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The Future of Computing

michael posted more than 14 years ago | from the am-I-young-enough-to-see-this-world? dept.

The Internet 281

This link came my way a few days ago; it is titled simply Final Exam. And I warn readers that visiting it could easily suck up the next half hour of your life in unproductive thought, and quite possibly more. It was written by a science fiction writer, and the point of reading it isn't the answers, but the questions and the predicates they are founded upon. Will we see this world? Why or why not?

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Wow!!! (1)

GaspodeTheWonderDog (40464) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541319)

I'm sort of upset I never got questions like that in college.

I particularly like 5, 6 and 7...

Really though... how do you make people realize it isn't you?

Fantastic (2)

Ratface (21117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541320)

... The title says it all!

Thank you Slashdot - I'll be making sure everyone on my mailing list gets to see this.

And personally, I will be taking some time out to think some of those points through more deeply.

What a great link.

Is it me, or did this section just change color? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541321)

yes i know it's off topic, but hey, this is a big deal. no more green!

Marc is a smart guy (1)

Thanatos (15980) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541322)

I've actually met Marc Steigler, and had dinner with him, and worked on his computers.. He's a smart guy, with a lot of great ideas.. He also writes some decent sci-fi, and I've seen his latest book, earthweb, I think it's called, at all the bookstores.. check it out..

I agree. The green is ugly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541323)

It's not just You. (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541324)

There's an unusually high amount of brown here now.

LK

This was lame (0)

wiggles (30088) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541325)

I don't know about everyone else, but I thought this was pretty lame. I thought the questions totally uninteresting and not thought provoking in the slightest. IMHO, this didn't need to be posted. But that's just me. Feel free to moderate me down now!

Taco... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541326)

Taco, you broke slashdot again!

Ouch i failed (1)

h1cks (104556) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541327)

Tough questions that innovators of the web will have to answer and quickly. It seems ironically enough the thing which makes the web what it is, and that is no goverment restrictions, is also the thing which threatens to destroy it(with warez manufactures, spammers, virus writers hiding behind polictical boundries ie. china and russia) What is to be done?

Perspectives (1)

stienman (51024) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541328)

It really puts a few things into perspective.

-Adam

This sig goes live 11-NOV-99. Stay Tuned!

It's like "Ask Slashdot" (1)

Lupus Rufus (11262) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541329)

A different color for different themed sections

[Offtopic!!] Brown (0)

twilight30 (84644) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541330)

So who decided that feces was a good shade to imitate?

Oh, I'm going to get a -1 flamebait for this.. (3)

Pyr (18277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541331)

Frankly, I have to say I'm tired of hearing things like this. Yes, there is hunger, war, and other problems in the world, and yes, we should try to do something about it. However, don't be insinuating that I'm an evil person because I'm not devoting my life to helping that starving peasant in Korea and instead I'm helping to move technology forward. It's a logical fallacy to be saying that because there are bigger problems in the world we shouldn't be trying to fix the smaller ones. Like the animal rights activist who is accused of not caring about people because she's trying to prevent cruelty to animals.

I'm sorry, I guess this test doesn't seem as "deep" to me.. it's main purpose is to try to make those of us who use technology feel guilty /because/ we use technology.

Answer to #11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541332)

Collect as many of the little boxen a possible, then Hock 'em on eBay Dutch style... you can even use a couple to self bid and bump up the price...

Not the most ethical of professors... (3)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541333)

Hmmm... If you write answers supporting my political agenda, you pass the course.

Geez, I would have gone berzerk if one of my professors tried to force his views down my throat in this manner.

Not that I don't agree that new laws aren't the answer...

Re:Oh, I'm going to get a -1 flamebait for this.. (2)

portnoy (16520) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541334)

I disagree. Just because you interpreted one question as designed to make you feel guilty, doesn't mean that that's the main purpose of the test. Frankly, I found it interesting, since the entire list of questions all follow the pattern of stating a basic human desire, and asking how technology can fulfill it. The idea of question 11 is to take some of the most basic human desires of all, and ask whether information technology could help at all.

Link question 11 to China Makes Linux Official OS (3)

Non-Newtonian Fluid (16797) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541335)

I find these extremely interesting questions, especially the last one. It reminds me of the Linux to be Official OS of People's Republic of China [slashdot.org] story. Granted, China is not quite as repressive as North Korea, but I think there's a connection to these two stories posted here on Slashdot, as well as the "Father of the Web" [zdnet.com] story being posted on ZDNet. That story basically details Tim Berners-Lee unhappiness with the Web being "merely" a place to access information, rather than sharing ideas.

