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The Future of Computing 281

Posted by michael
from the am-I-young-enough-to-see-this-world? dept.
This link came my way a few days ago; it is titled simply Final Exam. And I warn readers that visiting it could easily suck up the next half hour of your life in unproductive thought, and quite possibly more. It was written by a science fiction writer, and the point of reading it isn't the answers, but the questions and the predicates they are founded upon. Will we see this world? Why or why not?
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The Future of Computing

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  • I'm sort of upset I never got questions like that in college.

    I particularly like 5, 6 and 7...

    Really though... how do you make people realize it isn't you?
  • ... The title says it all!

    Thank you Slashdot - I'll be making sure everyone on my mailing list gets to see this.

    And personally, I will be taking some time out to think some of those points through more deeply.

    What a great link.
  • I've actually met Marc Steigler, and had dinner with him, and worked on his computers.. He's a smart guy, with a lot of great ideas.. He also writes some decent sci-fi, and I've seen his latest book, earthweb, I think it's called, at all the bookstores.. check it out..
  • There's an unusually high amount of brown here now.

    LK
  • Tough questions that innovators of the web will have to answer and quickly. It seems ironically enough the thing which makes the web what it is, and that is no goverment restrictions, is also the thing which threatens to destroy it(with warez manufactures, spammers, virus writers hiding behind polictical boundries ie. china and russia) What is to be done?
  • It really puts a few things into perspective.

    -Adam

    This sig goes live 11-NOV-99. Stay Tuned!
  • A different color for different themed sections
  • by Pyr (18277) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @10:37AM (#1541331) Homepage
    Frankly, I have to say I'm tired of hearing things like this. Yes, there is hunger, war, and other problems in the world, and yes, we should try to do something about it. However, don't be insinuating that I'm an evil person because I'm not devoting my life to helping that starving peasant in Korea and instead I'm helping to move technology forward. It's a logical fallacy to be saying that because there are bigger problems in the world we shouldn't be trying to fix the smaller ones. Like the animal rights activist who is accused of not caring about people because she's trying to prevent cruelty to animals.

    I'm sorry, I guess this test doesn't seem as "deep" to me.. it's main purpose is to try to make those of us who use technology feel guilty /because/ we use technology.
  • by TheDullBlade (28998) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @10:40AM (#1541333)
    Hmmm... If you write answers supporting my political agenda, you pass the course.

    Geez, I would have gone berzerk if one of my professors tried to force his views down my throat in this manner.

    Not that I don't agree that new laws aren't the answer...
  • I disagree. Just because you interpreted one question as designed to make you feel guilty, doesn't mean that that's the main purpose of the test. Frankly, I found it interesting, since the entire list of questions all follow the pattern of stating a basic human desire, and asking how technology can fulfill it. The idea of question 11 is to take some of the most basic human desires of all, and ask whether information technology could help at all.
  • by Non-Newtonian Fluid (16797) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @10:42AM (#1541335)
    I find these extremely interesting questions, especially the last one. It reminds me of the Linux to be Official OS of People's Republic of China [slashdot.org] story. Granted, China is not quite as repressive as North Korea, but I think there's a connection to these two stories posted here on Slashdot, as well as the "Father of the Web" [zdnet.com] story being posted on ZDNet. That story basically details Tim Berners-Lee unhappiness with the Web being "merely" a place to access information, rather than sharing ideas.

    My point is this: Both question 11 on the Final Exam and the Berners-Lee story point to the capacity for the Web/Internet/Computers to be more than just tools to shop online, download porn, or even really cool things like collaborate on amazing Open Source projects like Linux itself. I say more important because, in conjuction with the (sometimes disparate) philosophies of Open Source / Free Software, we as a community have the chance to really make a difference by applying these philosophies outside not only the domain of software, but also outside the world of business itself. As both a Linux geek and a scholar of things Chinese (BA in Chinese, extensive study of PRC politics, modern and ancient history, and ancient philosophy), it is exciting to think that we just barely might be able to influence on a wide scale an authoritarian regieme through the application of thoughts and ideals that we use to write our software. Gives the phrase "World Domination" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

    So does this make any sense, or am I just rambling?

  • Write a contentless post, challenge downwards moderation, then wait for the moderators to fall over each other in their attempt to prove their willingness to support individual (if uninteresting and unsubstantiated) opinion?
  • the brown is nice, but the split pea/squash/puke green has got to go...


    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Normal Slashdot: Green
    Ask Slashdot: Grey
    Radio: Black
    BSD: Red
    Your Rights Online: Brown
    Apache: Purple

    Kinda weird if you ask me, but CmdrTaco ain't askin' me
  • contrary to a fellow who just posted, I thought the questions modeled good case studies for how secure communications should be done (iow if the newer protocols being created now, IMPP, FTP-ext, HTTPs next version, etc do not solve these case, they should be reworked until they do)

    Honestly, most of the answers I came up with involve things I do not think get listed in the new "enhanced" web, but it could just be a definitions issue, what the hellis a bonding agent? arbitrage in this context I am also not clear on... agents to _prevent_ arbitrage maybe?
    (arbitrage from www.m-w.com : the nearly simultaneous purchase and sale of securities or foreign exchange in different markets in order to profit from price discrepancies)

    nonetheless, the examples were good, what was the "answer" to #11 "... The time has come to solve your problem in the most fundamental sense, and save the life of your daughter."?

    are they talking about the web being an agent for political change (every publishing medium at some point has toppled ruthless dictators)?

    Anyway, this exam gives me new respect for those liberal-arts-in-the-CS-dept classes...

    -RS
    We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars --Oscar Wilde
  • No we should keep fixing the little problems too. I think his point was slightly different then what you read. It seems this was the final for a class on the internet. And imagine it being put in front of all those people claiming the internet is the saviour. People really think that. There are people who honestly believe that the internet will solve all the problems in the world. And if you start listening too the hype without your BS filters on you probably think that the internet will save the poor kid in NK. I think his point is that it probably won't. Or that in order to save that kid we need to get so far beyond where we are now. So actually I think you are working to save that kid. You just don't nessecarily see how what you're doing may help her.
    Oh well its just my thoughts.
    -cpd
  • The correct answer for #11 is that you would need safe unforgeable identities with strong encryption. Once others with similar boxes found out you were doing well (because you can follow instrustions on basic survival and medical care, and they are lazy and want to eat to fruits of your labor) you will need to have digital protection. DUH!

    -Adam

    J. Willard Marriott Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.
  • Lawmakers are looking at the Internet as "This technology is going to encourage people to commit crimes" (or sins, depending on which party you belong to.) This is the wrong way to view it, though. Good people are still good people when they have Internet access. Bad people simply have a more technologically advanced way to commit crimes.

    How is this different from any other tech advancement? The automobile made it easier for bank robbers to flee the scene at a more rapid rate. But we did not make legislation specifically to prevent bank robbers from having cars.

    Just as there are new avenues with which you may commit a crime (or a company can commit a crime against you) there are many ways in which those interested in "making a difference" can use the Internet to reach a wider audience to elicit help or support for cause x, y, and z. The concerns that one has while using the Internet should not differ from the concerns you have in the 3-d space that surrounds you. You're concerned about giving your personal information out on the web. But aren't you concerned about giving your personal information out in real life as well? Most of you are, and there's no reason why any of those concerns are different when you're on the web. The only difference is that information distributed on the internet is at risk of propagating much more rapidly. But information offline will still propagate. Junk mailers got addresses from publishers long before the proliferation of the www.

    There will always be someone trying to rip you off or invade your privacy. And no technological advance will ever take away your need to protect yourself from those people.
    ----------------------------------------- -----------------
  • actually most professors/teachers I have ever had to write papers for that involved value-judgements had no problem with mine (or any other students') differing very strongly from their own. Its when those judgements are made without decent support that one gets graded down...

    a final exam like this would thrill the shit out of me...

    -RS
    We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars --Oscar Wilde
  • Maybe I'm just seeing this from my own point of view, but the brunt of the questions on the exam seemed focused on privacy, not guilt; though "privacy" doesn't really express the idea properly. "Freedom" would be a better term, in that the only way you can really have true privacy is if you have the freedom to decide for yourself what information you wish to reveal, and who you wish to reveal it to.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    about a couple things.

    1) Thought provoking posts don't get moderated down. (that's a compliment, by the way)

    2) I think you've missed the point of that last question.

    To expand a bit on 2, I'd say you're reading the author wrong. I think question 11 was SPECIFICALLY MEANT to make people think about "deep" issues, not to make them feel bad about having food (when others do not).

    I firmly believe that its possible to feed everyone, and that distribution and politics are the only hinderances. Heh. "Only".

    Farmers in the US get subsidies to NOT grow crops to avoid lowering the sales cost to a point where farmers couldn't make a decent living selling their goods. It doesn't always work, but that's not the point. The point is, WE CAN FEED PEOPLE. Not just our people, or their people, but EVERYONE.

    Now imagine that hypothetical, food-stealing soldiers actions if he KNEW there was a web-cam or four pointed at him. Consequences are a bitch.

    --Mark
  • What was political about the exam? You aren't trying to make an excuse for writer's block are you?
  • Uhh, maybe I didn't read the same exam you did. I didn't see anywhere where he was asking what _LAWS_ you would pass, nor did I see anything about political parties. Itsure seemed to me that the intent was, how would you solve the problems with the available technology.

