Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Two Faces of the Internet

The Internet is a tool that has limitless potential. It can help us find the most obscure information that would be hard to obtain through any other medium. Not only is the Internet like a great pool of knowledge that billions of people can access, it is also a great network of collaboration and sociality. I can find people anywhere in the world that share my beliefs, and form social networks with them. In fact, I even attribute the Internet to helping me find my wife and getting to know her better. A friend had introduced me to her, and her being from Chile meant that the Internet was the best way we had to communicate. It was sure a lot cheaper than calling long distance. We even had regular video conferences, all for basically free. This had helped us to learn more about each other, but we could not rely on the Internet for everything. I ended up travelling down to Chile twice so that we could get to know each other in person better. Because of my experience I see the Internet as giving us more opportunities to do more than we had ever thought possible, but yet I understand that the Internet does not give us the solution to all our problems, or replace other social aspects that are important in our lives. And we always need to be aware of the equally bad potential that the Internet has.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Limitless Possibility in a Flattened World

We certainly live in an age when our wildest dreams can be realized. With so many emerging technologies driving down costs to unheard-of levels, everybody possesses the opportunity to be the next innovator of a great idea. The available resources have increased exponentially just in the last few years, and not just for a select few. Billions of people are capable of sharing information at light speeds. Bandwidth is so plentiful that we have to invent ways on how to utilize it all. Videoconferencing is quickly becoming the norm. And yet one wonders if the quality of life is any better. In India it has improved through more opportunities to do the work that we Americans want to pawn off. In a way that helps us too, since it lets us focus on the bigger problems, and the work that is more interesting. But there are always those that prefer the menial tasks that are easily outsourced. Those that lack desires to change will suffer the most as work will be harder to come across. But those that keep a positive attitude and are willing to learn, change, and grow will survive in this crazy world. The competition can be fierce seeking to come up with the next get-rich-quick scheme. However, when we work together instead of competing we can get so much more done and feel more fulfilled. Being the next billionaire would be cool, but not very likely when the principal issue is who will be the fastest in implementing his or her novel idea. Teamwork, though, benefits everyone and allows everyone to participate in a useful way.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Finding the Limits of Security without Going Overboard

In one of my previous posts, I talked about the consequences of China hacking into Google’s system. Now it appears that U.S. laws helped aid the Chinese hackers. To comply with the law, Google had created a backdoor access system, making it easier for hackers to gain access. This can be good in allowing more government search warrants to capture criminals. However, like any system, it can be abused. With more and more laws being passed that allow the regulation of the Internet, there are more possibilities of exploitation, whether internal or external. Government officials can take advantage by spying on average citizens who are not criminals. And as we have already seen, foreign governments can also break into these systems. Security is necessary to stop criminals, but too much security imposes a burden on all of us when we realize that anyone could be spying on us. If we are not careful in electing our leaders, little by little our rights will be taken away, and our society could end up like the one described in George Orwell’s 1984.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Internet’s Conundrum

In the ideal world we would not have to worry about hackers hacking into our networks and computers. However, that is an impossible dream. There are countless stories these days of some company’s system being broken into. Life would be so much easier if we could just set up our networks and trust that nobody would try to do anything harmful to us. But there are people with ulterior motives, just as there exists good and evil. So when we try to open up our computer networks and then get a computer virus or Trojan horse we realize we have to be more protective of our networks to keep bad things out. On a larger scale this might produce more secure networks, but can also stifle growth and opportunity. For example an administrator might want to limit which ports are accessible to the internet, but this could also limit which programs can communicate. Therefore there needs to be a certain level of trust built into our networks if we want more freedom. Otherwise the system becomes chaos and anyone can do what they want at anytime.
The Internet brings us many great services, but at the same time many dangers. If we let our guard down and trust too much in what we see in web sites our faith in what is really correct will dwindle. With great power comes great responsibility.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Family History: Finding the Time

This topic is very personal to me. Although I know I should do my family history, I also find many excuses why not to do it. These include many things: being a student, not taking advantage of the opportunities I have, and trying to rush things. I do not have much experience with trying to do family history, and I thought that I needed to understand the process more in able to be more effective. Otherwise I would be wasting precious time. In my narrow vision of graduating from college, I have felt that I do not have enough time to do family history, and that it is something I would do at a later stage of my life. Also, part of my family history has already been done, and so it is hard to know where to start. Some of my extended family members have been working on it, so jumping in would require extra collaboration. This barrier has also kept me from working on my family history, since as a student I am more focused on getting school done. However, through all of my experiences I have realized that I am the problem, and that my vision has been too narrow. I could put the blame on many things, but instead I will rely more on the Lord to help me recognize and overcome my mistakes and weaknesses and to recognize that this work involves all of us, even those that have gone on before us.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Technology is not Perfect Yet

This last Friday there was a ‘Hope for Haiti’ telethon given on Friday to raise money for Haitian victims. However, there seemed to be some technical failures. Many people were not able to donate, by phone or the Internet. It seems that in our day technology has advanced so far that anything seems imaginable. We can have a video conference with anyone on the planet at any given time. But technology still is not perfect, and never will be. There are so many nuances, which means that there are more places to make mistakes. This is similar to what makes software engineering so hard. There are so many pieces that make up a telephone network that some might think that it’s a miracle that it works at all. But with complicated systems come problems as well. In the near future, even as technology improves, there will always be some problems. There is no way to guarantee that our complicated systems will work 100% of the time, despite our best efforts.