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Below are the 11 most recent journal entries recorded in Legal, Social and Ethical Issues in Information Technology's LiveJournal:

Friday, October 19th, 2007
9:46 am
Thursday, October 18th, 2007
11:21 am
VR responsabilities
Here's the assignment:

"As CS and IT professionals, describe your social and ethical duty when friends and/or colleagues appear to be spending inappropriate time in Virtual Reality."

My take on things:

After reading some of the responses, there were some differences as to what an 'inappropriate time' was and how to define it. Many people assumed that the phrasing was 'inappropriate amount of time' in VR. For the purpose of the response, this is a fine assumption. I'm going to assume that 'inappropriate time' is defined for the individual. Some people can deal with VR better than others can.

So, there were 3 types of things I wanted to talk about as far as VR goes:
1) Inappropriate Activities in VR
2) Addictions, online and other
3) Responsibilities, yours and theirs

Having given a brief description of what I'm going to talk about I must provide a brief disclaimer. These are my opinions and do not reflect the ideals of the class staff and faculty in any way. Furthermore, my opinions will not affect your grade, nor will any responses to my opinions affect your grade in any way.

Some of the topics I will discuss may offend you. Consider yourselves warned.

The RantCollapse )
Monday, September 17th, 2007
12:30 pm
Success In Failure
I had a chemistry instructor in high school who was a very interesting character. His sense of smell had been damaged by inhaling some chemical concoction in college and the ceiling of his class room was dotted with little black marks from methane bubbles igniting too close to the tiles. He was fond of saying, "Confusion is the highest state of learning." Meaning that when you were confused, you were in fact learning the most.

So, when someone mentioned how programs were graded in CS classes I had to jot down my thoughts and post them here. It is my opinion that we learn little, if anything, by succeeding. The person that completes a task his first try obviously already knows how to do it. The person that struggles through the task, failing several times, then completing has learned several ways that don't work and one that does. The person that fails constantly and never completes the task is learning all the ways to do that task that do not work, but never figuring the correct way.

In my opinion, the third type of person is the most blessed. They are constantly challenged and learning.

A friend of mine has a pertinent quote. His boss said,(and I'm paraphrasing)"30 years of experience and excellence in the work place are no excuse for self praise. To be at the cutting edge of technology is our true goal. To do this, we must appreciate the methods we have used in the past, but not allow them to hinder future innovations."
12:19 pm
I can't do that, Dave.
Should computer decisions be more valid than human decisions?

This is more than the question of, "Is the computer malfunctioning?" At some point, we have to decide if we trust the computer's decision making ability over human judgment. Sure the computer can do millions of calculations a second and make the decisions that will most likely cause success given it's data, but what about human intuition and emotions?

My favorite scenario to describe this case is from
    I Robot
. The little girl has a 30% chance of survival and the grown police officer has a 75% chance of survival. The robot can only save 1 and chooses the one with the highest success rate. A human in the same situation would have saved the girl, knowing that her life was more precious.

So, who do we trust more?
Monday, September 10th, 2007
12:13 pm
Amendment IV: Warrants and Searches

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In my mind there are two questions to be asked about the government reading our email using software such as CARNIVORE and Echilon and the 4th Amendment. I'm deliberately not discussing probable cause. It's a subject on its own.

What constitutes secure in "The right of the people to be secure in their..."?

What is unreasonable about searches and seizures?
Thursday, September 6th, 2007
12:12 pm
Security is an interesting subject, because in most cases the people that are concerned with security are only really concerned with the perception of security.

So, why do we lock our doors?

For security?
For the perception of security?
To keep honest people honest?
Friday, September 7th, 2007
1:44 pm
Personas: Which you to use?
Today, someone mentioned how people tend to have different personas on line compared to off line. I'd like to take it a step further. I'm of the opinion that we all have different masks to wear depending on the people we encounter.

Using myself as an example, I can identify several masks or personas. I have different ones for when I'm with:

Close Friends
Not-So-Close Friends
New People I'm being introduced to (even this depends on other contexts)
Peers, but not 'Friends'
and so on...

It is strange to think of this, because sometimes I am aware of my different masks. Other times I am not. A perfect example of this is, again, my mother. When I talk on the phone with my mother, she can tell if my fiance is in the room. Unconsciously, I lower the tone of my voice when my fiance is in the room with me. When my mother told me about this I denied doing it. Later, however, I caught myself and had to admit I lower my voice when in my fiance's presence.

So, the real point here is that on line we can create more radical personas than what we would otherwise be able to do. On line I can change my name, sex, hair color and even my race for every persona I adapt.

