Reading 14: I seriously considered dropping out of college to go to a bootcamp

Yup, at one point in my computer science career, I seriously considered going to a bootcamp rather than finishing my education, just because the amount of success that I saw from those people who did it aligned with my definition of success, which was getting into those big technological / entertainment companies.

Maybe this is a theme in itself, as in there are a subset of technology companies that value certain skillsets than others, but since those were the companies I dreamed of and adored, I seriously considered it.

I think one major reason that this happened, was the difference in curriculum in a bootcamp versus Notre Dame. In terms of comparing Notre Dame with ACM and ABET’s criteria, I think they are very similar in terms of what the end goal should be for every student. However to get there, I think a bootcamp is more viable because of the sheer amount of experience one receives rather than someone who focuses on theory and deep understanding. The amount of practice, as well as gaining connections and possible mentorship from seasoned veterans in the field right now contributes to bootcamps being better. Also, Notre Dame has a hard time in terms of fitting in computer science with a 4 year curriculum, because of our unique requirements, as well as the entire first year being dedicated to general things. However, for any university, I think the theory is explored further thus allowing people to dive into the academic side of computer science, rather than the industry side of computer science.

I also believe that Software Engineering practices and architecture design decisions, as well as web / mobile app development require so much coverage rather than them being optional electives. Those are definitely the most applicable in terms of both industry and any consumer-facing idea. Thus, this allows students to put their knowledge to practical use and learn from real mistakes.

However, I do believe Notre Dame is realizing the importance of actual experience by implementing the recent program, Silicon Valley Semester. I would dare say that that was the semester that kept me hopeful, and along with realizing the power of networking and alumni, convinced me to stay in college. One huge problem I had with that though, was that there were little to no connections with anyone in the companies / industry I wanted to enter (very surprisingly enough). So, bootcamps, rather the more established bootcamps, had connections to those companies I wanted to enter or have some sort of connection with.

I think Notre Dame was definitely the catalyst that brought me to computer science (as a freshman, I came in with the intent of being a chemical engineer), but conversely it was also the catalyst that made me consider whether a computer science degree or getting a job sooner through a bootcamp, was better or not. However, through Notre Dame’s resources such as alumni, connections, and programs, I do think that the university has prepared me for a future career, but it’s not because of the curriculum.

Reading 13: Patents = Honor System

From the readings, what exactly are patents? What are the ethical, moral, economic, or social reasons for granting patents?

From the readings, a patent was defined as, “an exclusive right granted for an invention – a product or process that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem.” Basically, it’s just a way to claim innovation as one’s property. I think at first, granting patents was a way to make sure that one’s idea couldn’t be stolen, or that one would benefit from creating their own invention or process and be encouraged to do so without any pressure of outside factors possibly eating that up. In terms of economic reasons, it definitely is profitable to be the one who owns the patent, especially when it becomes desirable or needed in many people’s products or processes. In terms of social reasons, patents were thought to encourage innovation, which may tie into economic or monetary want, or just pride to know that something of importance to others was in want or need.

  • In your opinion, should patents be granted at all? Are they really necessary or beneficial for society? Do the promote innovation or do they hinder it? Explain.

I think patents were at first necessary for companies unestablished to establish themselves as people who will make legitimate products. However, as companies become more and more established with a good reputation in terms of their products, then open source becomes more reputable instead. For example, in the article that mentioned Microsoft’s decision to release all their patents to open source, since Microsoft is an established company, their release of their established products promote innovation because of the people’s trust in their used-to-be patents. I still do thinks patents should be granted to protect the less-established smaller companies or people, but that the bigger companies necessarily don’t need patents in order to gain money.

  • Additionally, should patents on software be granted or should patents be restricted to physical or more tangible artifacts? Explain.

While reading through the court cases, I think patents on software became more recognized as software became more and more developed and pronounced. At first, it was thought as a means to reach an ends, or in this case, an invention or process worth patenting. Now that software dominates most of what society would call innovation, patents became more applicable as those created extreme amounts of impact on human society. So I think patents should be placed on what translates to monetary gain, whether that be physical or tangible.

  • Finally, is the existence of patent trolls evidence that the patent system is working or that the system is broken? Explain.

