Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An addiction to friends

There are many ways in life to become imbalanced in one's priorities. Social networking has added an additional temptation or psychological high that brings unwanted negative behavior. The article, “Tangled in the Web,” Ensign, Aug 2001, 48–51 includes a similar example. People can unknowingly become addicted to the ease at gaining attention from those they have never met.

I believe the root cause of this syndrome or problem is fame. Fame is exciting and exhilarating. Individuals will do the crazy or extra ordinary to get a little fame. Many times this is positive hard work or an exceptional skill or idea. yet, the Internet an its social webs provide instant access to everyone in their social circle. The cell phone age entered this realm, but after the fad passed became more of a tool and it seems only the teenagers struggle with trying to contact everyone they know to tell them everything they know.

But the social networking on the Internet goes a step beyond calling friends every fifteen minutes. In this new environment, you can talk to hundreds of people at once in a chat setting where potentially even half of the people listening have never even met you. Compliments are received for Witty comments or for plain just supporting each other. It does not take long before our human emotions build strong attachments we then can't stay away from. Adding an addictive game or focus group only brings an excuse to mask the real addiction.

There is a solution to the problem. But like all other addictions or false priorities, it must be won with each individual. Each person must have the confidence to avoid the instant fame online and earn their respect through day to day contacts and activities. Real friends can also help adding confidence and hopefully stronger emotional ties.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Riots in France

Are we living in a powder keg society? After reading an article about recent riots in France I asked myself this question. The article can be found here. The story is a stright forward reaction to a couple deaths of some Afrian Americans. What bothers me is how quick angry reactions have sent towns out of control.

In an age of unlimited media and insant communication, how small could be the controversy that plunges our wolrd as we know it into panic and chaos? We stress tolerance in this country to an extreme for limited special interest and diffeent cultures. Many would argue we push tolerance so far as to take away rights to the general culture and population. Yet, when even the slightest internatonal event occurs in or out of our border it becomes a mess of failed diplomatic missions and fears of further escalation. Our contry is so many times forced to choose between defense of our citizens or a black eye to the global community.

After reading this article about Frances struggles with different classes inside its cities, I worry about our growing immigration problem as well. What would to take to send just the ten million illeagal immigrants to our own streets? How would we handle that kind of a riot? With different treatment and laws in each town and state a mistake and reactionary event is almost sure to happen. I think this aspect of our current migratory cultures should be looked at in further detail and plans made to protect our cities.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fear of being flat?

"This is crazy. There has to be one totally interconnected network."(p 66) That quote came from "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman. I came across the book as an assigned reading for Computer Science 404 class. Which is a class on ethics and current events relating to the computer science field. Reading about India's desire to break into the American economy and work force brought up a perplexing question. Who else is benefiting from a flatter world?

Let me explain with an example. I can interview a client at 4:00pm on Monday and, after emailing information to a team in India, have results the very next morning. This kind of global connection and speed is incredible and might very well change America's working demographics. Criminal activity has plagued mankind from the earliest of times. What benefits could they achieve from a flat landscape.

Small crime is local and arguably a result of poor social status and broken homes. Organized crime rises and falls in the public light from social events and most importantly powerful leaders. Inevitably, large crime rings fall apart after the head of the league or gang is brought to justice. Earth has a history of extremely violent and secret societies attempting to grasp at power and wealth. To take down the group, you attacked. It was plain and simple.

But there is a difference now. Something toying with the age old recipe. The great and evil leaders of today do not need to be with their followers. They might not even need to ever meet them. Similar to the office described earlier, they can command an illegal operation from across the globe in one night and be in zero danger from consequences. Their followers empowered by the rhetoric of corrupt media and failed religions.

The world is getting flat, and it is taking its toll. For so many years developed countries have been safe from extreme crime and corruption by keeping it out of their borders. Take down the gang leader and gang disappears. Now the fight, call it a war if you must, is raging everywhere. These leaders hide in underdeveloped countries preying on the weak of our societies.

