[Reading 06] Government Over-Surveillance

Technology companies absolutely should not purposely weaken encryption or implement back doors in their products for the purposes of government surveillance! Not only would this betray the trust of the customers using the technology, but it could also open a window for foreign hackers to steal massive amounts of private data and use it against citizens. These companies have a service that is being used by people who expect for their info to remain within that service. They aren’t using a site in order for their info to be available whenever the government asks for it.

I believe that companies like Apple are ethically responsible for protecting the privacy of their users. But at the same time also ethically responsible for preventing violence or harmful activities that their platform may enable. Facebook seemed to have a good balance with their emergency requests when someone is in imminent danger of serious injury or death. They could extend this to include a legitimate terrorism concern. The balance could be facilitated by a security liaison of sorts that works with the FBI reviewing requests for legitimacy in terror concerns. This way customer privacy concerns are being met, yet the national security is still being tended to using all the tools possible.

This process would require a great deal of collaboration between major tech companies and the government. Most likely limiting the number of unlawful requests for private information from the FBI because they know they’ll have to go through a liaison that will restrict their ability or obtain the information they’re requesting. Unlike pre-technology age security, where law enforcement had to receive a warrant to search a physical location, the obtainment of electronic information has become a free for all in the FBI without the knowledge of a judge or the person with whom they are obtaining the information from. This is a vast overstepping of privacy and justice. American’s have always had the right to face their accuser, and this is in gross violation of that right.

It is very comforting knowing the FBI is actively doing its job of stopping criminals and terrorism, but I believe its cutting legal corners where they cannot be cut. We give up some of our freedom in order to be protected, but the government surveillance programs are then taking more and more of our freedoms many times without us even knowing it. It would be perfectly reasonable for a technology company to see a misuse of their platform and report it to law enforcement. The citizen has chosen to use this company to accomplish some illegal end, and can reasonably expect the company to take notice and report them. Furthermore, they should have the freedom to tell the customer that they have committed a violation of the platform and have reported it to law enforcement. This way the customer is able to face its accser. But if the company does not see any wrongdoing, and the government is requesting to just spy on this person due to some unknown or unjustifiable reason, then the company should be well within their rights to refuse.

[Project 02] A Guide to the Interview Process

From my experience, I believe the most important part of the guide my group [Alex Lemaignen and I] constructed is the section on the Notre Dame alumni network and utilizing it to land interviews. While some people think this is “cheating” in a way, I don’t think in the real world taking advantage of your available resources is cheating in any way! The reality is that you are trying to get a job to make a living. Apart from doing things that are unethical, why not use any means necessary to get the best job you can? Especially when so many of the alumni want Notre Dame grads to work for them. They know how much integrity we have and how Notre Dame has formed us in a much different way than most of the country. Use their knowledge as a way in. Possibly even more importantly, use their knowledge of the Notre Dame network. Talk to an alumnus about your skills and career goals. There is a good chance they will know someone or know how to find someone that is interested in your skills and attributes. One of the major attractions of Notre Dame for prospective students is its vast alumni network, might as well use it to its fullest extent!

Possibly even more importantly, use their knowledge of the Notre Dame network.

One thing I wish I knew freshman year is what companies consider during the hiring process. Of course, grades are super important, and the better GPA you have, the more doors you open up. But most students focus too much on grades alone and don’t develop the people skills or real-world problem-solving skills that many companies take into great consideration. Many many times I’ve seen students think that if they don’t have an internship every single summer then they won’t be able to get a good job. While internships are great and helpful, one internship is plenty! Using these summers as opportunities to diversify your education experience can be invaluable for your attractiveness to a company. Most will see it as a sign of well-roundedness.

