Dinner, Friday, April 20
“I thought he was supposed to be for the poor people, but does he ever socialize with any poor people? He doesn’t speak to me.”
-Monty Johnson (neighbor of presidential candidate John Edwards) Source
The role of this digital hammer is as the lead actor for progress in human relationships. Is it possible that the Internet can make us more human? I think that if we learn how to use the new wealth of information provided to us, then we will be better able to construct the relationships that bind us. This is best exemplified in the move towards a semantic web. This technology tries to take advantage of relationships between words instead of nodes to construct the web. To connect at such an abstract level returns to humanity the intimacy of communication. The web becomes a tool of how things are defined, and not how they are connected. This definition will be a truly democratic process. Notice the importance of participation. How words are connoted and defined is a level of communication that the Internet currently lacks. Returning the importance of communication to digital relationships is progress.
Progress will be realized when we can use the information that exists on the Internet to create a better world around us. This opportunity exists because there is a desire to improve the general condition of the way that communication and relationships are built. When relationships are a matter of understanding and not social standing, then we can say that the Internet has helped humanity progress. Another marker of social progress will be a breaking down of barriers that produce such situations as â€œhavesâ€ vs. â€œhave-nots.â€ Is this possible? Yes, because once the overhead cost of infrastructure is paid, then the cost of business for being on the Internet reduces to zero. Amortizing this cost in the name of a more evenly distributed world income is a desire we should all aspire towards. Understanding has been the fundamental problem in many of the discords that have plagued humanity. A semantics based web that helps us better understand ourselves is another form of progress. There is a danger that it will kill the uniqueness of language, but this uniqueness, when it becomes ambiguity, is a root cause of discord amongst cultures. Iâ€™m not asking for individual cultures to lose their language, Iâ€™m asking for cultures to learn to understand each other through improved communication.
Is there a solution to the problem of ethics and data mining on the Internet? Yes. First and foremost we must build a system of trust between vendor and consumer. If we canâ€™t build an Internet where trust is an integral part of the communities that are forming, then we cannot build a better Internet. Without a better Internet, our information is a treasure chest for wrong doers, and not a foundation for an improved world. This improved world must truly be global. To increase participation, we must ask that government open up its uses of gathered information to act as a model for corporate entities, which are also storing information. Ethically progressing towards an open information model will be an even more important issue in the years to come, and it is a challenge that we must embrace and answer globally. The consequences of remaining silent might devastate humanity and steal from us our identity.
Arrington, M. (2006). TechCrunch >> Blog Archive >> FTC may regulate PayPerPost. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2006, from http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/12/13/ftc-may-regulate-payperpost/
Barbour, I. (1993). Ethics in an age of Technology: The Gifford Lectures Volume 2. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
Dibbell, J. “A rape in cyberspace.” How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society. (Reprinted from The Village Voice, 1993, December 23)
Epstein, R. G. (2006). An ethics and security course for students in computer science and information technology. Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 535-537.
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Fule, P. & Roddick, J. (2004). Detecting privacy and ethical sensitivity in data mining results. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, 56, 159-166.
Jordan, L. J. “Senator challenge FBI chief over domestic spying program.” (Reprinted from The Boston Globe, 2006, December 7)
Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press.
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Vascellaro, J. E. “Online retailers are watching you.” (Reprinted from Wall Street Journal, 2006, November 28)
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Lunch, Thursday, April 5
A myth of the Internet must also be broken down so that progress can be made. The Internet does not provide unbound freedom from oneâ€™s physical self. One exists on the Internet similarly to the notion of existence in reality. There is an expectation to act responsibly. One cannot escape their duties in reality simply because they are virtual. Greater freedom is a farce of Internet propaganda. While it seems to be tougher, those who want to find and trace oneâ€™s trail on the Internet will do so. Freedom must be explained and defined for the information on the Internet to be more properly used.
The first paradigm shift that the Internet must go through is a movement away from an English-centric entity, into a global medium of communication, exchange, and growth. It is possible for the Internet to help us break down walls that have stood for generations. It is not possible for us to do this if we donâ€™t allow the Internet to permeate into parts of the world where basic survival is still an issue. The Internet can help bridge gaps, but this must be done in a culturally sensitive way. We will learn a lot about ourselves as human beings as we help the Internet grow, and watch to see if humanity can grow with it.
This first paradigm shift is an example of how weâ€™ve developed a â€œnormal sociologyâ€ analogous to Kuhnâ€™s â€œnormal science.â€ The rich are supposed to get access to new technology. Once it has been refined to help the rich, then it can be mass-produced and everyone else can have access to it. This kind of sociology must be broken down if the Internet is going to help foster humanity. Part of the problem with how information is used is its de-humanizing affect. The rich will continue to maintain the status quo by stripping everyone else of their identity. This is an acceptable solution to those who have the ability to walk in and out of situations without the potential consequences harming them. As an example, someone who has the ability to spend responsibly can buy products on the Internet, and is willing to become a credit card number. Someone else who is given a chance to spend freely on the Internet but is unable to do so responsibly will find a new way to get into extreme credit card debt. Also because they are disassociated from judgment from a scornful face, they donâ€™t feel as if they have to answer to someone on the other end when theyâ€™re spending over their affordable limit.
The revolutionary science here is a set of products that are released for everyone immediately for the good of everyone. This doesnâ€™t seem to be asking too much, but if we look at how products are released and the groups that they are targeted towards, itâ€™s simple to see that this is in fact quite the revolutionary business strategy. How can this be done? Itâ€™s a matter of empowering the lower classes as a buying block. There must be a willingness to redistribute income and opportunity. While this is a problem much larger than the Internet itself, the cost of business for Internet-based applications allows them to lead the way in enacting this change. The breaking down of class walls is an important goal for humanity in general, and this â€œsociological revolutionâ€ may come from a digital hammer.