    I think too many people (yourself included) saw question #11 and assumed that was a hit on the political system of NK, not a question of what the person would do. Talk about a knee jerk response.
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @10:53AM (#1541353) Homepage Journal

    It seems to me that the answer to question 11 is that you can use the device to have Free Speech among your fellow countrymen for the first time in your entire life. You also get to tell the outside world about the soldiers who keep robbing you. You can also arrange for drop shipments of arms without the thugs being able to intercept it.

    The internet can be used to aid a real world physical revolution.

    Your grade for thinking that the question is supposed to make you feel guilty: F.


    ---
  • Yeah. I really hated the part where he said 'you can't disagree with me'.
    Just curious: do you define 'thought-provoking' as 'something I disagree with', or did you just decide that it was written by one of your political enemies, and therefore unworthy of consideration?
    Grow up.
  • Just had a flashback to my essay-ridden college days.. yikes! But it is still rather thought-provoking...
  • by Dast (10275) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @10:54AM (#1541357)

    11) You live in North Korea. Three days ago the soldiers came to your tiny patch of farmland and took the few scraps of food they hadn't taken the week before. You have just boiled the last of your shoes and fed the softened leather to your 3-year-old child. She coughs, a sickly sound that cannot last much longer. Overhead you hear the drone of massive engines. You look into the sky, and thousands of tiny packages float down. You pick one up. It is made of plastic; you cannot feed it to your daughter. But the device talks to you, is solar powered, and teaches you how to use it to link to the Web. You have all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips; you can talk to thousands of others who share your desperate fate. The time has come to solve your problem in the most fundamental sense, and save the life of your daughter.

    Well, in light of some of the recent stories on Slashdot, here is my answer:
    Using the ibm patent database as an aid, think of a common sense technology (ie one click shopping, yahoo's dynamic page generation) that hasn't been patented and grab it. Make millions. :P

    Anyway, anyone else find it funny how this "final exam" is about the future of computing but most of the questions (1-4,8-10) were about, well, mostly money and the commercialization (sp?) of the internet? Is that all the internet is good for these days? *sigh* Granted there were some privacy questions in there, but 8/11 about money?

  • This is an interesting essay, however atleast half the questions posed aren't relevant to today's 'net. Number 11 simply cannot occur. Provided it did occur, there would be precious little time to spend making pleas on usenet or elsewhere. Computers are used by those who have spare time, or a job that requires it. It is not a tool like a hammer, or a pole and some fishing line. In the unlikely event you could arouse sympathy on usenet, or even across the 'net, the most you would likely accomplish is a condemnation of your country. Your daughter would still starve to death.. because any food shipments would be denied by a government that tyrannical.

    That's my 30-second-or-less essay answer. It probably won't get an 'A', but atleast it'll get moderated up a point, maybe even two.



    --
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hmm. This is a nifty idea. Combine the global cellphone concept with a palm 7? And then just give them away any place where theyre illegal to sell. This I might kick in some cash towards, just cause it would be fun to mess with the system.
  • by Wohali (57372) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @10:55AM (#1541360) Homepage
    I don't think the author of this exam is insinuating that you're not helping the world because you don't dedicate your resources to third-world issues. I think he's trying to get those who have become enthralled by the opportunities that technology provides to think "outside of the box."

    If he were, as you say, claiming that you're an evil person for moving technology forward, then what would his motivation be for giving this course? Why would he spend a semester teaching some college students about escrow agents and strong encryption? Clearly, he finds these technologies interesting -- but he knows that most don't consider the practical applications of that technology outside of their own lifestyles.

    You shouldn't feel guilty because you use technology. But it's important to think about how your technology can be used to help people who don't lead a lifestyle identical to your own, even just as an intellectual exercise. I think that Mr. Stiegler's exam intended just the opposite -- that you should feel proud that you're helping advance a technology that some day might help that Korean woman feed her starving daughter, and that (Goddess forbid!) you might actually think about that image once or twice while coding your next GPL project.

    1. Connect to web.
    2. Discover that the vast majority of web traffic is in English, a language you cannot understand.
    3. Enjoy some Shockwave(tm) animations.
    4. Use plastic boxes to decorate shrine to deceased children.
  • ...you're really close to the mark.

    "However, don't be insinuating that I'm an evil person because I'm not devoting my life to helping that starving peasant in Korea and instead I'm helping to move technology forward."

    Who's to say that you aren't doing both? Granted, technology and the net won't fix all of the world's problems. It does, however, have the potential to fix many of the world's problems. See where I'm going with this?

    An analogy: If I work in the Chevy plant in Michigan and my specialty is building diesel vans, shold I feel guilty because I'm not helping out my local hospital in my free time? No, because the hospital uses the trucks that I build. The trucks are used as ambulances, delivery trucks, blood donation vehicles, breast cancer screening vehicles, etc. I am helping the hospital, though indirectly.

    Your work to advance technology as a whole can pay dividends in indirect and unforseen ways. Hell, you might be the one who figures out a low-cost, low-power sattelite modem that is used in the machine that's dropped to that little girl's family.

    Anyway, to get back on topic, these are excellent questions. I can also see two seperate ways of interpreting them: one is with the thought of `Is the internet really all it's cracked up to be', the other is `how can I think outside of the box to make the internet/technology/my toaster accomplish these tasks'. Keep these precepts in mind as you answer the questions, and I bet you will come to vastly seperate conclusions.

  • The POINT is that the same technologies that allow us to become incrementally more free will also allow those who are fundamentally enslaved to become free one day. It is pro-technology, not anti-technology. Expect it to be reprinted in Wired soon.

    Paul Precod
  • I don't know about everyone else, but I thought this was pretty lame. I thought the questions totally uninteresting and not thought provoking in the slightest.

    Was it uninteresting because you've already dealt with these issues, or uninteresting because you don't think these issues matter?

    If it was the former--that you've already thought this stuff through, then yeah, this link and story was probably wasted on you.

    If it is the latter--that these issues just don't matter to you, I have a link you might like [microsoft.com]. They will help you get what you want.

    The issues that this "exam" brings up are very important ones. Issues of personal security, of the ability to speak ones mind without fear of retribution, and of the ability to communicate and do business freely. It is not directed at the Cypherpunks of the world--"we" are already there, "we" are writing the code, deploying the code, and talking up the code--which includes articles like this one--bringing the Mathmatical Munitions to the Masses, and trying to explain the why's and hows in terms that they can understand.

    I do have one bone to pick with the author of the exam. In the case of the Korean, I don't think a solar powered wireles portable is what they need--information is indeed a powerful tool, but it works over generations, it takes time to bring it's might to bear--like a glacier scraping clean a valley, or the wind and water gradually wearing down the rocks. What I would want would be a rain of AKs and ammunition.

    That's just me though

  • I don't know about everyone else, but I thought the preceeding post was pretty lame. I thought the points it raised were totally uninteresting and not thought provoking in the slightest. IMNSHO, this didn't need to be posted. But that's just me. Fell free to moderate me down now!

    (the preceeding text was tounge in cheek if you couldn't tell, and if i need to explain what i said.. sheesh)
  • You are correct...the internet is a positive thing in that it connects people and allows communication anywhere. Communication is always good. Sometimes communication may reveal things we don't like, but those are opportunities to reason, consider, and reflect on those things, not a reason to stuff those things in a dark place and throw away the key. Communication helps more than it could ever hurt.
  • I don't know, but I think that that question is deeper than you think. My first thought was that you can be a citizen of the most powerful nation on earth, pull down a six-figure salary, be full of good will and good intentions, donate to all the "right" causes, but sometimes you have to accept you can't do a freaking thing to help another person no matter how much you want to.

    Feeling guilty about it is optional.

    Admittedly, a solar-power web browser is kind'a useless in this situation.
  • did my blue and green phosphors burn out, or is this page all in brown and red for some reason?
  • I thought "EarthWeb" was ok, but not as interesting as "David's Sling". His collection of short stories called "The Gentle Seduction" was pretty good, too. (Unfortunately, they're both out of print. Check your friendly neighborhood used book stores.)

    P.S. It's "Stiegler".

  • I think you've completely missed the point of this test.

    The only question that even remotely links to your criticism is the last question (number 11), and the question prompts you only to devise a way to best solve your inherent problem with the power of the internet. I can see absolutely no way you could interpret this to be an attack on people who use technology.

    The point of the test is that the internet, as it grows in scope, will envelop more and more of our lives. How will this change things? How can we preserve neccesary elements of accountability, authenticity, and decency while not sacrificing freedom? That is the point, and you've completely missed it.
  • I'm quite sure you didn't understand the exam. Particularly Question 11, which is apparently the one that got your dander up.

    Did you stop to think about the "fundamental" problem this North Korean peasant faces? It is tyranny. Tyranny of the body, and more critically, tyranny of the mind. North Koreans (and people the world over) are kept ignorant of the world-context they live in, since ignorance breeds docility and quashes ambition. If you don't know that there -is- something better, you can't aspire to it, and if you can't aspire to it, you accept your lot. You accept being pushed around by men with guns. You accept having to eat bark and having to feed your child boiled shoe. You accept hopelessness and helplessness as facts of life. Your world-view narrows until you can only see the day, and the day's toil and pain. This is tyranny of the mind, and millions of people live under its oppression.

    What you and I fail to appreciate daily is that we have the Tyrant-Slayer in our scabbard.