My point is this: Both question 11 on the Final Exam and the Berners-Lee story point to the capacity for the Web/Internet/Computers to be more than just tools to shop online, download porn, or even really cool things like collaborate on amazing Open Source projects like Linux itself. I say more important because, in conjuction with the (sometimes disparate) philosophies of Open Source / Free Software, we as a community have the chance to really make a difference by applying these philosophies outside not only the domain of software, but also outside the world of business itself. As both a Linux geek and a scholar of things Chinese (BA in Chinese, extensive study of PRC politics, modern and ancient history, and ancient philosophy), it is exciting to think that we just barely might be able to influence on a wide scale an authoritarian regieme through the application of thoughts and ideals that we use to write our software. Gives the phrase "World Domination" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

So does this make any sense, or am I just rambling?

What exactly was I supposed to find interesting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541336)

I read over this and didn't find anything that was particullary interesting. The majority of those questions are non-issues. Trying to figure out which technology was most usefull for one task or the other? Maybe its just me, but that seems rather trite. I guess you can score me as flamebait now.

Attempt at reverse psychology? (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541337)

Write a contentless post, challenge downwards moderation, then wait for the moderators to fall over each other in their attempt to prove their willingness to support individual (if uninteresting and unsubstantiated) opinion?

Re:Is it me, or did this section just change color (1)

Capt Dan (70955) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541338)

the brown is nice, but the split pea/squash/puke green has got to go...


"You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
"It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein

More precisely (2)

Lupus Rufus (11262) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541339)

Normal Slashdot: Green
Ask Slashdot: Grey
Radio: Black
BSD: Red
Your Rights Online: Brown
Apache: Purple

Kinda weird if you ask me, but CmdrTaco ain't askin' me

very interesting (2)

Forward The Light Br (21092) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541340)

contrary to a fellow who just posted, I thought the questions modeled good case studies for how secure communications should be done (iow if the newer protocols being created now, IMPP, FTP-ext, HTTPs next version, etc do not solve these case, they should be reworked until they do)

Honestly, most of the answers I came up with involve things I do not think get listed in the new "enhanced" web, but it could just be a definitions issue, what the hellis a bonding agent? arbitrage in this context I am also not clear on... agents to _prevent_ arbitrage maybe?
(arbitrage from www.m-w.com : the nearly simultaneous purchase and sale of securities or foreign exchange in different markets in order to profit from price discrepancies)

nonetheless, the examples were good, what was the "answer" to #11 "... The time has come to solve your problem in the most fundamental sense, and save the life of your daughter."?

are they talking about the web being an agent for political change (every publishing medium at some point has toppled ruthless dictators)?

Anyway, this exam gives me new respect for those liberal-arts-in-the-CS-dept classes...

-RS
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars --Oscar Wilde

Re:Oh, I'm going to get a -1 flamebait for this.. (2)

schporto (20516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541341)

No we should keep fixing the little problems too. I think his point was slightly different then what you read. It seems this was the final for a class on the internet. And imagine it being put in front of all those people claiming the internet is the saviour. People really think that. There are people who honestly believe that the internet will solve all the problems in the world. And if you start listening too the hype without your BS filters on you probably think that the internet will save the poor kid in NK. I think his point is that it probably won't. Or that in order to save that kid we need to get so far beyond where we are now. So actually I think you are working to save that kid. You just don't nessecarily see how what you're doing may help her.
Oh well its just my thoughts.
-cpd

Actually... (1)

stienman (51024) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541342)

The correct answer for #11 is that you would need safe unforgeable identities with strong encryption. Once others with similar boxes found out you were doing well (because you can follow instrustions on basic survival and medical care, and they are lazy and want to eat to fruits of your labor) you will need to have digital protection. DUH!

-Adam

J. Willard Marriott Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.

Lawmakers are looking at it the wrong way (2)

Mr_Plow (30965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541343)

Lawmakers are looking at the Internet as "This technology is going to encourage people to commit crimes" (or sins, depending on which party you belong to.) This is the wrong way to view it, though. Good people are still good people when they have Internet access. Bad people simply have a more technologically advanced way to commit crimes.

How is this different from any other tech advancement? The automobile made it easier for bank robbers to flee the scene at a more rapid rate. But we did not make legislation specifically to prevent bank robbers from having cars.

