Monday, September 26, 2011

The keyboard is mightier than the sword

The internet has become a great source of power to the common people. According to Clay Shirky, the power of social media allows people can express their opinions more freely and inhibits governments ability to control what their subjects believe. Today, however, the Syrian government showed that the governed aren't the only people who can use this new weapon. In order to gain sympathy for their cause, the Syrian electronic army temporarily defaced Harvard's homepage, replacing it with a picture of their president and a threatening message accusing the US of aiding in the rebellions against their government. The fact that the Syrians have an "electronic army" and that they used it to post a message on a university's site, shows that internet communication is no longer just for the oppressed rebels. It serves both sides.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New's that actually affects real people, Netflix is splitting

Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, just announced that he is planning to split Netflix in half. He will form a new company called "Quickster" which will handle all of the DVD by mail service so that Netflix can handle all of the online streaming. His hopes are that this will force his costumers to choose between the two (and more precisely, he's hoping they choose online streaming). Online streaming is the future of movie watching, and if Hastings wants to be successful, he'll have to operate his company accordingly. Personally, I hope that Netflix grows because I'd like to see more movies available on instant play. I'm bumming off my parents account, so I can only watch online (the DVD's get sent to their house in California). I'll be pretty upset however, if my parents switch over to Quickster and leave me with only YouTube for entertainment. Maybe I'll have to get off my rear and get my own account some day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The New Dr Watson

Last February, Watson (a 2,880 core IBM supercomputer) amazed the computing community as it defeated the two top human competitors in a game of Jeopardy! As impressive as this feat is, IBM has bigger goals in mind and could change the use of computers in scientific fields. Recently IBM announced that their next step is to apply the technology developed for Watson will be used to help doctors diagnose cancer. The interesting part is that Watson will learn how to recognize symptoms in much the same way that humans do: through experience. The question now is what this could mean for artificial intelligence in the future. Although Watson is still just a computer, it's almost eerie how human it seems. Could Watson lead to the development of rebellious computers that take control of humans like HAL? I personally think not. But am I as sure about that answer as I was a year ago? Definitely not.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Technology! Run for your lives!

We live in an era of rapid technological advancements, which, for many people, is frightening. It is true that new technologies affect our society and some of these effects are negative. However, it is important to remember that our generation did not invent technology. Technology is something which has been continually developing since the dawn of man, and it has always affected society for better or for worse. The invention of the wheel brought better transportation and car accidents; the invention of the internet brought improved information sharing and more addictions to pornography. Saying that the invention of the internet is bad for our society is like saying that the invention of the wheel was as well. In a driver's ed class, the instructor teaches the students how to avoid car accidents, but does not teach them that they should avoid cars. Likewise we need to understand the dangers that new technologies may present, but that does not mean that we need to shun technology as if it were some evil which comes to ruin our society.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The moment you have all waited for

I imagine that most people who know me (who I imagine to be most people (I'm very imaginative)) have spent a great deal of time thinking to themselves "self, why has Nathan's brilliant insights been shared with the whole world?" Well, you may now rest at ease because starting today, I will be declaring my thoughts to the world through the beautiful art of blogging and it will be the worlds own fault that they haven't read them.

I imagine that most people who know me well, don't believe this for a second and know that I'm probably only going to write a few blogs and realize that I'm not actually that brilliant and that the world doesn't really care for my ideas and then I'll quit. Well it turns out that I actually can't, at least not until the end of the semester because I'm actually required to keep this blog for my "Ethics and Computers in Society" class which ironically enough is called CS 404 (for those of you who don't understand what's funny about the number 404, go to

So since this is for my CS 404 class I will be required to make some posts on topics which may not appeal to the general non computer scientist public. I will, however, try to the utmost of my ability to keep them relatively interesting and entertaining. I will also make posts that are not required for the class which will hopefully be on more interesting topics. I will also post most or all of my facebook notes to this blog.  (I'll post them gradually over suspenseful intervals to keep you all on the edges of your seats).

So yeah. That's it I guess. Hope you enjoy, and if you don't pretend you do.