    Granted, we are under no contractual obligation to make the world a better place, but whatever compassion is born of understanding is better than no compassion at all. Once you understand and see beyond your own tiny little mindscape, your own conscience will tell you what is demanded of you to give, and what is fair of you to ask in return.
  • The test asks good questions in the sense of "they need to be asked", but not so good in the sense of "they don't have answers". Several of these problems have solutions printed in the first edition (1994?) of Applied Cryptography. (for instance, see the anonymous and secure poker protocol)

    As for question 11, I don't know what the point of this is. If his point is "no amount of information in the world will feed a starving child", though, I have two responses:

    1) Wanna bet? The first thing I'd look for information on edible plants, catching fish, trapping birds, etc. North Korea (even in the middle of a war) is not a wasteland.

    2) Even if it were a wasteland, the problem is not that information won't feed a child. The problem is that the information wasn't applied early enough. Information on how to keep the soldiers out, how to prevent the child from getting sick (or even conceived), etc is all available.
    ---
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@nOspam.infamous.net> on Thursday November 11, 1999 @11:05AM (#1541375) Homepage
    Hmm, I read it completely differently! It didn't make me feel guilty for using technology, it prompted me to think (not for the first time) if and how technology could be used to help with these deep problems.

    It is entirely possible that is can't, and that it's hubris to think that technology can really improve the human condition [slashdot.org]; but in some instances (like the last question in the test) circumstances are so bad it would be really hard for us to make them worse. So with your indulgence, I will speculate...

    What could a solar-powered, wireless, tap-proof web terminal do for that oppressed peasant in North Korea? Perhaps the first and most important thing is to help him understand that there is another way of life. People who have been beaten down all their lives come to accept it; the first step towards radical change is to understand that change is possible.

    Now, while one person may be a leader and inspire change, it takes many people to make that change happen. That web terminal would let our peasant organize and coordinate not only with others in his own country, but with action groups all over the world. It would be a lot harder for the U.S. Congress to ignore the problems of the third world poor if they were talking to us, one-to-one, over the net.

    Our peasant needs to make the most of his meager resources. How can I build a warmer, drier hut? How can I dig a better well? How can I irrigate my fields? How can I take care of my sick kids when there's no doctor in a hundred miles? There might not be a lot of web pages dedicated to these topics now, but if the "third world" gets online you can bet they'll be tops.

    Finally, what happens when the time comes for direct action? Whether you need the writings of Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi, or plans for building bombs and blowing up government facilities, the web has it.

  • what the hell is a bonding agent

    I am assuming that in this context a bonding agent would be an agent (either software or human) to which two parties could go to in order to set up performance/security bonds.

    This could be anything from an instance where, for instance, you wanted [x] done, and I (fully anonymously) offered to do the work. You don't know me, I don't (or might not) know you. I don't want to reveal my identity, but I want to ensure I get paid. You want to ensure that the work gets done. I take out a "performance bond", you take out a "payment bond". In this case, it's similar to an escrow agent, but a bonding agent would be a more general case of escrow agent.

    I don't know enough about arbitrage to answer that question--take the course?

  • Your daughter would still starve to death.. because any food shipments would be denied by a government that tyrannical.

    Well, in the hypothetical scenario of question 11, the government was unable to deny a shipment of computers. I guess the SAM network got cracked. ;-) The next shipment of food (or arms!) can be arranged more carefully (thanks to crypto) so that it is even less likely to be intercepted.


    ---
  • The peachy orange/red ain't too bad.

    Strange though, that nothing is listed in the FAQ about this.

    Will we be able to choose our own colours in the future (kinda like My Netscape)?

    Maybee they should have a poll about this.
  • FINAL EXAM

    Name: _Coward, Anonymous_

    Question #11 - Answer:

    Step One - Do a Google search for Beowulf-HOWTO.

    Step Two - Make a big freakin' Beowulf cluster out of the air-dropped computers!

    Step Three - Now you're such a d00d that the army will bring food to you!


    (Actually, the questions are interesting. #11 challenges us to define how universal communication can catalize mass cultural change. Hmmmm.)
  • by ch-chuck (9622)
    All I want to do is setup my Samba print server so the workstations can use it - can I transfer out of this class!?! :))

    Chuck
  • I kinda like it. I might even get some clothes in this colour.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • 1. complain that you're going to get moderated down

    But I'll probably get moderated down for saying that.
  • You can feel good about helping to move technology forward. Don't feel guilty because people starve. Instead, do your thing to help. If that means advancing technology which promotes freedom and knowledge, then by all means get on with it. If it means being a greedy bastard, do that. You might be helping. If it means something else, do that instead.

    I invite you to decide how you're going to better your world, and get on with it. Remember, we all share the world, we each have different roles we are able to play, and none of us has the individual capacity to solve all the problems we know about.

    The people who go out to voluntarily feed the poor and hungry are angels. But they are not the only angels. The systems which cause misery in this world are complex, and so are the solutions.

    We don't know what they are. But we have gut feelings, and minds to make sense of them.

    Educate yourself, and with your best knowledge, do what seems like the right thing to you.

    The web can help in your learning. It can help North Korean soldiers in their learning too.
  • Maybe I misread it a bit, thinking "If you can answer all these questions, you probably know why thousands of new laws are not the right way to make the Web 'safe'." was in the text of the exam. But given that little header, it seems pretty obvious what kind of answer he's looking for.

    The questions themselves assume that use of certain of those "advanced features" can solve the problems.

    Several are of the form: you want to break the law, how do you do it? Or: some bad information hurt you somehow and you want to get back at the people who spread it (or at least stop them from spreading it), how do you do it?

    Some of them, to me at least, demand legal action (ex. false advertising killed your aunt; both criminal charges and civil suits would be appropriate). Others can be answered with "you'd be breaking the law, don't do that." However, these kinds of answers are clearly not allowed, as the form of the question demands a technological solution.

    The fact that you aren't allowed to suggest laws to pass (or suggest removing the laws that are the obstacles) means that to obey the form of the exam (clearly the only way to pass) you must do your utmost to support his view that laws are the wrong way to deal with these problems.
  • The enhanced capabilites list brings up some questions for me. Perhaps if I had actually taken this "Future of Computing" class, they would be less ambiguous.

    Unforgeable pseudonymous identities

    Yes, but it will require a global standard in public/private key systems. This standard must be as stable and as universally and unquestioningly accepted as TCP/IP. It must also be backed by laws specifying the nature of the standard and describing the legal rights and responsibilities of using encrypted keys.

    In a decade, maybe. The 'Net moves fast, but people don't. There's nothing technologically unfeasable about it, but it will require some changes in public attitudes.

    Bidirectional, typed, filterable links

    Bidirectional - yes. Should have done it years ago.

    Typed - sometimes, and not very reliably. Who does the typing?

    Filtered - probably not. Who gets to act as censor?

    Arbitrage agents

    Technologically, it can probably be made to work. Like key systems, it will take some time to do. A standard for publishing commercial information so that agents can read it is necessary. All agents must use it, and it must become so important to vendors that agents be able to read their information that they would never refuse to use the standard. This can happen - but not yet. Ten years, maybe. As much as 20 if interest in the 'Net drops off.

    It's not in any vendor's best interests to help customers comparison shop. This will make it hard to implement.

    Bonding agents
    Escrow agents

    I'm not sure what these mean. Bond has several definitions, and I don't know which one applies. I know what escrow means, but I don't know what it means in this context.

    Digital cash

    We have it now. With all the time and money pouring into it, it'll be pretty standard soon enough.

    Capability Based Security with Strong Encryption

    I know what this means, but I'm not sure how it applies either.

    I would be interested to see some of the answers students have given to these questions. I'm something of a net skeptic.

    I'm not sure there's any obvious solution to #1.

    The answer to #2 should be to call the police.

    There are a number of answers to #3 - politcal science describes several methods of evaluating the reputation of an unknown agent, but most of the practical ones have been in use since before the web.

    #4 is unlikely to ever have an effective technological solution, but may become cause for calling the police someday.

    #5 - so what?

    #6 - Your government probably isn't reading your e-mail. If it is, your inability to share dirty jokes is the least of your problems.

    #7 - public/private key encryption with a protocol for challenging an identity could work for this one.

    #8 - There are technological solutions, but I will bet none of them will ever be implemented.

    #9 - Call a lawyer. That's what they're there for.

    #10 - Sue until dead. No new technology necessary. The ability to unimpeachably establish identites using encryption might help. But speak softly and retain expensive lawyers.

    #11 - I'm not sure how much he 'Net has to offer to politics - even in totalitarian states - that TV, phones and faxes don't. The 'Net does makes it a little easier to distribute samizdat, but it also makes it easier to spread propaganda. Furthermore, modern media can make it awfully hard to distinguish the two. The government of every state with free media is sooner or later compelled to lie to it - closed countries can at least keep silent. In North Korea, most people know they are being lied to, even if they don't know the truth. In America, many people suspect they are being lied to, but go on and believe what they hear anyway. The 'Net changes little in that respect.
  • by mackga (990)
    Assuming the tech in the little boxen is advanced enough for wireless web hookup from the rice paddies outside of Pyong Yang(sic)

    1. Establish your security and encription

    2. amass great amounts of digital cash and using the UPI, stash the cash with the escrow agent.

    3. Arrange for groceries to be air-dropped from netgrocers.com - payment via the escrow agent.

    4. Ditto homedepot.com

    5. ditto gunzrus.com - just in case the soldiers come back :)

    6. work with the arbitrage agent to invest your cyber cash

    7. Maybe get some drugs and meds from RX.com?

  • by killbill (10058) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @11:14AM (#1541392) Homepage
    I don't have the several hours of time available right now to work through a complete analysis, but I suspect that you could make a pretty good argument that all the problems cannot be solved simultaneously .