Just as there are new avenues with which you may commit a crime (or a company can commit a crime against you) there are many ways in which those interested in "making a difference" can use the Internet to reach a wider audience to elicit help or support for cause x, y, and z. The concerns that one has while using the Internet should not differ from the concerns you have in the 3-d space that surrounds you. You're concerned about giving your personal information out on the web. But aren't you concerned about giving your personal information out in real life as well? Most of you are, and there's no reason why any of those concerns are different when you're on the web. The only difference is that information distributed on the internet is at risk of propagating much more rapidly. But information offline will still propagate. Junk mailers got addresses from publishers long before the proliferation of the www.

There will always be someone trying to rip you off or invade your privacy. And no technological advance will ever take away your need to protect yourself from those people.
----------------------------------------- -----------------

Re:Not the most ethical of professors... (2)

Forward The Light Br (21092) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541344)

actually most professors/teachers I have ever had to write papers for that involved value-judgements had no problem with mine (or any other students') differing very strongly from their own. Its when those judgements are made without decent support that one gets graded down...

a final exam like this would thrill the shit out of me...

-RS
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars --Oscar Wilde

Re:Oh, I'm going to get a -1 flamebait for this.. (1)

Samrobb (12731) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541345)

Maybe I'm just seeing this from my own point of view, but the brunt of the questions on the exam seemed focused on privacy, not guilt; though "privacy" doesn't really express the idea properly. "Freedom" would be a better term, in that the only way you can really have true privacy is if you have the freedom to decide for yourself what information you wish to reveal, and who you wish to reveal it to.

One Word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541346)

BORING

I think you're wrong... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541347)

about a couple things.

1) Thought provoking posts don't get moderated down. (that's a compliment, by the way)

2) I think you've missed the point of that last question.

To expand a bit on 2, I'd say you're reading the author wrong. I think question 11 was SPECIFICALLY MEANT to make people think about "deep" issues, not to make them feel bad about having food (when others do not).

I firmly believe that its possible to feed everyone, and that distribution and politics are the only hinderances. Heh. "Only".

Farmers in the US get subsidies to NOT grow crops to avoid lowering the sales cost to a point where farmers couldn't make a decent living selling their goods. It doesn't always work, but that's not the point. The point is, WE CAN FEED PEOPLE. Not just our people, or their people, but EVERYONE.

Now imagine that hypothetical, food-stealing soldiers actions if he KNEW there was a web-cam or four pointed at him. Consequences are a bitch.

--Mark

Re:Not the most ethical of professors... (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541348)

What was political about the exam? You aren't trying to make an excuse for writer's block are you?

Re:One Word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541349)

Agreed. This sort of junk shouldn't even get mentioned on /.

Re:Not the most ethical of professors... (1)

Wicked Panda (10814) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541350)

Uhh, maybe I didn't read the same exam you did. I didn't see anywhere where he was asking what _LAWS_ you would pass, nor did I see anything about political parties. Itsure seemed to me that the intent was, how would you solve the problems with the available technology.

I think too many people (yourself included) saw question #11 and assumed that was a hit on the political system of NK, not a question of what the person would do. Talk about a knee jerk response.

Ooh, I see the future! (0)

dreish (10483) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541351)

Apparently, there's just not enough lithium in the world.

#11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541352)

Use the box to figure out when these well wishing people would forget about the thousands of little boxes and start dropping food.

You failed the exam! (5)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541353)

It seems to me that the answer to question 11 is that you can use the device to have Free Speech among your fellow countrymen for the first time in your entire life. You also get to tell the outside world about the soldiers who keep robbing you. You can also arrange for drop shipments of arms without the thugs being able to intercept it.

The internet can be used to aid a real world physical revolution.

Your grade for thinking that the question is supposed to make you feel guilty: F.


---

Re:Not the most ethical of professors... (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541354)

Yeah. I really hated the part where he said 'you can't disagree with me'.
Just curious: do you define 'thought-provoking' as 'something I disagree with', or did you just decide that it was written by one of your political enemies, and therefore unworthy of consideration?
Grow up.

Re:Not the most ethical of professors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541355)

Man, where did you go to school? I learned by the end of my freshman year that indoctrination is at least 70% of higher education. don't believe me? just take an english class or two. posted anonymously, (in case any of my professors read slashdot)

eek.. flashback! (1)

AGTiny (104967) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541356)

Just had a flashback to my essay-ridden college days.. yikes! But it is still rather thought-provoking...