The best advice I ever received was from the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) who was a Navy pilot. The 6 midshipmen, who had been selected to become Student Naval Aviators, got to meet with him the weekend of the Navy game. Now I had asked many other Navy pilots for advice when it came to which platform I should choose that would best suit family life. None of their responses had ever really been very adequate and I still was in the same place I started in. When I asked the VCNO this question gave me the first truly helpful advice on this topic. He said to not have my family as a consideration when picking which platform I want to fly. At first, I was kind of shocked and wanted to ignore this advice, but then he went on to explain. He said that no matter what platform I picked, it would be tough for my family. It is just the nature of the Navy. So what I should do is pick whichever platform makes me the happiest to go to work every day to fly. In the end, this will result in the most happiness for my family because I will be happy with my job and will bring that joy back home with me. If I picked something I did not really want to fly, then the family would be more miserable as a whole. So, as a way to apply this across the board, pick a job that makes you happy. It doesn’t necessarily have to pay the most money, because, in the end, money is not the driving force behind a families happiness.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran

I believe that colleges should teach in such a way that it applies much more practically to real life and prepares students more for the jobs they are most likely going to enter. Getting bogged down in memorizing equations that students will forget a month later seems to be an inefficient way to transfer into the real world. If they rather taught students techniques for problem-solving on a larger scale, this may increase their education for real-life scenarios.

[Reading 05] Bradley Manning: Drastically Out of Touch with Reality

It is quite sad really…when you see someone who has so much potential in life, yet makes their own lives miserable without even knowing it by believing in the lies of the world. This was really the core reason Bradley Manning did what he did. He believed that everyone has to accept the way you live just because you say so. That everyone has their own truth, and if you don’t accept it, then you are evil. That it’s okay to act completely on your own passions, as opposed to logic in touch with reality. This is evident in Bradley Manning’s Army of One where Manning says himself that he had no end game when deciding to release the thousands of confidential files he did.

“What is your endgame?” Lamo asked Manning.

Manning didn’t have one. He’d started leaking as a way to protest the conduct of the war. The Apache helicopter killings were “wrong,” he wrote to Lamo. But soon he embraced a broader principle: Open the drawers. “information should be free,” he told Lamo, reciting the hacker mantra. According to the chat logs, Manning said he leaked Iraq and Afghan war logs, reports on Guantánamo prisoners, and a cache of diplomatic secrets.

“What is your endgame?” Lamo asked Manning.

Manning didn’t have one.

The fact that he just released the documents in a seemingly arbitrary manner show that this was not a noble cause. Sure, he wanted to protest the conduct of the war, but to what end? I agree that the US was doing many things that were drastically unacceptable, and they needed to be exposed. He was somewhat correct in his gut feeling that he needed to expose that aspect of the military misconduct. But what he did beyond that was truly betraying the United States of America. His misdeed was stated very eloquently during one of the hearings:

“There may not be a soldier in the history of the Army who displayed such an extreme disregard” for his mission, the prosecutor, Capt. Joe Morrow, said in court on Monday, August 19, 2013. Manning “felt he alone was knowledgeable and intelligent enough to determine what information was to be classified.”

For Manning to expose massive evident wrongdoing is one thing, but for him to choose to release massive amounts of other diplomatic secrets on how the US does its intelligence gathering or dealings in the war probably cost lives. Our enemies now knew exactly what to look for and how to avoid it. There is no telling how much of this information the enemies have exploited in opposition to the US and its soldiers. He drastically betrayed his duty to the nation. There is a reason for different levels of security and for secrets to be kept. This is how our nation remains safe. In no way was Manning doing his duty to the national wellbeing.

Because of this massive miscalculation of his releases, he should not be protected as a whistleblowerwer. Bradley Manning is a traitor. While exposing some important abuses that can never be tolerated, he recklessly put many more lives at risk with his arbitrary releases. He should be in prison for life.

[Reading 04] So now have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?

Yes, the title is a quote from the Bible. St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians chapter 4 verse 16 to be exact. This is one of many instances in the great story of creation where it is said, in one form or another, that if we proclaim the truth we will be persecuted. It is the very sad and confusing reality of the world today. Unfortunately, it is to be greatly expected.

When reading the memo to Google by James Damore titled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, where he called out the current PC culture, saying the gender gap in Google’s diversity was not due to discrimination, but inherent differences in what men and women find interesting, this concept of the truth being persecuted was all I could think of.