    For example, how can you be accountable for your lies about a product, but at the same time anonymous enough to speak out against a totalitarian regime? One requires untraceability, one requires traceability.

    I suspect you could answer each question pretty well, but that your answers would be mutually exclusive. How interesting.

    Bill Kilgallon
  • by yule (42265) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @11:15AM (#1541393) Journal
    A few comments on a most thought-provoking exam:


    1. Look at the list of enhanced capabilities that were listed.

    Unforgeable pseudonymous identities
    Bidirectional, typed, filterable links
    Arbitrage agents
    Bonding agents
    Escrow agents
    Digital Cash
    Capability Based Security w/ S. Encryption


    Looking at thie list, you should realize that all of these capabilities, save the last, depand on the first. Without unforgeable identities you can't really perform any kind of commerce. Even more important is the realization that an unforgeable identity is itself dependent on encryption.

    Let me repeat that - all higher level models of information exchange are fundamentally based on only _two_ cryptographic primitives, encryption and hashing. In the "Ask Slashdot" interview with Bruce Schneier, Bruce said,

    "It's true that I described all sorts of interesting protocols in _Applied Cryptography_. The reality is that none of them is actually useful. What is useful are the few simple primitives -- signatures, encryption, authentication -- and the different ways to mirror real-life trust models using them. These protocols are simpler, easier to understand, and more useful."


    This is why encryption is important and it's what encryption is really all about. As a community we should support strong crypto not because it will let us send privete naughty email, but because it is the foundation out of which is constructed digital cash, digital signatures, trusted arbitrage, and a host of other useful goodies.


    2. Despite it's Katz-esque nature, question #11 is really rather profound. For the sake of argument let's remove the specificity and replace North Korea with "Oppressive Bastards", or OB for short.

    My initial reaction to the question was "Why drop net appliances on these poor people? Send some food instead for the love of (insert deity here)." But then I thought hey, if you dropped them food they would eat, become hungry again, and you are right back where they started. Hmm, maybe air-dropping massive amounts of information is the right way to go. After all, to defeat the Oppressive Bastards you don't really need food or weapons, you need a collective will and the ability to organize. Both of these things can be done with the net, and you need _none_ of the advanced features listed at the start of the exam.

    Profound, eh?

    -Shane

    Oh yeah, it probably wouldn't hurt to also send along Bobby Shaftoe to display some adaptability.
  • He gave you the answers to those questions.

    Warez manufacturers can be beaten with Unforgeable pseudonymous identities and Capability Based Security with Strong Encryption--in fact a lot of things (virii etc) can be dealt with with the latter.

    Spammers can automatically be dealt with by strong filtering measuers (create a set of filters for everyone you already talk to, put (in your signature and on your web site etc.) a specific word or subject that will filter to a specific file/directory all *new* people you wish to talk to. Occasionally go through your unfiltered mail looking for people who missed that information. Simple.

    Goverment can't solve the problems--it can't move fast enough--and when it does move fast enough, it often misses badly.

  • What I would want would be a rain of AKs and ammunition.


    That's just me though


    I'd want the AKs *and* the boxes. Have the firepower and the coordination with my neighbors.
  • by Bearpaw (13080) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @11:20AM (#1541400)
    Anyway, anyone else find it funny how this "final exam" is about the future of computing but most of the questions (1-4,8-10) were about, well, mostly money and the commercialization (sp?) of the internet? Is that all the internet is good for these days? *sigh* Granted there were some privacy questions in there, but 8/11 about money?

    Even granting your ratio -- a couple of those were only peripherally "about money" -- I think it's a sign that there's some realism behind the questions. A lot of issues are about money, even if it's in terms of "How do we support things like peace and justice and freedom when so many people are willing to sell chunks of those things away (especially other folks' peace and justice and freedom) for some ready cash?"

  • I don't think we read that question the same way at all. The exam seemed to me to be worded in a way that indicated the prof. thought these devices would help.

    Consider:

    • you have access to information that may help you diagnose and treat your daughter
    • you have the ability to communicate with others in the same plight
    • you have the means to organize
    • suddenly the army's actions are well known outside of your corner of the world

    Sure, it's an open question if any of these things will actually help, but there is certainly the possibility that they might. Is there an underground you can communicate with? Is there a sympathetic doctor in the area? Is the army interested in looking like an ass in front of the world? If thousands of communication devices are being dropped, it's possible that a food drop will follow. Now you can at leat find out about it.

    Consider the importance the fax machine has had in anti-government actions (think China, latter-day Soviet Union).

    Can you immediately feed your daughter a bunch of silicon chips? No. It's a tool that gives you an advantage you didn't have. It may not solve your problem and save your daughter's life, but if it was me, I wouldn't chuck the thing.

    I don't think this was about the uselessness of communications technology at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 1999 @11:22AM (#1541402)

    I think most people are missing the point with question #11. Giving poor, oppressed people access to the Internet isn't going to help them much.

    What is going to help them is the ability to communicate securely and anonymously. The point isn't to contact the outside world for help, it's to organize a revolution.

  • Following up to myself:

    Woody Guthrie used to have this slogan written on his guitar: "This Machine Kills Fascists". Music has always been a strong tool for communication, for organizing and inspiring people. The escaped slave knew to "Follow the Drinking Gourd" north to freedom. The civil rights marchers chanted "We Shall Overcome". Soldiers sing their battle hymns and their marching cadences.

    If we - the developers of technology - do our job, I think that slogan could well be written on computers.

    It's up to you and me. Do you want to build machines that kill fascism, or do you want to build Big Brother?

  • My guess is that #11 is at least partly a Rorshach test. I bet Mr. Stiegler doesn't have a "point" to #11, but wants to see what "points" people attribute to him.
  • "Your Rights Online" should be red ... 'cause by the time I'm finished reading one of those articles I'm usually seeing red anyway.
  • atleast half the questions posed aren't relevant to today's 'net.

    The course was called the Future of Computing. The point is to consider the effects of 'what is' now, on 'what may eventually be'.

    I don't think the point of any of the questions was practical applications. I think they were supposed to be theoretical... the questions were intended to make the students THINK. I got the impression that the course was intended to teach the students to think about causes and effects. They were supposed to learn about thinking, not learn about how to do a specific task. The point is that in the future, and now, they will be prepared to think about how to address problems and create solutions. That will be the practical skill... knowing how to think.
    ---

  • Question 11 is (I think) a web spin on a short story by John Brunner called "Who Steals My Purse." I'd ruin it if I went much further, but I think the situation is so close to the story it would be hard to believe that the author of the exam hadn't read it.

    Besides, Brunner is one of those authors, like Stephenson, who appeals greatly to the hacker in me. Brunner was predicting the internet in the mid Sixties. And a nomadic American populace, moving from job to job amazingly frequently. (The Shockwave Rider). Brunner was, in my opinion, more visionary than any other science fiction author, especially in the wisdom of his predictions.

  • by zantispam (78764) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @11:33AM (#1541417)
    Dude, you are so totally off-base.

    "however atleast half the questions posed aren't relevant to today's 'net."

    Ummm, one of the postulates of the exam is the 'net of the future.

    "Provided it did occur, there would be precious little time to spend making pleas on usenet or elsewhere."

    Ok. Let's think about this for a minute. Anyone dropping shiny boxes that talk and allow you to connect to the internet would (logically) be dropped by someone sympathetic to your plight. How hard would it be to make your home site the default homepage of the box? How tough would it be to build a GPS into the box? How about 512 bit encryption?

    Here's my take on the scenario:
    "The time has come to solve your problem in the most fundamental sense, and save the life of your daughter." So, you read the instructions (in Korean) and fire up the box. You are immediately connected via ssl to the homepage for Free Korea(tm). They ask for your first name and if you are in any danger. You reply (speaking, of course, since you are illiterate) that your daughter is sick and that your family is starving. This is translated via voice recognition software into plain text (Uniocode), encrypted, and sent along with your exact coordinates (remember the GPS?) to Free Korea's site. The data is correlated, flight plans are made, and the next day another aircraft flys over. This time, it drops c-rats (icky, but they will get you by), medicine for your daughter, and instructions to call back in ASAP. So you eat the first real food you've had in days and your daughter's coughing lessens enough for her to sleep. When you call back in, you are told that you will have to move someplace and to start packing.

    Meanwhile, back at Free Korea, your plight has been posted to the homepage in several languages along with stories from hundreds or thousands of other people. Free Korea, working with the G7 nations, have been putting pressure on North Korea to improve it's human rights practices; now they have hard evidence.

    So you wake up the next morning to the sound of the aircraft again and eagerly check the package left in it's wake. This time, it's maps of the area (topo and symbol), water purification tablets, more food, more medicine, instructions, and something even more important: hope. You learn that millions of people are aware of your situation and that the superpowers are working to help you (gee, I didn't know they cared ;-). The instructions direct you to some clear land close by; a refugee center with food, water, doctors, shelter, etc. By this time, you are too amazed by the help you have received to not go. Your daughter is actually up and moving around. The severity of the coughing has lessened and you feel ready to make this trip.

    I'll stop now, but that's the point of the excercize. I believe you failed for failing to read the directions...

    " It probably won't get an 'A', but atleast it'll get moderated up a point, maybe even two."

    That's not very funny.
  • ..."Identify which advanced features listed above are needed to solve each problem, and explain how those features would work together." implies to you that the answer should include why you would do the thing in the question.

    If he asked about the ethics of the actions, or how the use of these "advanced features" could affect society it might have been an interesting exam.

