CPSC 430 – June 30, 2010

I’m currently taking CPSC 430 and one of the requirements is to keep a journal throughout the term. I will be blogging here my class notes, thoughts, and links as they come up that are relevant to the course material. Also, see the other posts in the CPSC 430 category.

Class Notes for today:

  • Kantianism – duty to respect others as rational beings
  • Utilitarianism – consequences
  • Social contract – collective rights
  • Can mix duties, rights, consequences when evaluating
  • Bayesian filters – similarity
    • Can detect “huge profits” ~ “massive profits”
    • Synonyms
  • Grey listing – send “please send later” to spammer.
    • Disadvantages for spammer – resource constraints to remember who to resend to
      • Time to get tracked down in between sending many mail
  • SPF – Sender Policy Framework – Sender ID
  • DKIM – DomainKeys Identified Mail
  • SPF and DKIM checks authenticity of sender
  • SPF/DKIM trust on domain name (costs $ to register)
    • Layered on top of DNS
  • SPF record checked by receiver whether to block or not
    • Sending is still unrestricted
  • Honey pots – e.g., Gmail “+blah” disposable email addresses
    • Mechanisms for detecting examples of spam

CPSC 430 – June 28, 2010

I’m currently taking CPSC 430 and one of the requirements is to keep a journal throughout the term. I will be blogging here my class notes, thoughts, and links as they come up that are relevant to the course material. Also, see the other posts in the CPSC 430 category.

Today we covered more of the ethical theories we started last week.  This unit is all about adapting ancient lines of thought with our new technology.

  • Ethical Egoism ~ Alan Greenspan ~ Ayn Rand
    • E.g., acting to maximize own profit
    • Ref – Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene
      • Altruistic behavior
      • E.g., monkey screams to get predator’s attention while others escape – acting to save its own genes
  • Kantianism
    • Good will is the desire to do the right thing
    • Good will is the only thing in the world that is good w/o qualification
    • Categorical Imperative – Kant’s rule to analyze situations
      • 1st – e.g., if we grant 1 exception, must grant all exceptions -> may not turn out good so might not grant the first exception
      • 2nd – don’t use others
    • Workable ethical theory – objectively creates common ground and agreement
  • Utilitarianism
    • Statistics on utility – happiness
    • Morality has nothing to do with an intent
    • Focuses on consequences
    • ACT – single act (sum of effects greater than 0 -> good)
    • RULE – policies
    • Measuring happiness may not be the best measure
    • Cannot be predicted – must execute first to measure happiness afterwards
  • Social Contract Theory – “rights”
    • Negative – left alone
    • Positive – given to you
    • Absolute – guaranteed
    • Limited – circumstantial
TheoryMotivationCriteriaFocus
KantianismDutifulnessRulesIndividual
Act UtilitarianismConsequenceActionsGroup
Rule UtilitarianismConsequence/DutyRulesGroup
Social ContractRightsRulesIndividual

CPSC 430 – June 25, 2010

I’m currently taking CPSC 430 and one of the requirements is to keep a journal throughout the term.  I will be blogging here my class notes, thoughts, and links as they come up that are relevant to the course material.

CPSC 430 entitled “Computers and Society” isn’t a typical computer science course which involves programming or mathematics.  In fact, I don’t think there is any programming involved at all.  It resembles a TOK class I had in high school in the way that theories and controversial ideas are brought up and discussed and debated.

The course description from the course site is as follows:

Some days we seem to forget that we run the computers, and not the other way around. We write the programs, we run the programs. Yet somehow there is a general sense in society that we are all held prisoner to the perpetual march of the computers. That technology has us at its disposal, and it will take us where it wants to go; that we are powerless to stop it. Is that really how we want our relationship with computers to be?

It is our responsibility, particularly as computer scientists, to think about this very question. Computers have brought many wonderful things to society; they have also brought many horrible things, or at least made it far easier to do some horrible things. Does the good outweigh the bad? Does it matter? Some people paint grim visions of the future in which computers invariably rule. But the reality is, we’re still on the other side of the power button– how can we ensure a lasting, beneficial relationship between computers and society? That’s what we’re here to explore. Hopefully, over the course of this semester, you’ll encounter some really tough questions that truly challenge you think about what you think is right. Through addressing these issues, we also hope you will come away with a deeper respect and admiration not only for the computer and the society in which it resides, but for the computer scientist, too.

One of the first things that was brought up in the lectures was the ACM Code of Ethics.  Other disciplines such as medicine and engineering have their own code of ethics too, but the ACM Code of Ethics sticks out.  There doesn’t seem to be a way to enforce this over all computer scientists, only over the ACM members.  This contrasts from the other disciplines where members must join in order to have the credentials to work, and violating the code of ethics would mean having their membership revoked, and essentially no license to work.  Personally I have never known of the ACM Code of Ethics until this course.

Towards the end of the first week we were introduced to many ethical theories, some of which were not workable in the sense that they cannot uphold reasonable arguments.  These included subjective relativism, cultural relativism, and divine command theory.

Cheerios and Lectures Don’t Mix

So I was in my economics lecture peacefully taking notes on an interesting lecture about oligopoly by Professor Gateman as some “delinquent” (as Gateman calls them) walks in late and finds a friend who happened to be sitting on one of the seats on my row and settles down beside the friend.  The latecomer is offered Cheerios from the friend and proceeds to munch and crunch on a small box of the cereal for the next half hour, not noticing how loud the crunching sound really was, not noticing how the other student sitting on the other side was covering his ear, not noticing a student a couple rows down looking up trying to figure out where that crunching was coming from.  Really, I wouldn’t mind if the consumption of the food does not produce sound, but *crunch* *crunch* *crunch* continuously during a lecture just annoys me.