When I had first heard bits of pieces of stories on social media or in the classroom about him trying to say that men and women are scientifically different, my first impression was that I probably agreed with whatever he said because I also agree with that point. But I also didn’t jump on his side because I hadn’t looked into everything and didn’t know if he took it to some kind of extreme. When I heard he got fired, I immediately assumed it was some politically correct BS, but once again didn’t want to have an opinion on it until I got around to actually reading it.

Now that I’ve read it in its fullness, I am appalled at the subsequent reaction to fire him and all of the people calling him evil, sexist, a bigot, and all the other insults you hear anytime you’re a conservative and have an unpopular opinion. This memo was radically moderate and careful in its language. It almost felt stifled by his use of “on average”! I was just thinking, “Okay we get it, it doesn’t apply to everyone.” In a world without such stifling political correctness, any reasonable person would, at best, agree that these things are real scientific tendencies, or, at worst, just say he’s an idiot and move on. That is how adults receive opinions they don’t agree with.

To have workers who are “hurting” because someone said something they think is an attack on them is how children respond to such things. When did, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” stop being a thing? Isn’t that what we learned when we were under 6 years old? Now I’m not saying that words can do a great deal of harm because that would just be ignorant of humans. But what I am saying is that when someone makes a well thought out argument, following a logical order, it in no way can be taken as a personal attack on anything. Damore was talking about things he believed to be scientific. That means he is trying to present an argument that is meant to be free from most opinion or bias. Furthermore, the gender distinctions he is making are not an “unfounded bias“. If anything, it is founded bias. That is why he is arguing it from a scientific point of view.

When did, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” stop being a thing? Isn’t that what we learned when we were under 6 years old?

All that being said, Codes of Conduct are a very good and healthy thing for companies to have. They are needed. They do help prevent real unfounded bias from infiltrating a workspace. What they cannot do, is stop people from expressing a legitimate argument about the way the company runs its operations or code of conduct. Yes, an employee should be fired for violating the code of conduct. If an employee discriminates against someone based on their gender, that is sexism and they should be removed from the company. The trouble lies in an understanding of terms. Sexism is treating a gender unfairly…Damore was only trying to treat the genders truthfully.

[Reading 03] “Having it All” Just Takes an “End in Mind” Mindset

As we see in much of today’s society, many people have lost touch with the truly important things in life. They are obsessed with gaining money, fame, power, and other completely worldly pursuits. It sounds cliche, yet when we boil most of their actions down to their core, these obsessions start to shine out. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce…this is atrocious! How can something like that possibly be a “normal” occasion in the world today? People will contribute it to this “myth” of love, but all those people are really just selfish and don’t understand that love means sacrifice.

Far too many people are just looking out for Number 1. Most of their decisions are based on a false sense of what will make them happy, regardless of others happiness around them. I refer to this as a false sense of what will make them happy, because they are just purely following their passions. Passions are a good thing, but when they are not moderated, they lead us down paths of misery. There is an idea floating around that there is no need to commit if you don’t “feel like it” anymore…that everyone should just be able to do what they want and live the way they like. Well, this is the way children think.

Children whine and cry when they don’t get everything they want. They don’t understand that getting everything they want is unhealthy for them. That they’ll grow up with a distorted understanding of how the world works. Parents don’t give their children everything they want because they love their children. They will make the choice to see their child miserable at the moment, knowing that it will make them much happier in life later on. When was this no longer a thing? When did people stop having the understanding that getting everything you want leads to unhappiness? There is no fulfillment when there is no effort.

From this perspective, I say that men and women can have it all. It just depends what that means to you. I would argue that the only real important goal in life is to get to heaven. All other goals must have their end in this. Now most people in this class, and most certainly the world, would just say that’s total BS and my own personal religious belief. I say, OK, what if it is? What is the point of life then? Why were we made? Why are we here? Where are we going? I suppose that is one of the main questions that religion answers, so I am going to just address the Christians reading this. (Sorry non-Christians, but it would have to go in an entirely different direction to get to the same starting point.) As Christians, these questions are very explicitly stated and the answers are known.