Unable to attack the head of the problem, we will jump from every town and every country in a desperate attempt bring peace and freedom back to home. Each loss of a soldier or civilian is a major loss and an embarrassment. The evil rhetoric is emboldened by these losses and it is difficult to stop the cycle. How can we defend our freedoms against criminals in every part of the newly flattened world? They don't play by our rules, are awake when we sleep, and yet play on a level field.

I have a suggestion. It is not easy, but it is a start. Make the world round again. Not all of it, just the parts that don't play by the rules. If a country cannot enforce international laws, it cannot join the flat world. A few large developed cities do not qualify a state to join the flats. The Internet, satellites, and most telecommunications in rogue states would not be allowed in or out. This is a very strong position, but it could be done and I think it has potential.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The end doesn't justify the means!

That's what my wife aid to me after I posed the question, "Why didn't you do Computer Science instead of Information Systems?" After reading the article by DePalma, "Why Women Avoid Computer Science," I decided to ask her first before forming an opinion.

"The end doesn't justify the means!"

She explained the fear of the dreaded computer science major in a few different areas. First the area of the insane difficulty of the classes mostly because of time considerations. Second, she expressed her fear of a high stress, over worked career. Third she said after taking Computer Science 142, which is an introduction to programming class, she felt overwhelmed.

I think few would argue that computer science is a hard major just like most engineering fields. What might separate it is the large amount of personal lab work needed to become a competent programmer. This can get very frustrating and boring when small bugs or errors in a pass/fail lab can hold you back for hours. If you want an A on a lab it might take you 3-6 hours one week and 9-12 the next week. This ambiguity often surprises students and makes it difficult to take multiple programing classes concurrently.

Carolyn Wall, my wife, admitted she doesn't know anyone with the terrible career and stress driven job. I asked why she felt so many programmers might be facing this very negative future. She admitted, "That's just what you hear." This article is aimed at showing why the women avoid computer science, not if their feelings are true. So, we will move on without discussing the validity of the fear of a bad job.

Third, to be overwhelmed means to feel smaller than the task at hand. In Cari's computer fears, she is overwhelmed by the small culture surrounding computer science. She achieved an A in the class but admits she still felt competently foreign to the operating system, alt commands, and jargon of the community. Maybe this stems from most programmers spending large amounts of time outside school to program for fun or work. A simple student trying to compete in the field without dedicating their entire life might very well feel "overwhelmed." After all, how many students study biology for fun or play or try and tinker with history time lines.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Who are we afraid of?

"I could just imagine it: hundreds of spies in trench coats, sulking around hallways."(p312) Clieff Stoll said these words preliminary to a meeting with the CIA as he pondered what it really looked like on the inside. These seemingly negative and often abrasive feelings against different government organizations were strewn throughout the non-fiction novel. I thought, can I try to explain this saturation of bad ideology from within the evidence of the book, "The Cuckoo's Egg".

First to make a few clarifications in the form of questions. Is this rhetoric against the government societies caused by fear, anger, or something else entirely? I decided that maybe the distaste might be a result of many things and that specifically fear and anger might both play a role. Working in tandem or not, they should be explored separately.

Ask yourself if you are afraid of the dark. If you're a macho man you might have instantly decided it was a silly question since nothing scares you. For the rest of us, the dark poses an imminent threat. Or does it? Ironically, it's not the monotone black wasteland our eyes see that increases our pulse and wets our palms, but the lack of a familiar palette of bright colors. What we can see will never be as scary as what we cannot see.

So, if our eyes see the CIA people wearing trench coats, our logic should indicate we have nothing to fear. Well not quite, but its a start. Clieff Stoll, like us, has little understanding of the inner workings of the CIA or say FBI. Then in a sense, he has a limited understanding or vision of what they do and how they do it. Connecting the ignorance of the agency or bureo to the lack of light in the dark bears some fruit of an explanation. He and we, are afraid of these organizations not because of anything we have seen them do, only our false perception of what they could do.

Then our imagination plays games like the hacker Clieff chased across the Atlantic. Even the agencies themselves cared little about the facts he presented them. Only when the facts led to more questions were the telephone calls keeping Clieff away from his latest object oriented graphical design of a telescope. People fear questions in which they don't have an answer and groups that won't give the answer. Finally, if you're a government entity with the name NTISSIC, a acronym never even decoded, don't be shocked when everyone fears your work and why you do it.

