November 21st

November 21st, 2016 - 3 Responses

I have never thought too much about the different personalities I present online verse in person. However, after today’s discussion, I’ve realized more and more how little these two entities match. I would never post on social media about my political or religious beliefs, nor about my love for reading or my multivariable calculus class. However, if you knew me, you would know these aspects of my life are absolutely integral to my identity. On the other hand, the things I do post on social media often tell a somewhat fabricated version of what my life is actually like. For instance, if you saw only the pictures on my Instagram from the Harvard-Yale game, you would think I was a football game and a large part of my college career was attending football games. Needless to say, this is far from the truth, and, like most Harvard students, Harvard-Yale is the only football game I’ll attend all year. Evidently, my online identity and my identity in real life are very different, yet, I would still consider myself an authentic person. This leads me to believe that most people have similar experiences and that online identities almost will never match the same identity as real life. The true effects of this “second identity” I don’t think are being fully realized yet and I think the youngest generation (ie younger than me) will feel the effects more in their lives as they grow older and lack one fully formed identity.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

November 14th

November 14th, 2016 - One Response

When I think of war, I think of people far, far away from me fighting with guns, planes, bombs, and drones that I write cards to on Veteran’s Day or around Christmas time saying “Thank you for your service.”  Needless to say, before today’s discussion, I would not have thought to consider cyber-attacks as acts of warfare, yet they very clearly are. Moreover, I think cyber-attacks may actually be more dangerous and harmful in today’s world to certain countries than actual war. Cyber-attacks are much harder to trace than regular warfare, which is what we deemed the attribution problem. How are we supposed to know if the Russian government is attack Ukrainian power plants or if there are some random Russian “patriots” who are doing it? I still can’t answer this question. I also still don’t know what Ukraine can really do to combat this other than get angry at Russia and tell them to find the so-called patriots. However, Russia can claim that are trying to find these patriots, but how is Ukraine supposed to know if they are really trying that hard? Ultimately, I see this as the perfect example of the many problems one runs into with cyber warfare when trying to combat it. No one rules the Internet, so no sole piece of legislation nor one state can govern it fully, thus creating the many problems with cyber security today. However, last week I wrote about my positive views of the lack of Internet governance, so now the question is whether I still support the lack of Internet governance after seeing the problems it creates with cyber security and attacks. Ultimately, I still am a fan of the lack of one main governor of the Internet. However, I do believe it would benefit society and the world if countries could come together and find a way to jointly punish Internet wrongdoers so as to combat the tricky situations they often get into with each other when it comes to cyber warfare. This would fall under the category of “rule and sanction” which I believe would work best in the global setting.

 

See you next week!

November 7th

November 7th, 2016 - One Response

Oh, government. It seems to be the only thing anyone can talk about these days. However, most people claim they just cannot wait for this election to be over since it has been such a mess and controversy. That being said, I was refreshed during our discussion today to hear about the lack of government involvement in the Internet. The idea that this large part of our society and lives has not been totally corrupted by our government is quite amazing. Of course, we’ve already talked about how easily the government could be watching everything we are doing while connected to the Internet which makes me uncomfortable, but I find comfort that the government has not taken over Internet regulation. The First Amendment allows us to read and write just about anything we want on the Internet, which reminds me just how lucky we are to live in the US where this freedom is genuinely protected. Despite the emotional roller coaster this election has been for me, tomorrow I will have a smile on my face, because today I was reminded that not everyone is granted the same freedoms and rights as we are and our election day should be a celebration regardless of the outcome. Over the summer, I spent two weeks in Cuba, where I realized just how large a part of my life the Internet because there was such so much extra time in my life when the Internet was no longer a part of it. Free wifi in Cuba does not exist. In fact, wifi costs about $2 an hour, which doesn’t sound like a lot, until I discovered the average monthly wage in Cuba is about $17-20, meaning only one hour of wifi is over one-tenth of a worker’s monthly salary. Basically, I was reminded today that the lack of Internet governance in the US is something to be largely celebrated, and can also remind us to stay positive in this tumultuous time, as there are many worse situations we could be in.