I would argue that the only real important goal in life is to get to heaven. All other goals must have their end in this.

Anyway, back to the point that men and women can have it all. I’d first ask what a successful and fulfilling career is? I’d also argue that it is one in which you are actively living out your vocation given to you by God, it brings you closer to God by its sanctification, it sanctifies others through it, and it successfully provides for your family and for charity. Work is not an end in itself. With this in mind, it becomes much easier to get to the point of having a “successful and fulfilling career”.

This goes for both men and women. In a successful marriage, the balance should be whatever accomplishes the heavenly goal for the spouses and children in the best way. This is where most people in our distorted society are going to get very upset with me. Yes, I truly to know and believe that is absolutely ideal for a mother to spend as much time as possible with a child after it is born and during its young formative years. The mother is the main parent that a child looks to in order for its needs to be met. Don’t get me wrong, the father has a vital role at this time, but not in the same way as the mother.

Now of course if it is not possible for a mother to spend the vast majority of her time with a very young baby, that is okay. I am not saying that you are a bad parent if you don’t follow a specific formula. What I am saying is that there is an Ideal situation for a child to be raised in the most healthy way possible.

All of this is to just to say that having it all really is much less related to one’s job than most of the world makes it out to be. The idea of the work-family imbalance, and statistics showing many parents wish they spent more time with their children, really comes from this misunderstanding of the purpose of a career. If companies want the best work out of their employees, they also need to realize that they do not come first. The happier an employee’s family is, the better employee he will be for that company.


[Project 01] A Step Above the Rest

Alex Lemaigned and I worked together to create a Code of Ethics. It begins with a preamble stating the importance of having a code of ethics and holding ourselves to a higher standard being at Our Lady’s University. This creates for the reader a mindset to enter into when reading the code. It is a sort of “commander’s intent” as the United States Navy likes to put it. For someone reading the code, it will be clear what the intent of each enumerated point is. They may be able to play around with the wording, but because of the clearly stated intent, the spirit of each point will remain.

The enumerated code is centered around software technology and attempts to address the potential ethical problems that could arise as a result of working in such a field. Firstly that the common good should be the goal of any project. These skills are not for taking advantage of those without this knowledge. Secondly, that honestly in all the work we do is imperative. Stealing or non-accreditation cannot be tolerated. Thirdly, and possibly the most controversial, privacy must be respected, even when private information is available to us. This need is ever growing in today’s world of digital storage of sensitive or private materials. Finally, to be great examples to society of high ethical behavior coming from Our Lady’s University. We not only will be able to encourage higher standards, but the institution will be trusted more as a whole and will attract the best in the world to its gates.

The weaknesses in this document include the broad and sometimes vague language. While the intent is very clear, there are some situation in which it will be much more difficult to decide based on intent, especially if both options are seemingly in or out of touch with the intent. There are also some people who would rather not grasp the intent of the code and only focus on the exact wording. These are the kind of people that will argue word meanings in themselves endlessly, without taking them in context. We contemplated this balance and decided that the vast majority of the students here would have the full capacity to grasp the intent of the code through the preamble. And if there happened to be one of those exceptions, the rest of the students would be able to thoughtfully argue intent and issue a decision in line with that intent.

I believe a Code Of Ethics is very useful. It allows students to enter into a frame of mind when going into their work and creating new things. There is a higher purpose in which they strive. Excellence takes on a new meaning. There are much fewer risky situations to be run into when a project is started with ethical decisions in mind.

I personally enjoyed the enumeration of these principles because they helped bring them back to the forefront. All of these things are generally basic to each of us, but it is easy to forget sometimes. Having them in the forefront again as a more mature adult, gives them new meaning, new importance. It also prepares me a bit for the much larger code of ethics that will be presented to me as an officer in the Navy. We are also held to a very high standard and it is a highly effective exercise to begin that mindset now.