    BTW, don't be so hopelessly naive. People go to university to get a piece of paper that makes corporations believe they know something. It is a required first step onto the corporate ladder, and few people would go to university if degrees were not required (in many cases by law!) for most decent jobs. Learning to think critically and to learn are things you do on your own; IMHO, most technical people picked these things up before high school and take them for granted, while people who choose to take these flakey courses have no grasp of such things and only come to think they have them when they've learned to regurgitate the products of more fertile minds.
  • It's not the knowledge that helps. It's the communications. Thousands of people in touch with each other, possibly through OneList. Remember all those instructions on counterrevolutionary terrorist guerrilla tactics that are easily available on the Web? Yeah, those.

    Massive insurrection and violence in North Korea, followed by the emergence of a strong dictator, followed (after good-intentioned meddling from the West) by some cobbled-together, easily-botched democracy like any other developing nation. Years of brittle peace, the occasional coup, and struggling economies follow.

    Beats the hell out what's currently going on in North Korea, tho.

    And the little girl is probably toast, unless (duh) you feed her your own flesh and blood. You're probably not in the greatest of shapes yourself, but if she's dying, and you're still conscious and ambulatory, you could probably cut off a chunk of thigh or something. I mean, food is food. Not a lot of carbos in meat, but better than shoe leather, and it might keep her going until (facetious) WebVan [webvan.com] shows up with the delivery, or (serious) an airlift of food shows up.

    D'oh! Also forgot to mention that people in touch with portable secure communication thingees can effective pool food resources, hide them from soldiers (although the poor bastards are probably starving themselves, if they want to take it away from you they shouldn't have any), and distribute fairly. As has been mentioned before in this thread, famines are almost always distribution, rather than production, fuckups. Korea's nice farming land -- no reason other than horrifying mismanagement by the incredibly cretinous NK gov for the current terrible sitch.

    gomi
  • This "final exam" are questions that are answered indirectly in the SciFi book "EarthWeb", by Marc Steigler. Get it at amazon... it is a short and easy read.

    I have to assume that the author of the exam meant the book to be referenced, since it is linked from the main page of that site
    http://www.skyhunter.com/

    -Mitch
  • a) Using the "I'm going to be moderated down for this" has become a cheap way of getting moderating points. Putting that in a post seems to work as moral extortion to moderators who then moderate the post up instead.

    Now, so I don't get hit for being off-topic:

    b) Well, of course you are an evil person. You ARE living a life of luxury while other people are starving. You are spending money for entertainment that another would need to save their childrens lives.

    If you do not agree with this, I would say you have probably never lived in a third world country. Living among the starving, if secluded in a community of fellow evil rich people, permenantly jaded me from EVER thinking that I am not evil.

    Yes of course, your money and time is probably doing them bigger favours if you spend it on what you are really good at until you can really help, rather than if you just slave away so you can send them your minimum wage. But are you truely devoting your life towards this goal? Are you sure you don't waist some money and time sometimes? Go out drinking? See a movie? Have a night on the town?

    Can you honestly claim that you deserve such things while others are starving and than argue that you are not evil? I know I can't. I'm evil. I have walked over mothers with malnourished children, ignored hungry street-kids tugging at my shirt, and had employees who could hardly feed their families wait outside while I spent their monthly salary in a bar. I am the scum of the earth: and so are you, even if you do not live where you have to see what you are doing.

    c) I think you misunderstood the question. It was slightly populistic, but there was more to it then just an accusation. While a little food can feed you for a day: freedom can feed for you for a lifetime.

    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • 1) Searching for a decision analysis tool on the Web, you find a review in which the reviewer raves about a particular product. You buy the product and discover it just doesn't work. You desire to prevent this person's ravings from harming anyone else--and you desire to prevent the product from disappointing anyone else.

    First rule of the net. Never trust the word of any single unknown person. Do place some trust in the majority of several dozen opinions under the (usually correct) assumption that most people are not (a) loons or (b) marketroids for the product you're asking about.

    2) A product you buy based on a rave review opens your email address book, grabs your entire list of friends, sends itself to them, and sends your password files to a mysterious IP address. It's too late now, but which features would you install before ever touching your computer again?

    If you followed the answer to (1), you probably would not have been bitten. Also, never be the first to install any software (or version X.0 of anything). Plenty of others will happily volunteer themselves as guinea pigs and scream loudly if things run amok.

    3) A product is advertised on the Web. It sounds good, but the offerer has no Web reputation. What arrangement would you consider adequate to go ahead and procure the product (Note: there are several possible answers; give 2 entirely separate solutions, and that is considered answering 2 questions).

    It's the same question massaged over a bit. See (1) and (2) above.

    4) You start receiving thousands of emails from organizations you don't know, all hawking their wares. You want it to stop, just stop!

    Just have procmail route it to /dev/null or bounce it back to the sender. If you have no control over incoming mail, you're using the wrong ISP. Even better, set up your own domain on your own box on a DSL/cablemodem and stuff like this becomes ever so easy to deal with. Never tell spammers to stop spamming you. That just tells them your address is valid and read by a person which results in more spam.

    5) You wish to play poker with your friends. They live in Tampa Florida, you live in Kingman. This is illegal in the nation where you happen to be a citizen. You want to do it anyway.

    Look at the intent of the law. Gov't is worried about internet casinos and big $$$. Not you and a couple of buddies. You're not worth the effort, manpower, and $$$ to prosecute. Have a blast.

    6) You hear a joke that someone, somewhere, would probably find offensive. You wish to tell your precocious 17-year-old daughter, who is a student at Yale. The Common Decency Act Version 2 has just passed; it is a $100,000 offense to send such material electronically to a minor. You want to send it anyway--it is a very funny joke.

    Again, look at intent. CDA was built as a tool to stop the XXX hardcore pr0n sites and to catch the pedo-kiddie trollers on the 'net. Who's going to be upset and complain? Sender or recipient? Neither, right? Send the mail.

    7) Someone claiming to be you starts roaming the Web making wild claims. You want to make sure people know it isn't really you.

    This one is a bit harder to solve without some cooperation by others. (A) Complain to their abuse dept at the forger's site. Failing that (maybe he is his own domain), go one ISP level up. Repeat until solved or you get to the point where they say "we don't care". (B) Ignore him. He probably gets off upsetting you and laughs as you frantically chase his every newspost or whatever to discredit him. Ignore him and he'll get bored and move on to his next inane diversion. besides, who are you worrying about him confusing? Smart net people can easily recognize forgeries. They'll know it's not you.

    8) You have brought out a remarkable new product. There is a competing product making claims you know are false. You want to make sure anyone going to their site finds out your product is better.

    Others will solve your problem for you as in my answers to (1) and (2) above. Since you would be speaking from a position of self-bias, you cannot meaningfully join them in getting the truth out.

    9) Your elderly aunt sees a drug advertised on the Web that promises relief from arthritis. She dies shortly after starting to take the drug. You think the drug, and the company that made it, is at fault. Meanwhile the company is sure they didn't have anything to do with it. You want justice.

    Never buy version X.0 of software applies to drugs too. You should've made your aunt more suspicious of words from the net as in my answers to (1) and (2) above. Since it's now too late, you're stuck with your own doctor's autopsy findings and the legal system which may or may not help depending on where the 'net drug company is located. Good luck.

    10) You are the CEO of Bloomberg News, one of the most prestigious (and expensive) stock information services in the world. An article circulates on the Web, based on a mock-up of the Bloomberg News information page, claiming that PairGain Corp. will be acquired by ECI Telecom. PairGain stock rises 32% in 8 hours. Investigators later find that the false report was created by a PairGain employee about to cash in his options. You want to ensure that your brand is never used like this again.

    Put the facts up on your own home page right at the top. Reputable news media will check any circulating rumor with the source as will sane investors with their hard earned dollars. Loons buying based on rumor will weed themselves out of society soon enough.

    11) You live in North Korea. Three days ago the soldiers came to your tiny patch of farmland and took the few scraps of food they hadn't taken the week before. You have just boiled the last of your shoes and fed the softened leather to your 3-year-old child. She coughs, a sickly sound that cannot last much longer. Overhead you hear the drone of massive engines. You look into the sky, and thousands of tiny packages float down. You pick one up. It is made of plastic; you cannot feed it to your daughter. But the device talks to you, is solar powered, and teaches you how to use it to link to the Web. You have all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips; you can talk to thousands of others who share your desperate fate. The time has come to solve your problem in the most fundamental sense, and save the life of your daughter.

    This is not a question. But assuming you meant to ask, "What should you, as the North Korean person Do?", the answer is simple. Toss the gizmo aside and focus on what's important: taking care of your daughter. She comes first. Tell stories of your plight (this is what what the question implies the device should be used for, right?) only when there's time.

    --

    OK, maybe that wasn't so quick.

  • While I think pondering these issues is a nice way to waste an afternoon (or a nice way to panic during an exam), there's something that bugs me, and in my mind, makes the scope of the exam quite limited. Here's why:

    The consideration, here, is to see how perfectly implemented encryption technology can help better a society. This is clearly the point. I have to say I always took a dislike to exams which tried to coerce you to the teacher's side. I think it's obvious from the nature of the test that this man believes technology will defend human rights in the future.

    But...

    What this theoretical approach ignores is that technology's impact is always moderated by its inherent failures. A technology is never perfect, and you have to examine its potential failures as well to fully understand its impact in the future.