October 31st

November 1st, 2016 - One Response

Over the weekend I stumbled upon on article (on buzzfeed naturally) about an artificial intelligence system that has accurately predicted the last three presidential elections that is predicting Donald Trump will win the election on November 8th. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you would be able to guess how much this shocked and frightened me. The article did recognize that Clinton was ahead according to most polls, but apparently that is not what this system takes into account. Instead, this system looks at highest google searches, new stories, and other masses of data that can solely be found on the Internet rather than by talking to actual voters. If the system continues its trend of accuracy, I will be looking into moving to Canada. On a more serious note, I found it both pertinent and interesting that we could be relying on artificial intelligence to be predicting the election. In just over a week, the system’s accuracy will be put to a true test.

 

Moving on to the discussion we had today, I found everything David Eaves said about technology and government to be very interesting. Honestly, before reading the articles and listening to him speak today, I had never really thought about the lack of technology the government is implementing and how many everyday things could be bettered if the government was to make better use of technology. I specifically remember waiting on line for five hours to get a new social security card (my mom had lost mine) at the DMV, only to have to wait for another two hours to be able to take my driving permit test. Is that the maximum efficiency that the government can have? With today’s technology, people expect things instantly. Time literally is money, so what better way to make people happy than to save them time by putting more government activity on the Internet? Honestly, I think this is a question most politicians just haven’t been asking themselves or paying enough attention to. While the US Digitial Service is a step in the right direction, I agree with David Eaves in that there should be more of a push by government to implement effective, time-saving technology so that the customers (US Citizens) are happier with their products (the government). As also discussed, this is much easier said than done. I personally believe the problem with security is perhaps the hardest to overcome in this situation. While I don’t necessarily care if China hacks the US security database and discovers I have a dog, I do care if they find out what type of health condition I suffer from or any other more personal information that the government could store about me. Ultimately, in an ideal world, there is a way in which the government can put all its databases online and in one place, but that place would have to be very secure so that people can trust in the government while also saving time. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world, but hopefully we continue to make strides towards this goal in the US.

October 24th

October 24th, 2016 - 2 Responses

I think the discussion we had today was aptly timed due to the final countdown we are in to the General Election on November 8th, the scariest election in the history of the United States (in my personal opinion, of course). While a future with electronic voting is not how I foresee the Internet affecting politics in the near future, the Internet’s effect on the political system in other ways is obviously extremely prevalent. We spent an adequate amount of time discussing the potential effects of Facebook on voter’s opinions, which the article says could be about 1.43 percentage points according to the study done in 2012. 1.43 percentage points and the presidential history of the last twelve years would look much different than it does today. I’m not afraid to admit that this makes me uncomfortable. While obviously the advent of the Internet has affected many things in today’s society, its effect on politics is perhaps the most thought-provoking. It scares me because I’m unsure at what point in technological progress, the US Constitution will stop being able to govern the US. In history classes throughout my life, I’ve admired the Constitution and how the “necessary and proper clause” was so adequately placed by the Framers so that the Constitution would be able to endure progress and change in America. Thus far, the Constitution has proven itself worthy and it has remained as governing piece of writing for our country. However, as I left discussion today, I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer it can continue. We now don’t just live in different times than the Framers were writing the Constitution for, we live in radically different times. The Framers didn’t know that one day Facebook would have the power to potentially sway the votes of its 1 billion plus users.  Can the Internet and technology perhaps create the need for a new form of government? Honestly, with how this presidential election is unfolding, I’m unsure. I have started to lose faith in the system that I was taught to honor and participate in for the past 18 years of my life. So again I pose the question, is it time for something new?

 

I think the time for something new may prove itself if Donald Trump is elected. Obviously, I have opinions of my own, but I think everyone already knew this blog was extremely subjective anyway.

