes against their mission. Further, there are times where information broadcasted by terrorist organizations is negative–as in giving light to these organizations give light to their mission. Not to mention, it is ethical to protect children viewers from violent online content. In addition, there many be instances to remove discriminatory, provocative, and hateful content to certain users, ie. children. However, I think the more important concern is how the government intervenes with online hateful content. 

I certainly am concerned with online censorship, mainly with uneducated online users. While I understand some censorship is necessary to remove hateful and harmful content, most uneducated users take what they see for the truth. For example, an uneducated user living in China likely accepts the censored content without questioning its truth. This sounds very similar to brainwashing. In the United States, we I think we have the other side of the extreme, almost no censorship. Here, I am open to consider effective types of censorship, mainly content related to terrorism and mis-information. Especially in light of political elections, there needs to be a raised awareness for misinformation online. There are two routes to go down in preventing misinformation. First, you completely remove mis-information and censor online sites like Facebook. Second, and more feasible, would be an online mark that would warn user the content likely was mis-informed.



Writing 06: Government and Companies

Given that corporations are largely considered to be people, they should certainly be held accountable for their decisions. Further, they should be responsible for immoral or unethical consequences of their products. If we compare corporations to people, we must understand that every person has the right to do whatever they want. While we want all people to be moral and ethical, we don’t require this behavior unless it violates the law. Similarly, though we want corporations to be perfect moral entities, sometimes business decisions may be considered immoral and unethical yet legal. While persons and corporations are free agents, they must be held responsible for missteps and mistakes. I think the “moral and ethical limits to how ruthless” a corporation can be is determined by the law. Further, the law defines what is right and wrong for a company. The debate over if companies are “right” or “ethical” is and has been determined by the constraints of the law. 

One of the fundamental challenges of growing tech giants is the inability for law makers to catch up to them. What I mean by this is that tech grows so rapidly at a pace that is difficult for the common man to understand. Therefore, it is hard to evaluate whether these companies are right in their actions or how far they overstep in regards to privacy and personal security. There need to be fast acting lawyers who understand the technical side of these companies while also understanding the relation of the companies under the law. In 50 years, it will be evident that currently companies are too large, too powerful, or too invasive. Our challenge at the moment is finding talented individuals who can understand the constraints that need to be placed now. I am not close to an expert on the law of corporations or government interaction with large companies. I understand the danger of monopolies, not only for the sake of power but of competition in the economy. Personally, I care much more about a company, say Amazon, make great strides in promoting positive good such as delivering affordable health care than I care about them becoming “too large.” If a company is helping the common good, creating jobs, and acting morally, I don’t see the need of breaking it apart. I do, however, believe in a large digital tax on giants in the tech sphere. Humans are taxed and corporations should be too. The US government definitely needs to make greater efforts in regulating tech giants in two main efforts: taxation and privacy. We are strides behind the European Union regarding regulating tech giants in regards to privacy. The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) regulates companies in efforts to protect user privacy. The US needs to have a blanket approach such as this to regulate and protect US citizens. Further, given that the majority of tech companies find a home in the US, we need to apply a digital tax for their services. Again, many European countries have already applied digital taxes–the US needs to follow.


Writing 05: Government Surveillance

After watching Snowden for the first project, I have really been considering this tradeoff between privacy and security. One of my favorite quotes from the film was from Snowden’s girlfriend who claimed that the government was designed to always be questioned. I don’t necessarily think this means worrying about Big Brother. However, it is essential for Americans to be aware of the power the government has over us and ask these important questions we have discussed in class and those that appear in the news. The million dollar question here is what the fine line is between privacy and security. I validate both arguments. I would rather the government have every ounce of my data in order to prevent a terrorist attack. However, I do not support efforts to manipulate user data to sabotage them, for example the devient application of ICE to find illegal immigrants. Though I don’t know the fine line between privacy and security, I do not believe the government needs to know every detail about every person to stop malicious crime. Given the power of technology, there should be other ways to detect these warning flags instead of brute force swallowing every individual’s data. On a personal level, I think it is dramatic to say that there is no freedom with government surveillance. I understand the extreme depicted in the novel the Circle where individuals are being tracked all the time an are never disconnected. I think the only time that mass data tracking breeches freedom is when the data is maliciously used against the users. For example, if later in the future tracking someone’s browser preferences without their consent affected their ability to get a job, run for office, or things like that. I also think there are times where an individual has a right to keep their personal views and preferences private. This was a really important caveat we discussed in class with the example of Mayor Pete not disclosing his sexuality.