No system is perfect, and patent trolls kind of expose that the patent system is more of an honor system rather than something that’s stated in law. A combination of impossibly many patents as well as companies or people who decide to hoard them all (as bought property instead of being the ones who actually created the invention or process), led to this problem. Also, the fact that patents can be bought by people with or without malicious intent which leads to the fact that it is property that can be put for sale has led to this problem.

Reading 12: Self-Driving Cars

  • Would you want a self-driving car? Explain why or why not.

When I first saw this questions, I thought to myself, well of course because they seem so cool. However, it got me thinking about a possible future scenario: The scenario that I thought of is if consumers see that AVs are safer and more and more people buy those cars, then what happens to the consumers that like to drive themselves? Would it be unethical for a person to drive a car that’s not autonomous, because they are the standard deviation to the safety of AVs? Would the culture behind AVs shift and recognize that people not driving an AV are a hazard on the roads? Personally, I think that the culture of driving one’s own car would die out in the end, and everyone would eventually drive an AV due to the pressure that some others might bring to those who don’t drive AVs. 

  • What is the motivation for developing and building self-driving cars? What are the arguments for and against self-driving cars? Would they make our roads safer?

The thought of developing and building self-driving cars always seemed like a good idea, in terms of both convenience and safety. However, I always thought that the argument that says that having more autonomous vehicles on the road would save more lives, meant that the majority of vehicles on the road would be autonomous, which doesn’t mean perfect. I think it’s more like a system, where if the majority of cars follow the same set of protocols, then driving on the roads would be a lot safer since all the cars follow the same policy. Then again, it’s hard for a system to be perfect, when there is a lot of variation of driving conditions.

  • How should programmers address the “social dilemma of autonomous vehicles”? How should an artificial intelligence approach life-and-death situations? Who is liable for when an accident happens?

I don’t think programmers should be the ones completely in charge of such a huge question. Instead a combined anticipatory design process is needed for the ethics of autonomous vehicles, because it’s hard to place blame and to create decision. It’s hard to place blame because of each situation being so circumstantial and that hard cases disallow the blame to be put on indirect parties such as the manufacturers. It’s hard to create decisions for the autonomous vehicle or customer, because in a high stakes situation, a customer can not usually put in their own input at that time.

  • What do you believe will be the social, economic, and political impact of self-driving cars? What role should the government play in regulating self-driving cars?

The impact that AVs will have is tremendous, but I hope that the people whose jobs depended on that industry aren’t screwed over. As to deciding which government body should provide regulatory or suggestive rules on traffic rules for autonomous vehicles, I’m not sure as to what should happen. There should definitely be experts in this field, as well as ethicists and more contributing to the conversation before we consider law. 

Reading 11: The Trolley with Wall-E Problem

During my time at Silicon Valley, it was extremely strange to see cars go by with no drivers in them, it was jarring to see people walking their robots on the streets, and it was all the more interesting to hear from different coworkers and people that they didn’t really care about those kind of ethics…yet.

I think that’s the difference between a place like Silicon Valley, and a place like home, where there’s a staggering difference in skilled and unskilled labor / jobs. People don’t think about automation until it starts to impact their own jobs.

However, first off, I’d like to address the subject of the Luddites. In the Wikipedia article linked, it informs us that Luddites were originally not against automation itself, but the deceitful use of it. “It is a misconception that the Luddites protested against the machinery itself in an attempt to halt the progress of technology. Over time, however, the term has come to mean one opposed to industrialisationautomationcomputerisation, or new technologies in general.” I’m conflicted because, automation would get rid of most jobs that most people would honestly never want. There’s a lot of labor jobs that objectively suck, but people have to do it for their own good or their family’s good. So if automation’s profit and benefits truly did apply and raise everyone’s quality of living instead of benefiting a few, then I really do think that automation could be a good thing.