October 17th

October 17th, 2016 - One Response

Intelligence, as described by Google, is the ability to apply knowledge and skills. Is that all intelligence is? Or is intelligence a combination of seven distinct intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical), as Howard Gardner claims? Or should we define intelligence with the definition of artificial intelligence, which is the intelligence exhibited by machines? Ultimately, I think the question of the definition of intelligence was the question most seen during our discussion today. While I am sure that each person participating in the discussion today believes in their own personal intelligence, we couldn’t seem to come to an agreement regarding what intelligence truly is. My view of intelligence is most closely aligned with Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, meaning I think we all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to overall intelligence.

 

Now that there is an understanding regarding my own personal view on intelligence, I can begin a discussion on the Singularity. My understanding of the Singularity is that it is a point in artificial intelligence in which machines achieve an intelligence that is greater than that of humans, and there is no conclusion or consensus regarding what the effects and repercussions of the Singularity will be. I think the reason the Singularity sounds so frightening and obscure is the uncertainty associated with it. Humans don’t like uncertainty. We are creatures of routine who would prefer to know what tomorrow will hold in store for us. Of course, the world is not a place of certainty. Apparently, neither is artificial intelligence. The scariness of the Singularity is that no one is going to know when it is upon us. Perhaps, our technology is already surpassing the technology and it is too late to stop it. This is what scares us. There are theories regarding what will happen once the Singularity is eclipsed; however, they are just theories, of which very few agree. Will the human race become extinct, or will machines raise our moral standards and unite the world in peace and happiness? Sadly, I can’t answer that question, nor can anyone else, in my opinion.

 

Clearly, the Singularity poses some very difficult questions regarding what will happen in a world where machines are smarter than humans. However, there’s still another argument to ponder. Is the Singularity near on the horizon? Some say yes, some say it’s centuries away. My experience with artificial intelligence is limited, so I can’t claim to know whether or not the Singularity is near or not. However, I think computer intelligence achieving human intelligence is a more difficult concept than just computer power. Yes, in ten years a machine may be much more powerful than the human brain. My problem is that I don’t think more power equates to more intelligence. I find it difficult to believe a computer will be able to hold all the capacities of intelligence that a human has. For example, interpersonal intelligence has still not been figured out by scientists. Why do people fall in love? What is love? Do human beings have souls that exist beyond our bodies? I know these questions are more philosophical than scientific, but that’s my point. To what degree will computers be able to pose these philosophical questions. Would a computer be able to love? Have a soul? My instinct tells me no, a machine will never be able to love the same way a human being does. However, as seen time and time again, technology often supersedes what we believe is possible. Thirty years from now I may read this blog post and laugh about the idea of a machine having emotional intelligence, or I may laugh about the idea of a machine NOT having emotional intelligence. I won’t know until that day comes.

October 3rd

October 4th, 2016 - One Response

Fridge? Or is it frig? Or is it frog? I’m pretty sure the consensus was fridge, but maybe that’s just my opinion. In a room of Harvard freshman, we couldn’t decide. For me, this was the most jarring aspect of our discussion today. If some of the smartest minds of our generation couldn’t naturally spell a commonly used word, what other aspects of our minds were deteriorating due to the advent of conveniences such as autocorrect and GPS systems. Do maps on paper still exist (I mean, I know they do, but you get the point)? The real question is, will the human race and society as a whole suffer due to the advent of the so-called Internet of Things? Honestly, I think this question will not fully be answered for many years to come. Perhaps, the lack of a consensus on the spelling of the word fridge during our seminar today is an indicator of the unintended effects of technology on the human mind.