    A much better final exam would be:

    A new version of the Web springs to life with the following enhanced capabilities:

    Theoretically unforgeable psedonymous identities
    Bidirectional typed, filterable links
    Arbitrage agents
    Bonding agents
    Escrow agents
    Digital Cash
    Capability based Security with Strong Encryption

    Pick three of these technologies, and discuss the potential promises for enhanced privacy, and balance them with the possible threats for users. Contrast what is lost with what is gained. Are these technologies worthwhile? What are you criteria for this?



    "The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays."
  • OK, I understand pretty much everything on the exam except that. How would an agent to make arbitrage transactions (a buy followed immediately by a sell, or a sell followed immediately by a buy, used to play with rounding errors in currency exchanges) do anything for any of these questions?

    Is the professor using some definition of the term I'm not aware of (and apparently few outside the class are too)?

    ----
  • Once others with similar boxes found out you were doing well (because you can follow instrustions on basic survival and medical care, and they are lazy and want to eat to fruits of your labor)
    If they are lazy, they will find it easier to follow the instructions on survival/medical care/etcetera themselves rather tham steal what I've build based on the instructions - because I've also been reading up on martial arts and improvised weapons. B-)

    (I'm on two karate mailing lists, and the net has helped my training a lot. I just had a godan (fifth-degree black belt) fellow from South Africa, who I'd never met except over the net, stay at my place and teach at my dojo over the weekend. He's touring the Americas and keeping in touch with everyone - the folks at home and his hosts here - via e-mail.)

  • Agreed. In that same vein, I can use a pipe wrench to fix the leak that keeps my basement from flooding, or I can use it to bludgon your skull in ;-)

    "You have to do the research because you enjoy it--if you focus on the possible altruistic possibilities you set yourself up to be crushed by the petty and self-serving uses it will actually be put to."

    Hrmmm...or not. Look at medicine. Just about any medicine can be used to hurt, maim, or kill, just as it can be used to kill. Do understand that I'm not trying to compare what we do with technology with what a medical researcher would do; however, I feel that if I'm focused on a problem, then trying to be the objective researcer brings me no closer to my goal.

    I guess my point is that, pure objectivity notwithstanding, unless you have an underlying goal or purpose, the research that you do, though meaningfull, may not be as satisfying as it could be. If I'm doing research into encryption, I will be thinking about possible and probible uses/issues that revolve around individual privacy. I will not be thinking about political uses, nor will I be entirely objective.

    Just my $0.02 US
  • by Darth Yoshi (91228) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @11:50AM (#1541444)
    I think the choice of a starving mother and daughter was deliberately chosen to illustrate a point. These people are dying, they have no food, period. Giving them a webpad isn't going to change that (a couple pounds of rice and powered milk would be infinitely more useful).

    One way of looking at the question (and there are several (damn that's a good question)) is as a cautionary tale. The moral being something like, "sometimes technology isn't enough".

    Now, in a less dire situation, as you point out, a solar-powered webpad might be more useful. In question 11, as stated, it's useless.
  • You missed the point of Question 11 entirely. And I do mean, entirely.

    As I said, all the world's knowledge is at your fingertips. Not only that, but it's at the fingertips of everyone else in your situation, and you can communicate with all of them. The free exchange if information is the key to a popular uprising which would finally throw off the oppression mentioned earlier in the question.

    That test wasn't about helping others with technology. It was about showing that in the end, the key to justice is knowledge and the free exchange thereof. In the end, if you carry the question further, those devices would make a revolution possible, but the people would be the ones to carry it out. No foreign troops necessary.

    You don't get it. The question wasn't meant to make people feel guilty because they had technology. It's about showing them the greatest possible use of that technology: justice.
  • What I wanna know is - why do most of my answers for questions #1-10 generally point back to my answer to #1, with or without the added technologies mentioned in the exam? That, for me, (aside from the fact that most of the technologies mentioned already exist, but just aren't widely-deployed due to the clue barrier required) is the interesting thing about the quiz.

    1) Post your warning to things that get archived. State your claim. Invite debate on the issue. The truth will come out in either the debate or in the bogus reviewer's lack of willingness to debate.

    Canonical historical example: Co$ vs. The Net and similar memetic wars.

    2) I'd deinstall my network connection :) Seriously - a packet-sniffer and a logger, so that when I got reamed by the next piece of Real^H^H^H^HTrojanNetworkSoftware, I'd have the proof and could fight back with the mechanism outlined in #1).

    3a) Search publicly-available archives to see what other people thought about the offerer. Gauge relative clue of proponents vs. opponents on quality of their writing and argument, and watch out for astroturf campaigns. See #1.

    3b) If I really want it, go with a trustworthy (see 3a for defintion of "trustworthy") bonding or escrow agent. Interestingly, this is the only answer of mine so far that "requires" any of the new technologies described in the premises to the Final Exam.

    4) Story of my life. The unforgeable pseudonymous identities aren't needed, but simply make killing the spammers easier. MAPS, RBL, woo-hoo! Though I would like a law banning all unsolicited commercial email and allowing a private right of action in a dollar amount that would allow me to make a tidy sum off the spam campaign described in the exam.

    5) Play anyway over a secure link if I trust and have verified that the people with whom I'm playing are who they say they are and aren't working in an entrapment scheme. The odds of them working in an entrapment scheme for a game of poker are pretty slim, so I'd likely play.

    6) Wouldn't send it. If it appears on a screen, and someone's looking at the screen with my daughter, I'm out $100K. CDA-like acts chill free speech, and just like video and audio, the decrypted joke has to be displayed in a form viewable by humans at some point or another. (Unlike my poker game, the odds of there being someone politically-correct and uptight enough to charge me are pretty high at a university.)

    7) Second answer where unforgeable pseudonymous identities would make life easier. Nail 'em to the wall credibility-wise using the answer to question #1. Note that it's still pretty hard for an opponent to pull this off on today's 'net, even in the absence of unforgeable pseudonymous identities. Your NNTP-Posting-Host or other IP-related info, if you're coming from a dialup port or cable modem, are pretty hard to credibly forge unless your enemy happens to live in the same geographical area as you do.

    8) You can't. Deal with it and employ the techniques of #1 so that users using the techniques of #3 can get to the truth.

    9) You can't, unless you have the money to buy a landshark. The techniques of #1 may help with a little payback in PR losses for the company, but if you wanna blow 'em outa the water, you still need a lawyer to sue 'em for negligence.

    10) You can't. And #1 won't work either. Lusers will be stupid and not check URLs. Why do you think AOL password-phishers continue to con lusers into thinking that "AOL's billing department" needs their passwords and uses a hotmail.com address? You can, however, as CEO of Bloomberg, afford sufficient lawyermass to dust off and nuke the offenders from orbit. Do so, and mount their heads on pikes, pour encourager les autres.

    11a) Collect as many of the subversive devices as possible, smash them, and haul the carcasses in to your local political officer in exchange for food bounties. Feed daughter with proceeds.

    11b) Wait a few more years for your government to collapse. Unlike East Germany's government, which collapsed due to the close proximity of "people who had enough food that they envied the people with Levi's Jeans and Sony Walkmans", North Korea's government is collapsing without any help from the West.

    If there's not enough food for you and your family, eventually enough of your countrymen will die that the population will drop to the point where the survivors can eat. IF the North Korean leadership survives the depopulation phase, it'll take another 5-10 years between the end of the famine and the time when the people can keep an unsmashed device or two well-hidden and start envying the Walkman-wielding folks elsewhere, leading to an East-German-style final collapse of the government.

    Unfortunately, unless you also did 11a) to keep you fed in the interim, your daughter will still be dead. And perhaps you too.

    Until you can FTP food or learn to code, write, or play music while starving to death, you won't be able to trade anything in exchange for food drops, and even if you could, the food drops will be detectable and you'll likely be shot for receiving them.

    There will always be problems that cannot be solved solely in cyberspace, a fact which is, IMNSHO, profoundly worth knowing.

    (My only beef is, as I suspect many slashdotters would agree, that most of us already know this. I'd love to see a followup showing how the students of this class answered these questions, particularly #11. Did they "get it" over the duration of the course, or not?)

  • Heh heh, you sound like a Heinlein character. Remember the way the teacher spoke in Starship Troopers? I love it, you can't get deeper indoctrination than convincing people that you've derived "should" from "is." (logical notation my left buttock!)
  • as might I...

    I liked most of the questions, except for the last one. I get the point behind the question, I just think a better example could have been used...

    As I read the question all I could think of was this:
    1) for the cost to develop and build each of those boxes, how much FOOD could have been air dropped in its place?
    2) So the soldiers come in, beat you senseless, take your food, and yet leave you with a capability to connect to the internet? Unless the magic little box is truely wireless with its own nuclear battery, and web server you're outta luck. And wouldn't it just suck if the oppresive goverment could track its broadcasts?

    Look, I'm a practical person. The situation described in the question is highly impractical.

    Could someone please come up with a better way of phrasing the question?

    Maybe something like, "once again you see soldiers beating up the guy accross the street from you and taking his food... You have the ability to connect the web, how can you get the word out? (Bonus: do so without the opressive dictatorship deciding to beat you senseless too)" Same point, more believeable situation.

    In the mean time go to The Hunger Site [thehungersite.com] where by using the power of the current web, you can get food donated to starving kids around the world.


    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • "There are too many factors to even begin an analysis on the probability of any of these questions becoming an issue."

    Wow, I wish I could have used that as an excuse not to answer exam essays; Since you are unable to provide me with ratio of probablitity for these essay questions happening with the likelyhood of where the world will be in an unspecified amount of time n, I must respectfully decine to answer them.