And in terms of AI possibly taking over what most would consider humane jobs, such as caregiving, artistic work, or even life-and-death decisions, it’ll have to be a reflection of what we believe in. There’s a quiz online that forces the user to make difficult life and death decisions in terms of what a car should crash into. It forces us to compare between groups or categorizations of objects and even people. It’s the trolley problem all over again, except with infinite scenarios. (also this kid knows what’s up)

It’s also impossible to believe anything of what articles say about job prospects once automation becomes more commonplace and more applicable to various sectors. There’s always the prospect that it’ll be like some sort of example from the past that either says that automation will create more jobs or will destroy more jobs, but there’s no way to actually tell until we start living through it. And I think not knowing what will happen because we haven’t truly thought about policy or terms with it is the scariest part of all of this.

UBI however has been one approach that’s been hotly talked about. I can’t say it’s viable until the data comes out from different countries currently testing this approach, and seeing what their conclusions may be in terms of their different approaches. The rich will continue to be richer, as they are the ones leading the forefront of automation (big tech companies), but who knows, maybe it’ll all end up as a Wall-E scenario, where everyone ends up doing nothing because automation does everything for them, and maybe…that’s okay. If we all ended up fat, not knowing how to do anything, because there was automation and AI to take care of all our needs, then what’s the point of trying anything. Even though that may be a different debate entirely (and I personally don’t know what to believe in terms of whether that’s truly ethical to believe or not), that’s something we’re going to have to figure out as well.

Reading 10: “Sheet music, or I kill you”

Before I answer these questions, I do want to share a personal story of mine. Years ago, I posted YouTube videos mainly of piano covers, and one happened to go viral in certain community. I was younger then, which led to some of the comments under those videos impacting me more than it should have, but I was introduced to a hint of the Internet’s dark side. Mainly there were people commenting how much they liked those videos. However there were outliers, that sometimes even sent personal messages that were especially concerning. One example was when one of my inbox messages contained the subject line: “Sheet music, or I kill you, please”. Obviously it was a troll, but it made me realize that with this attention, came unwanted attention. Another example, which was creepier to a certain extent because of its continued persistence in terms of contacting me, was one user who wanted to “collaborate” with me but first needed a lot of my information in order to take me to events and more. Obviously, I knew better even at that time, but all of this made me realize that the Internet can certainly be a dark place if you’re not careful.

  • From the readings and from your experience, what exactly is trolling? How does this behavior manifest itself and what are its causes and effects? Likewise, what is cyberbullying and how is it different from regular bullying?

Trolling is the art of deliberately pissing someone off. Trolling though is something that’s been inherent to the Internet for a while, to the point where it’s easy to distinguish between a genuine post and trolling for me while someone who may not have had exposure to the Internet may find it immediately off-putting and in need of a reaction, which ultimately leads to more trolling. It’s pretty much a terrible cycle, because well-intended comments that follow trolls usually just lead to more trolling. So it’s better to just see the post, comment, etc., and just leave it alone and hope it doesn’t gain any traction.

Cyberbullying is using the Internet to constantly ridicule, harass or harm someone. It differs from regular bullying in the sense that it may be even harder to ignore than regular in-person bullying. The bystanders become people who start fueling the flames, and people may even join in thinking that it’s all part of one big joke. There’s more of a mob mentality on the Internet, and it can definitely play a factor into cyberbullying.

  • What ethical or moral obligations do technology companies have in regards to preventing or suppressing online harassment (such as trolling or stalking)?

I’m already betting that it must be extremely hard for technology companies to prevent this sort of behavior, because users can simply generate more accounts if they want their voice to be heard. However, I also read in The Atlantic’s article, “Trolls Are Winning the Internet, Technologists Say” by Adrienne Lafrance, that it’s also beneficial for these companies to have that sort of attention since the more users visit their platform, the more revenue they gain. Also, these platforms have been politically criticized for censoring right-wing views as well which puts them in a restricting spot compared to before.

  • What do you make of Gamergate? Is this evidence of the dangers of anonymity on the Internet or is this behavior something we simply need to tolerate in order to maintain freedom of expression?

Well first off, it’s kind of off-putting to say that something like Gamergate should be tolerated, when it clearly has the capability of putting people through trauma. I can’t even imagine what that would be like if something like that targeted me, because I don’t think I would have the willpower to get through it. However, if freedom of expression means taking it out on someone else, then I think we need to discuss where the line is.