 

While it’s interesting to consider the effects the Internet and technology are having on the brains of the millennial generation, I also want to discuss the positive and negative effects of the Internet of Things. Personally, I would love the refrigerator in my house to make a shopping list for me so that I don’t need to search the fridge and decide what we need. Countless times I have arrived home with two dozen eggs only to discover there are already a dozen eggs “hiding” in the back of the refrigerator. This is a problem that the Internet of Things could potentially solve by using sensors in my fridge and simply telling me what my family needs more of and what we do not. Sounds great, right? Well, I forgot to mention that this information must be connected to a network. So, what’s the problem? As we learned, the Internet wasn’t created with cybersecurity in mind, so whatever information about my refrigerator is sent to the fridge company via the Internet is no longer solely my information. For all I know, I have a stalker who wants to know when I’m out of milk (unlikely, but anything’s possible). So now the question is if I’m willing to risk safety concerns for the convenience of having a fridge that will make a grocery list for me. Honestly, I’m probably okay with it simply because I don’t associate a high risk with another person knowing what is in my fridge at home. However, this is a major question of the Internet of Things, as well as the major trade-off.

 

Another great question we discussed was who is responsible for thinking about the moral and ethical standards of the machines that are currently being created. Is it the engineers who build the machines? Or is the people who use them that get to decide what their moral standards are before using them? Obviously, this is another controversial question because no one wants to take responsibility for creating a machine that may go against natural human moral standards. Personally, I’m not sure what my position is on this issue because I think we haven’t quite reached a point in technology that brings in truly difficult questions of morality (I could be wrong).

 

I’m looking forward to delving farther in to the larger, societal implications of the Internet of Things and more. See you in two weeks!

September 26th

September 26th, 2016 - One Response

Blockbuster, taxis, classified ads, cds: all these things, and many others, seem to be very different, yet, they share one glaring characteristic. Their success has significantly declined due to the advent of the Internet and its, perhaps excessive, use in today’s society. Blockbuster has been replaced by Netflix. In fact, one can even argue that television in general has been replaced by Netflix and other sites like it. Taxis are struggling due to lift-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Classified ads have been forgone for other means of communicating one’s needs over various Internet consumer sites. Moreover, print newspapers in general have been largely overrun by social media sites and online news sites. CDs are almost laughable as the music industry is largely run online through Apple music, Spotify, and other music apps. Evidently, the Internet is being used today in ways that the creators never could have foreseen or even dreamed about. Without a doubt, the Internet is influencing the economy and its structure more and more each day; however, the true question that welcomes many different opinions is if this is a good thing or not.

 

The answer to this question, like most other things in life, depends on your perspective. If I was an employee at Blockbuster ten years ago or a NYC taxi driver in 2015, I would most likely argue that the Internet’s effect on the economy is not positive because it is leading to my job being in jeopardy and other negative side effects in my own life. However, my friend Steph who managed to start a business selling decorated shoes via Instagram holds a very different opinion. Is there something wrong with me selling an old sweater for 20 dollars on Poshmark to a stranger in California who wants to buy it? Again, it depends who you ask. Obviously, it benefits me because I made 20 dollars just by going to the UPS store and mailing the sweater. However, Urban Outfitters does not benefit because they would have made 50 dollars off that same sweater if it was sold to the same stranger in one of their stores or from their online site. Evidently, this question of whether the Internet is improving or ruining our economy is dependent on one’s perspective.

 

Finally, I want to touch briefly on the idea of targeted ads. How does Facebook know that Anthropologie is my favorite store so they can put ads of Anthropologie sweaters all over my feed? Well, as previously mentioned, it’s probably linked to my online shopping habit. Duncan argues this is a good thing because I see ads about stuff I actually would want to buy, leading to both the consumer and producer to benefit. While that’s true, other stores that I may shop at other than Anthropologie do not benefit from this addition of targeted ads to my Facebook feed. This problem is similar to that of online newspapers, in which people may only read articles recommended to them, leading to the reading of articles all with only one side of the story or solely about one topic. Does this cause the general public to be less informed on important issues today? Ultimately, I don’t think we will see the full effects of these problems for a few more years, but I think it’s something interesting to keep in mind as I read my news articles online.