    "Question 11 is particularily hard to determine
    because it assumes that an unnamed aircraft would be flying over a militaristic regime dropping computers. For what reason? Why would somebody do this, as opposed to dropping food? It's completely illogical!"


    Since when has logic played a key role in what happens in this world?

    "As such, I can't even begin to tell you the probability of such a thing happening - I can only tell you it never has happened before."

    Ok, one more time...THAT'S NOT THE QUESTION!

    "The probability of him successfully guessing anywhere even near where it really will be is remote.. "

    Number one, he doesn't have to guess acurately. This isn't the freakin' stock market. Number two, he is giving you a question to answer. Are you trying to say that unless someone can accurately predict the future they will not receive an answer to their question from you? If not, then please correct me. If so, then I think you've had enogh crack for one day.

    "As for myself - I have more useful things to do than go on vision quests."

    To which I say, Imagination is more important than intelligence -- Albert Einstien. There is someone who uses your vaunted scientific method, yet still has the capacity to say, `What if?'. That's the entore point of this exercize. What if?

  • So what you are saying is that you are not evil for watching people starve while you live in luxury, because you made the great sacrifice of not getting to fuck some hot college girls?

    I feel so sorry for you. I never said that sending all your money was the best thing do to (actually, I said that it wasn't) but that doesn't change the fact that neither of us is doing all we can to save these people. Every second and every cent that we spend indulging ourselves (be it on fucking hot college babes or otherwise) is murder. Plain and simple.

    I don't judge you for it, after all I'm every bit as bad: but don't tell me we are not evil.

    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@nOspam.infamous.net> on Thursday November 11, 1999 @12:49PM (#1541477) Homepage
    Unless the cause of the lack of food is something acute (a drought, a short-term political unrest), a food drop will be useless; they'll be hungry again a few days later. They need something that will changer their circumstances - they need tools. Knowledge is the most powerful tool. Of course, dropping some well-crafted farm implements, crop seeds, solar stills, and photovoltaic-powered water pumps (and depending on the circumstances, some small arms) along with the web terminals wouldn't hurt - but without the information to use these tools effectively, they're useless.

    It's the old saw about give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.

  • 1) Searching for a decision analysis tool on the Web, you find a review in which the reviewer raves about a particular product. You buy the product and discover it just doesn't work. You desire to prevent this person's ravings from harming anyone else--and you desire to prevent the product from disappointing anyone else.
    First rule of the net. Never trust the word of any single unknown person. Do place some trust in the majority of several dozen opinions underthe (usually correct) assumption that most people are not (a) loons or (b) marketroids for the product you're asking about.

    In the 1700's, it was the opnion of experts that bleeding you dry (of blood) was a good way to cure what ails you. Regardless of what ailed you.

    The correct answer to prevent this problem would have been either a bonding agent (performance bond) or an escrow agent and Digital Cash

    After the fact you use that Unforgable pseudonymous identity and Capability Based blah blah to publically announce your dissatisfaction with their product.

    2) A product you buy based on a rave review opens your email address book, grabs your entire list of friends, sends itself to them, and sends your password files to a mysterious IP address. It's too late now, but which features would you install before ever touching your computer again?

    Again, Capibility based Security. Someone has to be the first, and with proper security (far beyond what is in either NT or Unix) it doesn't matter.

    3) A product is advertised on the Web. It sounds good, but the offerer has no Web reputation. What arrangement would you consider adequate to go ahead and procure the product (Note: there are several possible answers; give 2 entirely separate solutions, and that is considered answering 2 questions).
    It's the same question massaged over a bit. See (1) and (2) above.

    No, it's a different question--go back and reread the instructions.

    In this case there are at least 2 different ways of doing things--both (of course) using digital cash. Either use a bonging agent for a performance bond, or a mix of Escrow agents with Capability Based Security.

    4) You start receiving thousands of emails from organizations you don't know, all hawking their wares. You want it to stop, just stop!
    Just have procmail route it to /dev/null or bounce it back to the sender. If you have no control over incoming mail, you're using the wrong ISP.
    Even better, set up your own domain on your own box on a DSL/cablemodem and stuff like this becomes ever so easy to deal with. Never tell spammers to stop spamming you. That just tells them your address is valid and read by a person which results in more spam.

    Of course it's easy to deal with, the QUESTION was what technology--HOWto deal with it. WHICH of the listed technologies would be best used to handle it.

    Which does procmail fit in?

    None--not as it is today.

    The answer--within the provided framework--is a mix of Capability Based Security and Bidirectional, typed....

    5) You wish to play poker with your friends. They live in Tampa Florida, you live in Kingman. This is illegal in the nation where you happen to be a citizen. You want to do it anyway.
    Look at the intent of the law. Gov't is worried about internet casinos and big $$$. Not you and a couple of buddies. You're not worth the effort, manpower, and $$$ to prosecute. Have a blast.

    It's obvious you can read, it's also obvious you either don't bother or can't comprehend what you just read. Read it again, especially the part about:
    you live in Kingman. This is illegal in the nation where you happen to be a citizen.

    Maybe where "you" lives (the country of kingman) the prohibition against gambling isn't revenue based, but rather that the Great God Of Us All has decreed that Thou Shalt Not Gamble, and the Government has set up monitors (software agents) to look for such behavior.

    Now how do you get around it?

    Digital Currency and Unforgeablepseudononymous identities

    6) You hear a joke that someone, somewhere, would probably find offensive. You wish to tell your precocious 17-year-old daughter, who is a student at Yale. The Common Decency Act Version 2 has just passed; it is a $100,000 offense to send such material electronically to a minor. You want to send it anyway--it is a very funny joke.
    Again, look at intent. CDA was built as a tool to stop the XXX hardcore pr0n sites and to catch the pedo-kiddie trollers on the 'net. Who's going to be upset and complain? Sender or recipient? Neither, right? Send the mail.

    Who's going to complain? Your daughters roommate, using her computer for a paper reads the email. The System Administrator of your daughters mail server, required by law to troll for CDA violations. The NSA when Echelon picks up your email, and they want an excuse to pressure you into revealing some information or spying on somone one.

    Strong encryption solves this problem.

    7) Someone claiming to be you starts roaming the Web making wild claims. You want to make sure people know it isn't really you.
    This one is a bit harder to solve without some cooperation by others.

    This is the easiest of all to solve--the tools already exist, and are already deployed. PGP.

    This is the "Unforgeable pseudonymous identity bit.

    The rest of your suggestions:

    (A) Complain to their abuse dept at the forger's site. Failing that (maybe he is his own domain), go one ISP level up. Repeat until solved or you get to the point where they say "we don't care". (B) Ignore him. He probably gets off upsetting you and laughs as you frantically chase his every newspost or whatever to discredit him. Ignore him and he'll get bored and move on to his next inane diversion. besides, who are you worrying about him confusing? Smart net people can easily recognize forgeries. They'll know it's not you.

    Assume that there is a site you can complain to. What if the "forger" is using the remailer network so there is no site for you to complain to? What if this person is making claims that could come back to haunt you (aka comments in alt.nambla or some such)?

    8, 9, and 10 can all be solved using a combination of arbitrage agents (for stock), escrow agents and bonding agents--the point of the test was to think in terms of existing/new technologies, not in terms of using authority and The Man to sort things out.

    As for 11, if you toss the device aside, both of you (you and your daughter) are dead. If you *use* the device to call for help, to "expose" what is happening to you, then you might get help (especially if you can use some of the other technologies on the list). Your daughter still might die, but you might be able to keep someone elses daugher from doing so.

  • There are answers to all of his questions without having to resort to his "wish list". He seems to be advocating a position that his New Net offers solutions that weren't available before. Sure you can construct new solutions to existing problems with the technologies provided but a more interesting question (that he doesn't ask) is why would a person use them?

    If a competitor makes false claims you can sue them for false advertising and take out ads of your own. Why would bidirectional, typed filterable links be preferable to that? Your elderly aunts dies; you file a product liability suit. Why would someone want a web version? Someone dilutes your trademark; you sue them to discourage others from doing the same. Why would digital fingerprinting be preferable? People are starving in North Korea. Why is sending them a computer better than sending them necessary farm implements?

    It's not just why one may or may not be better but why would he think that anyone would pick his high-tech ways?

    Those are far more interesting questions, in my mind.

    First off, his questions clearly show his Pollyanaish side. Instead of asking "I want to play poker with my friends but poker is illegal here" why not ask "I want to exchange child porn but it is illegal here"? Or perhaps, "My grandmother died and happened to be taking medicine at the same time. I don't think they had anything to do with one another but I want to cash in on it and get some quick money from the manufacturer." Or how about, "I want to lie about my product's capabilities and I want anyone who goes to my competitor's web site to know that my product is so much better and cheaper than theirs." The same technology can and will be used for both so why not admit it and move out of the Star Trek fantasy that it will only be used by the Good Guys for Good Reasons (tm)? The interaction between the possible uses would also be a more interesting question, IMHO.

    The questions he asks are kinda stupid because they invite either

    a) rote replies of "good answers" or
    b) amateurish "bad answers"

    Look at the net poker thing. How many people are going to just happen to know how to implement a crypto-system that not only guarantees your anonymity but the validity of the deal, lack of cheating, and enforcement of bets and debts?

    All you are doing is making people think that these are easily answered questions -- something you can answer five of in an hour. And then we wonder why so many crypto-systems are designed by amateurs and are so easy to break. It invites answers like, "oh you just have the agents sort it out" hiding non-trivial implementation problems.