Do you think this technology then limits the ability of people to get to know each other on line? By that, I mean do you think people become jaded towards on line personas? Or does it provide some kind of comfort in knowing that the persona you are dealing with on line is the ideal version of a person in real life? (meaning that we idealize ourselves in our online personas, allowing people to get to know the 'real us' not limited by our physical existence in the real world)
Thursday, September 6th, 2007
2:56 pm
Work Monitoring - Big Brother is Watching You
We discussed the idea of working in an environment where workers were being constantly monitored by a manager, cameras, or some kind of algorithm. I have personal experience working at two different jobs that involved cameras. Here's my take on it.

The act of observing affects that which is observed. I believe that being monitored while at work changes the work a worker is doing. The idea is simple. At work, you either have someone concerned about the progress and quality of your work, or you are self employed. Even those that are self employed are worried about the progression and quality of their work. The difference is how the monitoring of the work takes place. Some people need managers and some people can manage themselves. Now let's look at a scenario.

Gaming at work

It is against the policy of a certain business for employees to play games (video or other) while at work. It is also against policy to check non-work related email, surf non-work related websites, and chat with people via instant messenger.

Observe three employees: Employee A, Employee B and Employee C

Employee A has been working for this business for several years and is a senior worker, in charge of training new employees. Employee B has been at this job for several years as well and is considered a good worker, having received several promotions. Employee C is fairly new to the job and is still learning the ropes. All three of the employees have the same bad habits of reading personal email, surfing the web, and chatting with people while at work. Employee A and C have the bad habit of playing games at work. However, Employee A plays MMORPGs at work. Employee C plays web-based games.

One day these three employees are called into their boss's office and told a complaint about someone gaming at work was filed by a customer. Upon checking the security camera archives, their boss found that two were playing games and another one was surfing the web and chatting with friends. The boss issues a warning and tells them to watch their step.

Employee A knows that the complaint couldn't be about him, because every time a customer enters the building he drops what he's doing and tends to them. He manages his time well and completes all his work before gaming and never misses a deadline. In fact, many frequent customers know him by name and will ask for him specifically. He decides that he will continue with his method of work, because he can do his job and play games too.

Employee B knows that the complaint couldn't be about him, because he doesn't game at work. The boss couldn't be mad at him for surfing the net once he'd completed all his work and was just minding his desk. His productivity was good and he was a valued employee. He decides to go about business as usual.

Employee C thinks that the complaint could have been about him. He is still learning the ropes and might have made a mistake while helping a customer. The customer might have thought the games he plays on the computer were causing him to lose focus on his job. He knows that of the three he is the most expendable. So, he decides to stop gaming and work withing policy for a while to keep his boss happy.

Over the next week, the boss reviews the security camera images every night. This is a job he hates. It is tedious, and his time could be better spent on other things. In reviewing the images from each day, he finds that Employee A and B are both breaking policy. At the end of the week, he calls the three in again. He tells Employee A that he is fired for gaming at work, and B that he is being warned again about non-work activities. Employee C is praised for his dedication to the job and his progress in his work.

So, if Employee A could honestly do his job and play games at work, should he have been fired? Should Employee B, who the boss knows to be one of his best workers, be further reprimanded if he continues to surf the web and chat with people? What does Employee C learn about his new job and the company policies? What is more important: Productivity or Production Methods?
Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
4:45 pm
4:35 pm
Parents and Google
Someone in class challenged "Google yourself. See what you can find."

This interests me on a personal level, and I wanted to bring up a tangent concern. Privacy is a large concern in my world. As such, I like to control the flow of information from my world into that of my family and, to a lesser extent, friends. There are some things that my friends will care about that my parents do not. There are some things about my life that my parents would rather not know about.

So, here is my view on 'Googling' someone:

In my experience, there are always two sides to this kind of discussion. The ability should either not exist or shouldn't worry us, because only the people that need watching are being watched.

I would like to point out that my mother 'Googles' me every couple of months just to see what turns up. At some point, I posted some slightly crude quotes from some of my friends about dorm life. Since my mother is interested in my life and knows how to use a search engine, she easily found my, and other's, quote page. She was not very happy with a couple of thins I had posted for all the world to see and called me up, frantic abou my family name being tarnished. "What if your cousins saw this?!" She would ask. "I think they'd laugh themselves out of breath." I thought. But, she was my mother, and I was trying to be a good son. So, I removed the offending quotes from my quote page and went about my buisiness. My mother never thought that it would be a breach of my privacy to google my website. Should I have had a reasonable expectation of privacy from my mother? and where does the line exist for such things? Say someone overheard my name and found these quotes. Never having met me, they have a preconcieved notion of who I am and decide not to talk to me or treat me rudely. Would this be a breach in privacy?
3:59 pm
CSIT382 is a class on legal, social and ethical issues in information technology. This community was created to give students a place to talk about their views on topics we discuss in class. Hopefully, this will give students some time to see what their peers are going to discuss in class before hand and allow enough time for both sides of a discussion to seen before we talk about these topics in class.

I will be the moderator and will check all topics before they are posted. I will try not to limit the views of participants but will limit the discussions to topics that are pertinent to the class.
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