 

As you might have noticed, I really enjoyed this week’s seminar and the shift towards the effects of the Internet on modern-day life. I’m really excited to talk about other aspects of life that have been significantly changed and shaped by the addition of the Internet into our society.

September 19th

September 20th, 2016 - One Response

Who knew that if you entered in to a browser “http://52.87.32.185” you would arrive at the Harvard emergency phone numbers site? Well, maybe Professor Waldo and Dean Smith already knew that, but I definitely did not. I’ve never thought about the meaning behind the words and characters I enter into my address bar in order to arrive at the site I’m looking for. However, now realizing I can enter four numbers that mean exactly the same thing, I recognize there’s much more to the process than my typing. There’s a whole name system that has many more parts and more meaning than I ever imagined. This realization made me think about how many other technological nuances I know nothing about. There are so many pieces of technology that I use every day, for more hours a day than I would like to admit, that I have absolutely no idea regarding the background of how they function. However, now I know that much more about the creation of the Internet and (some) of its inner-workings.

While IP addresses were an interesting part of today’s discussion, I was also intrigued by the introduction of the “gateway” to link networks together, thus leading to the creation of the Internet (with a capital I). I know feel as though I can fully appreciate the importance of the ARPAnet’s creation because that is what led to the need for gateways and the connection of many networks together, allowing the final product of a fully globally connected Internet to come about.

Finally, I’m very excited to be moving on to the implications of the Internet and technology in different aspects of the world we live in today. Beyond just the Internet which was perhaps the first major technological innovation that led us to the so-called “technological age” of today, there are so many other forms of technology that we can discuss that have growing impacts on our society. Using an example from today, will self-driving cars ever become fully reliable and safe? If so, that would be great, because I hate driving. However, this question and many others I’m hoping to discuss in future sessions.

September 12th

September 13th, 2016 - One Response

As I did the reading for this week’s seminar, I remember thinking over and over again, “wow, this was the first time this controversy that is so prevalent today occurred.” Basically, the very first users of the Internet ran into the same controversies that exist today very quickly. From discovering the importance of immediate communication with someone across the country (or today the world) to realizing the varying opinions regarding what internet “privacy” may mean, the initial creators and users of the Internet helped to create, but also fuel, the many problems and questions surrounding the Internet today.

 

Perhaps the most notable example I found of this was the so-called “flaming” that occurred on the message groups. In my opinion, one equivalent today would be cyberbullying. I think cyberbullying is so rampant because people are so much more willing to say and do things over the Internet than they are in person. Naturally, this is even more common amongst teenagers who often don’t think before typing, sending, posting, etc. I’m not sure about other states, but New York has laws against cyberbullying because it poses such a large problem in today’s society. I found it extremely interesting that arguments and nasty comments started on the Internet in its very first days. I think this shows, without even doing a psychology experiment, the natural human tendency to be more open while behind a screen than one would ever be in person.

 

Another concept that struck my mind during our session today was how the very first goal of the ARPAnet was to log in to a remote computer. Today, my dad uses this function just about every day with gotomypc.com. When he first discovered what now seems to me to be an old tool, he was able to spend more time at home and less at his office. This was truly life-altering for both him and my family in general. I always thought it was so novel how he could be at home but working as if he was logged on to his computer at work; however, I know realize this was something that was done (obviously not to the same degree) very long ago with much less advanced technology. Either way, I’m glad we have it.

 

Finally, I brought up today how many degrees of separation would exist on the internet. However, this is more applicable to social media sites. During my sophomore year of high school I discovered that the degrees of separation on twitter were about 4.2 (this may have changed since then). Today, I found that there is an average of 3.5 degrees of separation between the 1.59 billion Facebook users. Obviously, both these numbers are less than the six degrees of separation that exist between people in real life. I find this interesting because it’s just another way in which the whole world and people everywhere would be so much less connected without the Internet.

 

I’m looking forward to go past the historical basis of our analysis of the Internet and start looking more at its huge effects on the lives we all lead today, as well as the effects the Internet will continue to have in our future.