    We already have lots of great thinkers in the world. The problem is that very few of them can actually practically implement their grand schemes.

    I don't want a three paragraph answer that isn't telling me how to avoid laws I don't agree with. I want solutions in the real world and the people who can solve them. Not a bunch of sound bite buzz word compliant "great thinkers".
  • It seems to me that the answer to question 11 is that you can use the device to have Free Speech among your fellow countrymen for the first time in your entire life. You also get to tell the outside world about the soldiers who keep robbing you. You can also arrange for drop shipments of arms without the thugs being able to intercept it.

    Or order "Chicken Soup For The Starving, Oppressed Peasant Soul" from Amazon.Com.

    More likely the device would be regarded with fear and loathing as some sort of trick by the regime, and be given wide berth or smashed, in the interests of preserving one's family.

    I think the answer to #11 is that technology doesn't mean shit until we understand what causes us as a species to engage in oppression and genocide...

    ======
    "Rex unto my cleeb, and thou shalt have everlasting blort." - Zorp 3:16

  • I think the answer to #11 is that technology doesn't mean shit until we understand what causes us as a species to engage in oppression and genocide...

    Yeah, right, as if it's just our species. Everything from bacteria to whales woould do (and have done) the same thing. I bet aliens from another planet would do it too. The answer isn't in biology, psychology, sociology, or religeon. It's just math -- game theory and optimization. When resources are finite, it is basically "good" strategy to advance your selfish interests at the expense of others -- unless they retaliate.

    What you ought to ask is not why we do it, but what we can do to stop it (assuming we want to).


    ---
  • >"Provided it did occur, there would be precious little time to spend making pleas on usenet or elsewhere."
    >
    >Ok. Let's think about this for a minute. Anyone dropping shiny boxes that talk and allow you to connect to the internet would (logically) be
    >dropped by someone sympathetic to your plight. How hard would it be to make your home site the default homepage of the box? How
    >tough would it be to build a GPS into the box? How about 512 bit encryption?

    The problem we have here is one of triage. That is, when you a crisis you have to know which victims can be helped & which cannot. To use an analogy, if you are a doctor in a town with a pandemic of plague (aka The Black Death), who do you give the antidote to first -- the healthy, the sick, or the dying?

    Giving these web devices to the desperate in North Korea is akin to giving the antidote to plague to the hopeless cases.

    I would expect that this farmer would trade this web device for food. Given this is North Korea, the chances anyone has food to trade with is slim or none, so this item is worthless -- actually it's less than worthless, because if the soldiers found it they'd kill this farmer.

    Remember: the peasants did not start the French Revolution because they'd been starving for years, they started it because they had a good harvest or two after starving for years, & were finally able to get their strength back & do something about the privation they had suffered.

    >" It probably won't get an 'A', but atleast it'll get moderated up a point, maybe even two."
    >
    >That's not very funny.

    I didn't think anyone was making a joke. No one gets a warm fuzzy feeling when she/he admits someone is about to die & there's not a thing that can be done about it.


    Geoff
  • by Magic Cookie (113704) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @02:56PM (#1541526)

    Let me adapt question 11 to something that I know is occurring today in the USA, and which is of grave concern to me.

    12) You live in Black Mesa, Arizona. For the last 25 years or so the US government and agents thereof, as well as the Hopi Tribal Council and its agents, have been destroying your way of life. You live in an arid land, and recently they capped your well. Then they came and took away all your livestock. The strip mine next to your home is filling the air with poisons, and the pristine aquifer under the sacred mountain is drained to carry coal to massive power plants. On February 1st 2000 they will permanently expel you from your sacred home. They want to move you to land polluted with uranium tailings. A person learns of your plight via the Internet. How does this person help?

    For more information see:

    http://www.magiccookie.com/activism/ black-mesa [magiccookie.com]
    http://www.theofficenet.com/~redorman/welcome.html [theofficenet.com]
    http://www.solcommunications.com/ [solcommunications.com]
    http://www.migrations.com [migrations.com]

    I can provide more information to assist in answering this question to those interested. (My home page is at http://www.magiccookie.com [magiccookie.com].)

  • by copito (1846)
    Communism doesn't kill people. People kill people. Humans have an innate tendency to obey and to act in groups, even if it violates their individual moral limits. If you want to read some objectively verified TRUTH, try Milgram's electric shock experiment [vt.edu]. In this experiment, the vast majority of normal individuals administered what they thought was a lethal electric shock (it wasn't) as punishment for incorrect answers in a psychological test.

    All you need is a perverse leader like Hitler or Stalin and an authoritarian society and lots of people die, the ideology doesn't matter much. A libertarian government is by definition not authoritarian, but I don't see how this could be persistant given the human tendency to follow blindly.
    --
  • Language is definitely a problem at this time; we can hope that 1) as the rest of the world gets online there will be more resources in other languages (if South Korea gets online, there wil be stuff for the North Korean peasant to read), and 2) automatic translation will improve.

    As for useful information for peasants, a few minutes with Google [google.com] produces:

    And, if the third world starts going online, you can expect a heck of a lot more discussion on these topics.
  • IMHO, slashdot is full of people who are bright but very egotistical. They give two minutes' thought to complex issues they don't know any background on, then post their views.

    There's a lot of garbage to sift because posters don't worry about being wrong.
  • Give a man/woman a fish and they will eat for a day.
    Teach them to fish, and they will eat for life.

    Give them a portal to an infinate pool of information throughout the world, and they just might be able to teach themselves something. :)
  • Seems that lately, too many people I know can't be bothered ... and admittedly, I was somewhat guilty of this myself when last I was in school. :(


    And I do wish that the petty bashing of other people's choice of whether or not to attend college and/or for how long and/or choice of major would just STOP. One of the best professors I had was my radio production prof, who was an adjunct with two years of undergrad work under his belt. I don't think I ever worked harder in a class in my life, or ever loved it as much. Sometimes it's better to learn from a guy who's been out in the field for 30 years than someone with the fancy pieces of paper on the wall.


    And of course: social science isn't just for people who "can't hack the hard stuff," science/math/comp-sci majors aren't all heartless and arrogant, an English or other classical liberal-arts type major isn't useless (my dad's got some interesting stats on that one that I don't recall right now), business majors aren't all there just to make a quick buck when they get out, etc. :P

  • The way things are right now, you can choose whether you want to have an anonymous identity or an unforgeable one.

    Want others to be sure it's you? Sign your message with your private PGP key, which is in turn signed by a mutually trusted party. To pretend to be you, someone would need to get your private key.

    Want to be completely anonymous? Send an email through a nice long mixmaster chain. Then only the first remailer in the chain has any way of possibly knowing where the message came from, and only the last has any way of knowing where the message is headed. And if you encrypt the original with the recipent's public key, only they can know what it says. And if you want a response, you can use a nym.

    The point is that both these things are possible already, but they are not in wide use, and a person has to go to some trouble to accomplish an unforgeable or anonymous identity.

    --
    grappler
  • The way things are right now, you can choose whether you want to have an anonymous identity or an unforgeable one.

    Want others to be sure it's you? Sign your message with your private PGP key, which is in turn signed by a mutually trusted party. To pretend to be you, someone would need to get your private key.

    Want to be completely anonymous? Send an email through a nice long mixmaster chain. Then only the first remailer in the chain has any way of possibly knowing where the message came from, and only the last has any way of knowing where the message is headed. And if you encrypt the original with the recipent's public key, only they can know what it says. And if you want a response, you can use a nym.

    The point is that both these things are possible already, but they are not in wide use, and a person has to go to some trouble to accomplish an unforgeable or anonymous identity.

    --
    grappler

  • I thought I would reply just to confirm that I read this sinse it was the only truely interesting responce.

    I don't believe in absolute good an evil, what people hold to be good and evil is up to them. But most of us would consider it evil to glutonize like we do in front of people whoom we watch starve, what hypocracy is it not to argue that we are not evil because we keep them out of sight?

    I am not arguing for putting a gun to anybody's head either. I believe in freedom over everything. I didn't write anything about forcing anybody, and I would never argue for it either.

    Your statement that my philosophy attacks the reasons for morals in the first place, you are completely right. That is exactly what I'm doing. I'm sick and tired of people putting themselves on a moral highground, or believing that they are without guilt because send $10 to the Red Cross every month. There is no moral reason not to murder, because though we are not seeing it, we commit murder every single second. As such the laws by which we build our society are pragmatic and pragmatic only, we should never claim that they represent any form of moral code.

    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • But if you can send an anonymous post... then how can I hold you accountable for lies you spread about my product?

    If every poster can be held accountable for their postings, what is to stop a tyrannical government from misusing the information to retaliate against me if I speak out against them?

    It still smells mutually exclusive to me.

    The really remarkable part seems to be that while the solutions do seem mutually exclusive, the United States constitution (as written, not as currently implemented) comes darn close to a complete solution.... closer then I would have thought possible.

    Bill "resisting the temptation to go into a pro 2nd ammemndment rant" Kilgallon
  • But if you can send an anonymous post... then how can I hold you accountable for lies you
    spread about my product?


    Well, obviously you can't. I don't see that as a big deal though, because if I take steps to make myself anonymous, I also lose the credibility that I would have if I had put my digital signature on it instead. If I go slandering you on usenet with anonymous messages, nobody (or nearly nobody) will care because I would just be some loser out there. I would rather see the option of anonymity stay than see a system designed to hold everybody accountable for their postings.

    --
    grappler

Premature optimization is the root of all evil. -- D.E. Knuth

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