Though the US leads the world in many fields, we are lagging far behind most other european countries regarding privacy and security. During my semester abroad in Ireland, I extensively studied the differences in the EU and US approaches to privacy. The EU has established the GDPR(General Data Protection Regulation) with the sole purpose of regulating tech companies. Germany provides a clear example in giving users the option of whether they want their homes to be placed on Google Maps, putting the user first. The US needs to step up and follow our EU counterparts in efforts to protect user data and privacy. In addition to following and creating policy regarding regulating tech giants, software engineers must be trained to protect user data. This need faces a struggle in the lack of talent and interest  in the cyber-security space. Those that take advantage of user data through breeches of firewalls are advanced programmers. We need to train our own programmers to keep up with these malicious programmers in effect to protect vulnerable industries such as health care.


Writing 04: Whistleblowing

This week’s readings really convinced me of the importance in intensely evaluating the  consequences of software engineering and those who lead projects, especially when involving human life so closely. I certainly do not think that the failures we looked at this week were merely technical accidents. When these accidents took place, there was weak leadership somewhere along the software implementation pipeline. With the Challenger, the leaders should have recognized the danger apparent and halted the mission, regardless of other motives to launch quickly for financial gain. For the radiation madian, there should have been many more checks along the line before the product was implemented in hospitals. There should have been multiple programmers working on the machine instead of the one novice programmer they had. In addition, the FDA should have investigated the project more than they did. 

The line when to whistleblow is hard to draw. In the case of Edward Snowden, I believe he was a hero in releasing the information to give the general public a sense of awareness in addition to putting the government in check. However, I really struggle whether I feel Manning was in the right. While I certainly see the value of sharing our military’s actions with the public, I believe her exposal of the video footage posed a real threat to national security and peace efforts. I believe in this case, it would have been better to share information internally so that it would be dealt with properly instead of releasing it for the entire world. I think that it is important to never remain silent. I firmly believe in the saying “if you see something, say something” but I think the audience of who you share your information with is important. When Manning released the information about the government, there could have potentially been better ways to release it than to the entire world. 

I definitely think whistleblowers should be protected if they truly are trying to help the greater good. If the whistleblower is just releasing data to expose someone for something but aren’t helping anyone in the process, I don’t think they should be protected. Looking at someone like Snowden or whoever blew the whistle most recently on the Ukraine records, there should certainly be protection. We all know the government is corrupt and therefore need whistleblowers to keep them in line. Though I wish this wasn’t the case, it is an important part of our democracy and those who have the courage to break the law, should. In another one of my courses, the professor talked about the importance of pursuing justice. We specifically studied Martin Luther King and “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” which he wrote after being imprisoned for parading. Though he technically didn’t break a law, he understood the importance of pursuing justice at all costs, regardless if he would be imprisoned. Sometimes, laws reflect justice and sometimes they do not. Regardless, it is important to pursue justice for the sake of bettering humanity, even if one must break the law.

Writing 03

The community of computing and technology needs to work towards creating a diverse community. In this field, diverse entails diversity in gender, background, race, experience, origin, whether you went to public school or private school, how many siblings you had, if you were in band or played a sport and so on. What I am targeting here is the notion of diversity of experience and self knowledge. Diversity proves incredibly important for tech due to its ability to generate the most creative and innovative ideas. Bringing together those who are different and even sometimes better disagree can greatly promote innovation. A perfect example of this is Pixar. In the Integrated Business and Engineering Fundamentals course, Professor Kitz showed us a clip of the producers at Pixar. Instead of gathering like minded individuals, Pixar purposely chose personalities they knew would collide and conflict, as they understood it would only make their projects and films better. 