Cyberbullying is a consequence that comes with the power of anonymity. There’s no accountability, so the consequences of what happens never is really shown unless there’s some sort of news story that happens along with legitimate investigations. I’m not saying that as justification for it to exist, but I am saying that it is a natural consequence of people abusing the platform they’re using to take out their insecurities on others.

I’ll say the Internet is neither a blessing nor a curse. It’s merely a reflection of what we are, what our deep-seeded desires are, and if anonymity helps draw that out, then that’s simply a part of the platform.

Reading 09: Why is no one talking about a Decentralized Internet?

I’m not sure where I stand in terms of net neutrality. It seems to be an interesting mix of problems, and there’s technically websites that dominant the web space anyway. I can’t quite come to terms with being in favor or against it, because on one hand, it makes sense to charge different amounts of something to a service or content that does need more support like a video streaming service compared to visiting a website. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of net neutrality being taken away to suddenly allow essentially a censored Internet. The extreme would be if ISPs start blocking or intentionally slowing down access to certain websites or services online. However, what’s more likely to happen is something like the analogy of putting your foot in the door. For example, AT&T already doesn’t count DirectTV service as part of the data plan, but any other streaming service does take up data.

There’s one point that some articles have called ambiguous, which was whether net neutrality prevents innovation. Preventing innovation is kind of bullshit. I feel as though innovation actually works when there’s less options. It’s kind of like how if there’s more flavors on a menu for choosing ice cream, you have a harder time thinking about what to choose. Innovation works by getting around obstacles, and it doesn’t stop because some rule said it can’t be done.  Also, in terms of burdening corporations, then that also sounds like a space for something innovative to pop up in. There’s a lot of problems that have a need for innovation, and all I’m saying is that there’s companies that have proven themselves in that department compared to others instead of taking it out on customer service and making that worse.

So the ISP companies saying that they would be able to put more funding into better infrastructure of their service seems more sketchy compared to the other side of tech giants (like Google, Facebook, etc.) where they have proven themselves over and over again to come out with new products, new ideas, and new features.

But I can’t decide how I feel about net neutrality, because I believe that there’s already better ideas in the works.

Also, in terms of innovation, I really hope that one day, net neutrality laws won’t matter in the end with the idea of a decentralized internet. If Internet access isn’t owned by giant corporations and is instead given to the users, then that really allows fair access to come to play. If the Internet was instead, accessible on each person’s computer, then that allows for a true competitive market, since everyone’s a player and a playee.

In terms of the Internet and access to it being a basic human right, I wish it was. I think it would certainly boost the standard of living throughout the world. However, this isn’t the case, as the tools needed for such access can cost a lot to low socioeconomic families. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not uncommon for people to go through life without the Internet for most of their life, and that certainly does put a damper on people’s collective knowledge.

Reading 08: Special Treatment isn’t Unfamiliar

First off, corporate personhood is based off of the idea that just as the law applies to a citizen of the U.S, a corporate company in the U.S should also have those same laws applied to them as well. It encompasses an entire debate on what rights and laws apply to companies since there are clear differences between a person and a corporate company in an ethical, social, and legal context.

In terms of the Microsoft antitrust case, I think that what Microsoft did was definitely unethical. However, it is interesting that the initial punishment was not carried out in the end. Instead of splitting the company into two, it was taken to the circuit court and Microsoft was then given a less intense punishment, which was to make their competitor’s software and products more integral into their Window’s operating system instead of purposely forcing other companies to use their products through shady deals and integrated products into the OS. In the end, it’s weird to see that instead of there being smaller companies, it encouraged other companies to almost be of the same size if not bigger, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Even though the impact of forcing everyone to use the same OS has definitely diminished, since most software products are OS agnostic and there’s more optional OS’s that are usable in the market today, it still hasn’t tackled the possible problem of giving companies humungous influence to the point where they can usually get away with what most people can’t. This point though has been challenged with social media companies coming to court recently to appease senators’ questions and have a conversation about the data they have. However, it’s interesting to note that even though a company like Facebook can have a data breach where its impact is so huge that it’s taken to Court, social media becomes integral to everyday life and usage on other sites that most people wouldn’t really bother to get rid of it.