Possible answer to the starving child question. (3)

Dast (10275) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541357)

11) You live in North Korea. Three days ago the soldiers came to your tiny patch of farmland and took the few scraps of food they hadn't taken the week before. You have just boiled the last of your shoes and fed the softened leather to your 3-year-old child. She coughs, a sickly sound that cannot last much longer. Overhead you hear the drone of massive engines. You look into the sky, and thousands of tiny packages float down. You pick one up. It is made of plastic; you cannot feed it to your daughter. But the device talks to you, is solar powered, and teaches you how to use it to link to the Web. You have all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips; you can talk to thousands of others who share your desperate fate. The time has come to solve your problem in the most fundamental sense, and save the life of your daughter.

Well, in light of some of the recent stories on Slashdot, here is my answer:
Using the ibm patent database as an aid, think of a common sense technology (ie one click shopping, yahoo's dynamic page generation) that hasn't been patented and grab it. Make millions. :P

Anyway, anyone else find it funny how this "final exam" is about the future of computing but most of the questions (1-4,8-10) were about, well, mostly money and the commercialization (sp?) of the internet? Is that all the internet is good for these days? *sigh* Granted there were some privacy questions in there, but 8/11 about money?

Theoretical v. Practical (2)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541358)

This is an interesting essay, however atleast half the questions posed aren't relevant to today's 'net. Number 11 simply cannot occur. Provided it did occur, there would be precious little time to spend making pleas on usenet or elsewhere. Computers are used by those who have spare time, or a job that requires it. It is not a tool like a hammer, or a pole and some fishing line. In the unlikely event you could arouse sympathy on usenet, or even across the 'net, the most you would likely accomplish is a condemnation of your country. Your daughter would still starve to death.. because any food shipments would be denied by a government that tyrannical.

That's my 30-second-or-less essay answer. It probably won't get an 'A', but atleast it'll get moderated up a point, maybe even two.



--

No. 11 (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541359)

Hmm. This is a nifty idea. Combine the global cellphone concept with a palm 7? And then just give them away any place where theyre illegal to sell. This I might kick in some cash towards, just cause it would be fun to mess with the system.

I read it differently. (4)

Wohali (57372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541360)

I don't think the author of this exam is insinuating that you're not helping the world because you don't dedicate your resources to third-world issues. I think he's trying to get those who have become enthralled by the opportunities that technology provides to think "outside of the box."

If he were, as you say, claiming that you're an evil person for moving technology forward, then what would his motivation be for giving this course? Why would he spend a semester teaching some college students about escrow agents and strong encryption? Clearly, he finds these technologies interesting -- but he knows that most don't consider the practical applications of that technology outside of their own lifestyles.

You shouldn't feel guilty because you use technology. But it's important to think about how your technology can be used to help people who don't lead a lifestyle identical to your own, even just as an intellectual exercise. I think that Mr. Stiegler's exam intended just the opposite -- that you should feel proud that you're helping advance a technology that some day might help that Korean woman feed her starving daughter, and that (Goddess forbid!) you might actually think about that image once or twice while coding your next GPL project.

wow. WOW. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541361)

That was pretty deep...lots of "blurry boundaries in cyberspace" sounds like cnn or something but it's true...#5,6,7 could keep a team of lawyers happy for months. Question #11 blew my mind...it's kind of interesting to consider what would happen in such a situation. One of the major problems with the internet (in my opinion) is that there are very clearly defined lines drawn based upon wealth. The fact that the entirety of internet users represent less than 10% of the upper income bracket in the world suddenly puts things in perspective; i gripe about not having a computer when some don't have food. i won't get into discussing the irony of airlifting computers to starving peasants but in a situation such as north korea's it would do very little. all the knowledge in the world can't solve problems by itself....

Answer to #11 (2)

the red pen (3138) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541362)

  1. Connect to web.
  2. Discover that the vast majority of web traffic is in English, a language you cannot understand.
  3. Enjoy some Shockwave(tm) animations.
  4. Use plastic boxes to decorate shrine to deceased children.

Actually... (2)

zantispam (78764) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541363)

...you're really close to the mark.

"However, don't be insinuating that I'm an evil person because I'm not devoting my life to helping that starving peasant in Korea and instead I'm helping to move technology forward."

Who's to say that you aren't doing both? Granted, technology and the net won't fix all of the world's problems. It does, however, have the potential to fix many of the world's problems. See where I'm going with this?

