Thursday, March 25, 2010

US Government Long Overdue for Some Pruning

I don't know a whole lot about politics, but I've been rather concerned about how things have been going lately. For one thing, our government has gotten way too big and far too much in debt. Taking control of health care doesn't help either. In a simplistic view (Or, in other words, I'm too ignorant to the details), the reason we're in debt is because we're spending more money than we earn. A simplistic answer to this simplistic view is to:

1) Stop spending money on unnecessary things, and,
2) Cut out any programs that cost more than they earn.

Like a tree, the government has grown out of control and producing less-than-optimal fruit. The removing of limbs may be painful to the tree, and after pruning it way back it will take a while for it to start bearing fruit again. With a debt of several trillion dollars, the day it bears fruit may not be in any of our lifetimes. Slow, yes, but the government certainly hasn't fixed the problem by spending more money.

On a separate note, I believe this health care bill will make things even worse. The principles of economics say that when you greatly increase demand and decrease supply, costs go way up. I don't believe the government is exempt from economics.

Again, I'm not very versed when it comes to these things, so if I'm wrong, I'll readily admit that I am. But if I'm right, I fear that it might even be too late to change the direction we're headed.

Can't I Get a Little Respect? (CS 404)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Duality of Technology (CS 404)

Both God and Satan try to influence people to do good or to do evil. While the effects are obvious in people, their workings can also be seen in technology. For example, television, radio, and the World Wide Web provide truth and uplifting messages, but they also provide lies and vulgar media. As in times past, God inspires men to bring about good, but Satan comes along and inspires others to pervert what is good. But are we going to let that stop us from creating new technology? No! If we work to harness technology's power to spread the work of God, then we can strengthen ourselves in the battle between good and evil. Technology we can't even imagine is just over the horizon, and we need to be ready use it for the good of the world.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whacking the World with a Tenderizer (CS 404)

The World is Flat, the book I wasn't able to read, talks about the different forces that have flattened our world, bringing the world closer together. The process of this flattening makes me think of a tenderizer. Of all the the kitchen utensils, I find the it to be the most curious one: a spiked mallet used to whack the heck out of meat. This flattening is like a giant tenderizer being let loose upon the world, flattening it with every stroke.

Whoever is swinging that tenderizer right now is in a frenzy. Technology in the past few decades have not only greatly flatten the world but it's done it rapidly. Twenty years ago I didn't know what the Internet was, and yet today I can't meet someone who hasn't. The Internet alone has brought people closer together than anything else in the past, literally giving people access to the whole world without leaving their home. The accessibility itself drives people towards contributing to the Web, letting more and more people to share their ideas and works.

The flattening  hasn't been smooth though, as with each swing of the spiked mallet parts of the world get roughed up, leaving us with new challenges and questions to ask. How can we protect ourselves from hackers? How can we prevent pirating? Should the Internet be censored? Can technology go too far? Questions like these aren't easy to answer, and even if we can answer them, they'll just come back once things get roughed up again.

It's an exciting time with all this rapid change, but we'll have to work at smoothing out the bumps as we go along. In this flattening world, only one thing can be certain: the tenderizer will strike again.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A New Form of Tyranny (CS 404)

So after reading some articles about copyright laws I was thinking about something: why are the big companies making the laws? Big movie studios and record companies get upset about something that might cut their profits, so they start sueing people, which then lead to copyright laws being made. Who do these laws help? The big companies. Who do they hurt? Everyone else. Is it just me, or does this sound like tyranny? Wasn't the constitution set up to prevent something like this from happening? These copyright laws can, strangely enough, even hurt the authors themselves. Take Earthbound for example: it was a big hit when it was released, but I sadly never played it. Due to new copyright laws, Earthbound will never make a reappearence in the U.S, which means Nintendo can't sell it on the Wii's virtual console. And what about me? I'm a poor college student, so I'm defintely not going to fork over a hundred dollars, and the only other choice is a legally questionable ROM for ZSNES. Something doesn't seem right here, but as long as the big buisnesses stay in power, nothing will change.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Should We Let Computers Learn For Us?

I'm currently taking a machine learning class where I learn different algorithms to get a program to learn a task. I find it fascinating how you can give a program some data, and after training itself on that data, it would then be able to correctly determine the answer on an instance it hasn't seen before. But things like machine learning sometimes bring up the question, "Will we become dumber by having computers do everything?" In some of the small examples I've gone through in class, you can find the answer by hand faster than setting up a computer to do it. Computers aren't needed for small problems, but what about the big ones? An article about predicting threats in cybersecurity talks about Lockheed Martin "processing 1 million 'incidents' a day" to find high-risk activities in cybersecurity. The article doesn't say, but chances are they're using software that's similar to what I'm learning in class to find their answers. When it comes to looking at millions of data, machine learning software is indispensable, especially when the answers can help protect us. Yes, using a calculator to tell you the answer to 2 + 2 could make you dumber, but using technology to tell you the answer to something that would take weeks or months or to do by hand can only help us.