As a woman, I have definitely experienced both sides of this inclusion and exclusion. During my first summer internship of college, I was definitely not in a warm environment. I was on a team with practically all males except for one remote female. Normally, I don’t have a problem with this environment as I enjoy working with all kinds of people. However, during this summer I experienced extreme isolation because I was a woman. I sat in between two male developers in their late to early thirties. When I would ask one of them for help, he would treat me as though I was a 12 year old while treating the other male interns differently. He was constantly shocked that I knew anything and was incredibly condescending. I eventually had to report this to HR because he would make comments as though “of course you wouldn’t know that” or make fun of my lack of knowledge of a topic while in perspective I was about 10 years behind him in the industry. I experienced a much more welcoming and inclusive environment at Amazon Robotics last summer. There were many more females in the office in engineering roles. I also had a one on one meeting with my manager weekly where he asked how I was feeling and doing at work. 


Outside of inclusion and exclusion in the workplace, I want to note on the importance of keeping a professional self. Though I understand notions of free speech, the harmony of the workplace is drastically killed when employees use free speech as an excuse to not be professional. For example, this summer there was an intern who constantly referenced sex and drugs. Of course, as an American, he is free to discuss whatever he wishes. However, these topics of conversation in the workplace not only make others feel incredibly uncomfortable but influence the way that others worked with him in the work-place. Given this experience, I definitely think that we should practice respectful self-censorship and maintain a professional status. I view this censorship not as a suppression of individuality but more as an emphasis on the productive, creative and other sides of the individual that they can only really develop and express in the workplace.

Writing 02

The hiring process for Software Developers isn’t necessarily broken, but certainly has room for improvement. Regarding the rankings we discussed in class, I think every company hires according to these components differently. I believe no matter what industry you are in, connections always prove most important. After that, I think companies really differ in how they hire, which I think is a really good way for the applicant to also see if a company is right for them. While I don’t love coding interviews by any scope of imagination, I understand their value and the importance of technical skills. If a company only offered technical interviews, however, and didn’t do anything behavioral, I would know it wasn’t a good match because I want to be in an outgoing and collaborative environment. The same token applies reversed if you love technical work but only have behavioral interviews, it may be an indication that this isn’t the company you want to work for. 

To prepare for this process, I plan to do a lot of coding prep. I plan to read Elements of Programming and do a lot of practice problems to refresh data structures. I also plan to do a lot of practice interviews and construct a clear guide for how to solve a problem. I also plan to go through all of my projects, review their structure, and take notes on best vocabulary to use when describing my strengths. I also plan to prepare a list of questions to ask the company. While I love Notre Dame, I really don’t think they have helped me in the process. I went to the career center to ask about jobs to apply for and I was basically told to google the role. Almost no tech companies come to Notre Dame or recruit here. I feel that during this process, I have had to take the complete initiative of applying coldly to the majority of jobs I applied to. I really think the biggest way to improve the process from Notre Dame would be to have more large tech companies come to recruit. They could also contact alumni to possibly match with seniors and get some industry advice. I also really wish along the way some professors mentioned the importance of being on top of job items the summer before senior year and tips and tricks on how to land the dream job.

If I had to give my younger self advice, I would definitely say to start studying for coding interviews at the beginning of summer. I would also have told myself to keep refreshing on data structures throughout my undergrad even after the course itself. I also definitely would have networked more with people at big companies to build relationships. While I am still going to undergo the interview process, I really don’t love the fact that my value as an employee will sometimes be based solely on my ability to traverse a tree or reverse a linked list. I would rather the interview evaluate how I engage with their team.

Writing 01: Identity

As we discussed in class, there is an expectation in the computer science community that programmers should be passionate about programming. While I understand the basis for this stereotype, I reject that every programmer has to be passionate about the process of coding. To be a good programmer, you should be passionate about the outcome or cause your work is aiming towards. The zeal should come from loving what you are creating and how you are helping the world. Another stereotype of those in computing is their personality and appearance. From Hollywood, media, and social perception, the programmer is portrayed as one who is very anti-social, doesn’t care about their appearance hence resorting to the classic ‘hoodie’, aren’t interested in subjects outside of programming, and are obsessed with coding every minute of every day. Personally, I reject all of these stereotypes. I find myself to really enjoy being around others and working together. I don’t think I own a drawstring hoodie and normally put effort in my appearance in both casual and professional life. While I enjoy programming, I am passionate about many other disciplines such as Philosophy(aka my minor), English, Politics, Business etc. Finally, I certainly do not spend every waking moment of my life yearning to program or get my hands on a keyboard. Regarding the two points about being anti-social and not interested in other disciplines, I feel these are attributes that better programmers reject. For example, when a programmer is social and collaborative, against the norm, they will generate new ideas and likely be more productive in a team setting. Further, when a programmer considers disciplines outside their own, they have a greater perspective of their project and purpose. 

