Ex Machina Podcast

Link to podcast by Matt Mckenzie and I… enjoy.

ZJL

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IMO©

Copyrights are the limited exclusive right to an idea granted to the enlightened being(s) who made the discovery. In the Constitution, copyrights are specifically related to authors of literary works (including artists such as musicians, vocalists, and broadcasters) and creators of innovative architectural design. There are many ethical, moral, and social implications of the existence of copyright. Ethically, copyrights help to ensure the benevolence of an idea, in the form of profit and credibility, is received by the rightful owner. In addition, copyrights hold accountable citizens who abuse the work of another for their own prosperity. Morally, a legal process for copyrighting information protects less powerful individuals with groundbreaking ideas from the exploitation of their innovative work by more powerful citizens and/or corporations. I believe powerful individuals in society, such as legislators, have a moral responsibility to guarantee security for individuals who develop profitable ideas. Socially, I believe copyrights have a slightly more complicated impact. In Thomas Jefferson’s message to Isaac McPherson, he expresses concern that categorizing ideas as property could stifle the benefits of natural spreading of ideas. On the other hand, copyrights naturally provide an incentive for inventors to invest time in the pursuit of new ideas which leads to the existence of more ideas worth spreading. I can understand Jefferson’s concern for the classification of ideas as property, but I see greater value in the incentives that can be derived from the existence of copyright. I can also suppress my similar concerns by reminding myself that copyrights provide a limited exclusive right to one’s ideas.

With respect to software, the battle between proprietary and open source licenses should be discussed. All software starts as ideas that are implemented by developers. The question is – should the original developer have exclusive rights to the idea which has now become a software product? I believe that proprietary licenses should be granted to a developer who wishes to claim his or her software. I think proprietary software licenses are beneficial in many cases. After my sophomore year of college, I worked at Cerner Corporation in the Healthcare IT industry. If Cerner’s software was not protected by proprietary licenses, then Cerner would certainly not be worth 18.32B and it’s biggest competitor, Epic Systems, would not be nearly as successful either. My experience leads me to believe proprietary licenses are certainly beneficial in certain instances, especially industries similar to healthcare IT. One could argue that proprietary healthcare IT products may be missing out on some of the bleeding edge innovation that can be derived from the open source community and this is a valid point. However, I would ask of that same person, do you really want bleeding edge software running on healthcare technologies that are often relied upon in mission critical, life or death scenarios? I certainly do not. The reliability of software that evolves relatively slowly in large corporations can exceed the benefits of rapidly evolving open source projects in many instances.

In contrast, I also believe open source licenses can be extremely beneficial in many cases. For instance, Blender is an open source 3D creation suite. blenderThe beauty of Blender is that individual artists and small teams which don’t possess the capital to invest in proprietary rendering software can use Blender to produce amazing works of art. Not only can artists utilize Blender’s existing features, they are able to modify the source code to create additional features that can then be added to future versions and the benefits will propagate even further. In addition, society in general can benefit from the impact of open source projects. There are many open source web development frameworks, such as Chartist.js, that are used by designers to create beautiful web UIs that consumers enjoy on a daily basis.

With regards to government use of open source projects, I think my general perspective applies – that is, it depends. For example, if I were military personnel I would not want to be relying on open source technology in the heat of battle. On the other hand, I may want to support and encourage the open source community working on innovative cybersecurity, encryption, and drone projects. Successful open source projects in these areas also have potentially negative implications because the enemy always has access to the source code as well. I am not well versed in government policy or adequately informed to comment on such matters, so I can only hope that sometime in the future governments can benefit from the innovative spirit of the open source community and the open source community can benefit from the support of governments.

ZJL

Think Different?

“Think Different” is one of those company slogans that may last forever… like McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ it”. However, this slogan used by Apple to market their unique products doesn’t necessarily reflect their internal structure. How can a company that promotes thinking differently employ 80% males in their tech positions? I’d like to discuss the issues women and minorities are facing in the technology industry and the impact a lack of diversity can have on the field of computer science.

I am a firm believer that early education is paramount for igniting interest in the field of computer science. I can attest to this idea because I do not think I would have chosen to major in computer engineering had I not been exposed to Java as a sophomore in high school. While efforts are being made, computer science is currently not a standard subject being taught in our public (or private) education system. Many of the schools that do teach computer science are in affluent districts which tends to favor specific demographics. Part of the reason is the weak supply of qualified computer science teachers. One way to diversify the tech industry is to expose younger children of all genders and ethnicities to qualified, passionate computer science teachers. The supply does not meet the demand right now, so it is up to us to make an effort to increase the supply or find other ways to expose a more diverse young audience.

In addition, learning computer science requires access to resources – expensive resources that many fortunate students take for granted. I think most people in the tech industry love what they do, using cutting edge technologies to create innovative software. In order to pass along this passion to a more diverse group, we must make an effort to increase the accessibility of tech resources. Whether that means creating public tech spaces for students to meet up and work on projects or raising funds to provide individual students with computers for programming… I am not sure. I do know that there are plenty of kids out there who could become talented programmers that do not have access to the resources necessary to learn about computer science. I have already began planning to volunteer as the leader of an after school computing club at my dad’s school (he is the principal of a junior high) next year. My goal is to bring together students who want to learn more about computers in a setting where they will have the resources necessary to create fun and exciting projects. Being aware of the diversity issue, I believe my dad’s school is a great place to experiment with a club because he has a diverse student body.

I also think the masculine stigma of the computer science field affects the amount of women. I was interested to read about the introduction of personal computers, and how the marketing strategies were aimed at males which essentially alienated 50% of our population. Growing up, the effects of this were very obvious to me. I often spent lunch hours discussing video games with my guy friends, but rarely around the ladies. Blabbering about your favorite video game or the success of your recent campaign definitely wasn’t the move when the cute girl you had a crush on showed up at the table. Back in the day, I thought nothing of it! Us guys would talk about our computer games and sports while the girls chatted about girl stuff. However, as a senior in college I have seen how this sociological phenomenon has affected my female peers. Bottom line, there aren’t that many girls studying that boy stuff we used to talk about out lunch. Even when I discuss my passion for computer science with my girlfriend, she often portrays me as her cute, nerdy boyfriend who likes computers. I believe the challenge of overcoming this sociological effect will be the greatest diversity obstacle the tech industry is going to face.

Some people will say – why does it even matter? I completely agree with Martin Fowler when he suggests that the lack of diversity in computer science poses a threat. Diverse groups of people often make the greatest teams and produce the most innovative ideas. This occurs because different people think differently. Individuals in a diverse group of people approach problems differently based upon their knowledge and experiences. If we can increase the diversity amongst computer scientists, than we will also increase the amount of problems that can be solved by the tech industry.

ZJL