It’s weird to say that corporates should have the same rights as people. It’s almost counterintuitive since a corporate is made up of so many different people in the meantime that have different thoughts and morals themselves. However, if a corporate is handed the same rights and responsibilities as people, then the consequences should be the same. It is almost like how most people though on the top of the socioeconomic ladder seem to get away with a lot of crime, just like how companies with huge influence get away with a lot of things that may or may not cross the line. Overall, it’s not like high standing people don’t get away with this too.

Reading 07: White Noise

Even though the Internet is filled of a lot of hate, there’s one thing that everyone can hate on together, and that’s online advertising. Users flame advertisements all the time, making fun of them even in comment sections of videos that have them playing. And from a user experience perspective, it really is the bane of UX/UI. Since it’s been hard to figure out the sweet spot of informational vs annoying both from a general experience side to figuring out where to actually place it on the page, ads rarely get clicked on.

There’s also another story here. On top of the fact that now a majority of users wouldn’t want to click on ads in the first place, there’s safety concerns as well. So instead of blaming any inherent laziness, there’s always the chance that clicking on an ad can lead to disastrous results.

In terms of advertising invading privacy, I was intrigued by the interesting premise made by Alexis C. Madrigal in the article, “How Much Is Your Data Worth? Mmm, Somewhere Between Half a Cent and $1,200, where she references a survey done by Carnegie Mellon faculty saying “that is to say: if people think data is already flowing to a website, few would pay to hold it back. But if they think their data is being held back, a large majority would be unwilling to share it.” It’s similar to the idea of first putting your foot in the door to then get your idea into people’s heads. Thus in a more privacy-invasive world, as more and more of out data becomes accessible, sometimes without us even knowing it, privacy one day may just be obliterated. Google for example, has held information about users even without permission, such as keeping track of location even when the location feature on phones was supposed to be turned off. This also leads to new Facebook paranoia where users are concerned that Facebook is somehow hearing or listening to what they talk about. Thus online advertising in effect, becomes extremely invasive. Besides the extreme examples of the Buzzfeed article talking about how Facebook advertising knew a user was gay before he did and the Target advertisements of baby products to a customer before she knew she was pregnant, some future examples could include abusing the emotional state of users and thus convince people for example, insecure about their body image to buy lots of products such as protein, fat-burning exercise programs, and more.

However, it’s actually interesting as a lot of ads are becoming more intriguing, and sometimes I actually did find myself staying to watch one, even though that’s still rare. But due to a lot of users desensitizing themselves to ads and dismissing them as essentially the Internet’s white noise, I wouldn’t be surprised that even if ads to present revenue to companies and content creators, a lot of people would still use Adblock or something of the sort. It’s like when you’re in a room with a somewhat loud AC. At some point, you’re not going to even notice that it’s there any longer.

Reading 06: Having Privacy vs Keeping Secrets

“You’ve got nothing to worry about, if you’ve got nothing to hide”. I’ve always been at odds with this quote, because whenever I rethink or look at it from a different angle, I’m always either agreeing with it or finding some flaw in it and it’s a cycle that happens over and over again.

However, I can’t help but think about a question my friend said: “Why do we leave our homes unlocked?”. Then the question extended further: “If there was total surveillance and through that accountability, would it be weird to still leave our homes unlocked?”. The initial worry would be that people could steal our property, or something of value. But in a world with surveillance, that wouldn’t be possible. So what’s the danger here?

It’s tough to initially see those dangers, and I think sometimes I like to invalidate those dangers myself which is why I’m so wishy-washy on this issue. I think that a lot of it comes to my exposure to social media and the tech industry’s big players. Social media facets such as Facebook and Twitter and tech industry giant Google emphasize that their products and vision act as forces of good. However, we’ve seen major privacy issues with these companies come up as well where Facebook user data was leaked during the last presidential elect and where Google was found to keep track of users’ locations even when they had the location GPS feature turned off. However, we still use these products because they have become quite integral in our lives, yet because of this are blind to the dangers they hold.