A degree from Notre Dame is packaged with many stereotypes as well. Notre Dame has the basic student stereo-types such as being from a suburb of a suburb of Chicago, loving football, being a “good” person, being catholic, holding the door open for people, having 30 siblings, and wanting to make a positive difference in the world. I certainly manifest a love for football, attempting to be a good person and wanting to make a positive difference in this world. However, being from Southern California, having one sibling, and being Lutheran, I definitely don’t check every box for the description. Regarding the engineering student and more specifically computer science student, Notre Dame has a different stereotype than most schools. Given that we have the First-Year of studies, Notre Dame students are designed differently, designed to think broadly, about others, and long term. I know there is a large debate within engineering regarding the First-Year of studies. There are cons given that engineers are a year behind most other universities regarding jobs and internships. However, I am a huge advocate for the first year and the requirements we must take because it forces students to really consider what they want to do and what they want their lives to be. These courses not only contribute to personal discernment, but also enable students to be well-versed in a variety of topics. One of the most notable words an employer said to me regarding Notre Dame engineers was that “we hire Notre Dame engineers to manage the rest of the engineers.” I think this conversation really explains the expectation from Notre Dame CS students when they graduate: not only to have the skills to be a great developer but a phenomenal leader too.


Katherine Hecht

Writing 00: Responsibility

I am really excited to explore the ethical aspect of Computer Science this semester for many reasons. Primarily, ethics play a major role in CS due to the disciplines close connection with human nature. Within all fields of technology, we are attempting to improve human life regarding efficiency, quality of life, and happiness. Given we work so closely with human nature in nature of big data and artificial intelligence, it is essential that we recognize the consequences of our actions and their close relation to morality. Regarding frameworks, I lean towards yet struggle the most with Utilitarianism. While I believe technology has the benefit of helping the most people at a large scale, I don’t believe it should come at a cost of greatly harming others. The crux of computer science is to benefit human life through technological assistance.
At the University of Notre Dame, I have been incredibly blessed to develop many talents in technology. Before college, I coded only in my AP Computer Science Class in high school and thought my vocation was destined for Chemical Engineering or some discipline related to the agriculture industry. However when entering introduction to engineering at Notre Dame, I realized the power of Computer Science and the joy it brings to masses. Switching my major was one of the best decisions I have ever made as I’ve loved every minute of Computer Science so far. One of the many reasons I chose Notre Dame was its ability to shape an individual technically but as a human and leader. Reflecting on the past three years, I am genuinely shocked with the amount I have learned about the field and technical skills I have gained along the way. In addition to technical talent, I genuinely feel Notre Dame has developed me as a human being. I consider one of the greatest talents of Notre Dame graduates is their compassion for other individuals and the ability to consider many aspects of an industry outside of their specialty.
Another wonderful aspect of Notre Dame is the ability to explore other majors and minors. Last summer, I decided to add a Philosophy minor which proved to be one of the better decisions I have made. Not only is Philosophy incredibly interesting as a topic, but it also aligns directly with Computer Science. I took a course in the Fall of 2018 called “Science Virtue and the Good Life.” In this class, we discussed the importance of morality in scientific and engineering professions. For example, we discussed if a scientist has to be a “good” person to be considered a good person. In addition, we discussed moral responsibility. For this, the main example was a bridge collapsing and killing people or a faulty drug killing many. In these situation, the main discussion revolves around who is morally responsibly—is it the contractor, engineer, owner, or construction worker? During this course, I began to ask questions about the morality of computer science. Within the next few years, I see tremendous moral challenges resulting from advancements in technology. Many of these challenges such as data privacy are on for debate even now. I envision another major problem will result from the philosophical invocations of self driving cars—if the cars need to kill someone, who do they kill? I am very excited to explore these questions and many more in your class.

Please keep anonymous.

Katherine Hecht