In the novel the anger of a potential small village is illustrated by Chieff's comparison to a hacking an poorly defended network. "In a small town, where people never locked their doors, would we praise the first burglar for showing the townspeople how foolish it was to leave their houses open?" In a similar way, a company or entity that in the past had withheld information, released false information, or worse failed to accomplish an expected purpose will face angry people.

When Chieff's plan to record the hacker's first few connections required near 50 workstations and printers commandeered from the office, not many of the employees were happy to find their equipment missing without an explanation. And in truth, even if they were given one, would that quell their frustration. After all, the whole novel emanated from the anger of a stolen seventy five cents of computing time.

Living in San Fransisco, marinated in far left wing political rhetoric of anarchy and its glory, Clieff Stoll was angry with the mainstream institutions and afraid of their secrecy. Ignorance and skepticism were replaced by facts and people. Slowly, throughout the novel Clieff Stoll finds himself both understanding the governments problems and eventually even feeling responsible to help. This vision of their workings coupled with an appreciation, howbeit streaky at times, of their work shifts the fear and anger away from these entities. At the end of the book Clieff Stoll finds himself neither afraid or angry with the government and even feels a duty to help, as did I, with their fight against anarchy on the nets.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Old Harvesting and New Harvesting

"Some secretly hope that they can slip through their remaining days on earth without ever having to touch a computer."

Nelson, "A New Harvest Time" (Ensign, May 1998)

The quote above taken from "A new Harvest Time" by Russell M. Nelson speaks volumes about the era of technology in which we live. I feel discouraged, almost guilty for my indifference to our older generation and their computing needs. We have a responsibility to help pull our older generation with us into the age of ones and zeros.

First, who gave us this responsibility? I think in many ways we gave it to ourselves when we stopped writ ting letters, started VOIP chat communication and really sped up the pace of life. If it can be argued those would have happened eventually anyways, I fall back to the argument Russell M. Nelson reminds us of. That of, our intense and mutual love between grandchildren and grandparents.

It is a strange bond that two generations apart feel. For many, the fear would arise that it is becoming harder to be a part of their grandparents lives and memories. But, how silly is it to complain of not being close in our day of instant communication and media technology?

As a younger generation full of programmers, technology gurus and even just computer enthusiasts we need to reach out to our older generations and build them into our social network. We need to do it while we still have time and we can't let a stubborn old bag or bloke convince us otherwise. We owe it to them.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Addiction to games food, or fun?

"Those who are most susceptible to becoming addicted to online games tend to be isolated, lonely, prone to boredom or have little interest in sex. Other important factors include low self-esteem and a poor body image."

This quote originates from a article contributed by Terri Wells found here:

Are we to believe that the weak among us are the most susceptible to a newer from of addiction, that of online gaming? I feel that an online gaming addiction is easy to develop, easy to exaggerate, and just as easy to stop. The last few days I have considered things in my life that I am addicted too so I could compare them to a gamers addiction.

First addiction on the list is food. Food is required to sustain life yet most people have not attempted to sue a dairy farm for producing a perfect cheese or bottle of milk. Many of the readers that may eventually view this blog may be addicted to eating. Would stopping a gaming addiction be easier or harder than a literal food addiction?

This thought of addiction is not intended to be long and all encompassing so all other forms of entertainment have been lumped into the category "fun." Sports, gambling, reading, television, and other hobbies all have victims whose lives they claim. Addiction claims them when they place "fun" as a higher priority than work, school or family. I think every single person if questioned would honestly answer they were addicted or spent too much time with a particular item of the "fun" category.

To sum up, I disagree with the initial statement that those individuals with dull lives are the primary victims of a online gaming addiction. Rather, I would argue that the competitive among us and the excitement seekers are the first to engage in a race to the end of a game or the quest to become the greatest. Further, priorities will always pull at man and the claim of addiction is at best a rationalization of something that has been broken, is being broken and will always be broken by others.