This made me think about the book, “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. Back when it was published in 2013, its situation was taken as by most reviewers, too futuristic or implausible to apply to society. However, it’s interesting that as time went by, the books premise became less of a distant dystopic sci-fi, but more of a increasingly close reality. The book presents an almost monopoly-like tech giant (just like Google now), where the next main technology the company wants to feature is live streaming services which the main character becomes in charge of. She’s spearheading the initiative of the world becoming more and more transparent, as the company belief is that transparency is the solution to a utopia. And in the book, it has, there’s virtually no crime since everyone’s held accountable, and the inexcusable behavior of people online dwindled. So she becomes a celebrity of sorts, where she basically has to stream and wants to stream her entire life (except for bathroom breaks), and people fall in love with that image of her. But that’s a problem the book presents. With constant eyes on her, she doesn’t even realize that her behavior’s changing for the worse, people in her life start to distance themselves away from her because they don’t want to be involved in that sort of transparency. It’s almost to close to reality now with Facebook Live, Twitter Periscope, and Twitch where these services stream streamer content, which can lead to privacy issues as well. In the book, it becomes pushed to the extreme with everything essentially being live-streamed all the time,

I think the main unseen danger is the possibility of using that innocuous information to guide, direct, or take advantage of people based off of their information to tailor to specific company or governmental needs. For example, if I walked into a Target supermarket, and they had cameras and scanners tracking whatever I bought, Target could use that information later on to advertise to me possible wants that are more tailored to me the next time I come in. However, if people are being held accountable for all aspects of their lives, then their could easily be marketing that implies “if you don’t buy this, then we’re going to imply that you’re missing out”. For more examples, would you say no to donating to a cause at the cashier register with thousands of people possibly watching you? Maybe you just really couldn’t spend more money that day, maybe you could but honestly you just don’t want to, but with decisions becoming more and more narrow with surveillance, individuality slowly gets lost, and with that the degradation of humanity. As what we see on the camera screen, isn’t always the truth.

Reading 05: I can’t whistle, so I can’t be a whistleblower…feelsbadman

-ANON please.

Q: From the readings, what is your opinion of Chelsea/Bradley Manning‘s decision to leak sensitive information to WikiLeaks and her subsequent sentencing? Is what she did ethical or did she violate her duty? Should she have been protected under the Whistleblower protection laws? Is she a revolutionary hero or a traitor?

A: Even though I was reading through the articles provided by Professor Bui about whether Chelsea Manning was a hero or not, I think I just needed to hear an answer from her herself, on whether what she leaked would be a danger to the public, or whether it was a harried grab of information and deciding to spread it everywhere. From ABC’s interview with her, the interviewer asked her if she had that intent in mind, and she decidedly said no. I think from then on, it was clear in my head that Chelsea Manning was a hero. It’s true what she says, war is not a clear good and evil, it’s always messy. And this principle has been reiterated over and over again in many texts and biographies that at some point, maybe we’ll learn from it. Also, the decision to remove soldiers from that region by President Obama made me realize that the amount of resources going into it weren’t necessarily needed.

However, the information she revealed, most importantly or at least the most highlighted one, was definitely of corrupt nature. The video gained traction by showing a gunning of 2 journalists and innocent civilians. Also, since that video was never meant to come to public light, it’s sort of scary to think about that the information we see may never be the full story.

In her interview, she reiterated the point that what she did was her responsibility, her duty. It’s not something that was drafted up in one night. It took a lot of thought and choice into releasing something like this.

However, I do see the panic behind the nature of her whistleblowing event. The hacker that she was in contact with at the time, made a reasonable decision to turn this information and the informant to the government, as it was during a tenuous time and the amount of classified information presented could make anyone nervous about its release.

First off, it’s kind of funny that there’s now a whistleblower protection act, because one of the parties that hid information was the government itself. Besides the fact, should Chelsea Manning have been protected under these laws? I think if the authority, in this case the government, is hiding information, and is selecting what information to broadcast for propaganda, then I think I would interpret that as an abuse of authority. However, critics do say that this act violated protection laws since the act of whistleblowing itself was a potential threat to public safety. That’s where I needed to hear Manning herself have the intentions that was the complete opposite of that. To hear her intent of having public attention, discussion, and knowledge without endangering the public at the same time, was a little reassuring, even though no one truly knows the circumstances.