An analogy: If I work in the Chevy plant in Michigan and my specialty is building diesel vans, shold I feel guilty because I'm not helping out my local hospital in my free time? No, because the hospital uses the trucks that I build. The trucks are used as ambulances, delivery trucks, blood donation vehicles, breast cancer screening vehicles, etc. I am helping the hospital, though indirectly.

Your work to advance technology as a whole can pay dividends in indirect and unforseen ways. Hell, you might be the one who figures out a low-cost, low-power sattelite modem that is used in the machine that's dropped to that little girl's family.

Anyway, to get back on topic, these are excellent questions. I can also see two seperate ways of interpreting them: one is with the thought of `Is the internet really all it's cracked up to be', the other is `how can I think outside of the box to make the internet/technology/my toaster accomplish these tasks'. Keep these precepts in mind as you answer the questions, and I bet you will come to vastly seperate conclusions.

You missed the whole damn point (2)

smallpaul (65919) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541364)

The POINT is that the same technologies that allow us to become incrementally more free will also allow those who are fundamentally enslaved to become free one day. It is pro-technology, not anti-technology. Expect it to be reprinted in Wired soon.

Paul Precod

Re:This was lame (2)

Cvandal (113626) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541365)

I don't know about everyone else, but I thought this was pretty lame. I thought the questions totally uninteresting and not thought provoking in the slightest.

Was it uninteresting because you've already dealt with these issues, or uninteresting because you don't think these issues matter?

If it was the former--that you've already thought this stuff through, then yeah, this link and story was probably wasted on you.

If it is the latter--that these issues just don't matter to you, I have a link you might like [microsoft.com] . They will help you get what you want.

The issues that this "exam" brings up are very important ones. Issues of personal security, of the ability to speak ones mind without fear of retribution, and of the ability to communicate and do business freely. It is not directed at the Cypherpunks of the world--"we" are already there, "we" are writing the code, deploying the code, and talking up the code--which includes articles like this one--bringing the Mathmatical Munitions to the Masses, and trying to explain the why's and hows in terms that they can understand.

I do have one bone to pick with the author of the exam. In the case of the Korean, I don't think a solar powered wireles portable is what they need--information is indeed a powerful tool, but it works over generations, it takes time to bring it's might to bear--like a glacier scraping clean a valley, or the wind and water gradually wearing down the rocks. What I would want would be a rain of AKs and ammunition.

That's just me though

Re:This was lame (2)

Tarnar (20289) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541366)

I don't know about everyone else, but I thought the preceeding post was pretty lame. I thought the points it raised were totally uninteresting and not thought provoking in the slightest. IMNSHO, this didn't need to be posted. But that's just me. Fell free to moderate me down now!

(the preceeding text was tounge in cheek if you couldn't tell, and if i need to explain what i said.. sheesh)

Re:Lawmakers are looking at it the wrong way (2)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541367)

You are correct...the internet is a positive thing in that it connects people and allows communication anywhere. Communication is always good. Sometimes communication may reveal things we don't like, but those are opportunities to reason, consider, and reflect on those things, not a reason to stuff those things in a dark place and throw away the key. Communication helps more than it could ever hurt.

Re:Oh, I'm going to get a -1 flamebait for this.. (2)

Darth Yoshi (91228) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541368)

I don't know, but I think that that question is deeper than you think. My first thought was that you can be a citizen of the most powerful nation on earth, pull down a six-figure salary, be full of good will and good intentions, donate to all the "right" causes, but sometimes you have to accept you can't do a freaking thing to help another person no matter how much you want to.

Feeling guilty about it is optional.

Admittedly, a solar-power web browser is kind'a useless in this situation.

offtopic - funky colors (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541369)

did my blue and green phosphors burn out, or is this page all in brown and red for some reason?

Re:Marc is a smart guy (2)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541370)

I thought "EarthWeb" was ok, but not as interesting as "David's Sling". His collection of short stories called "The Gentle Seduction" was pretty good, too. (Unfortunately, they're both out of print. Check your friendly neighborhood used book stores.)

P.S. It's "Stiegler".

What the heck are you talking about? (1)

CoughDropAddict (40792) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541371)

I think you've completely missed the point of this test.

The only question that even remotely links to your criticism is the last question (number 11), and the question prompts you only to devise a way to best solve your inherent problem with the power of the internet. I can see absolutely no way you could interpret this to be an attack on people who use technology.

The point of the test is that the internet, as it grows in scope, will envelop more and more of our lives. How will this change things? How can we preserve neccesary elements of accountability, authenticity, and decency while not sacrificing freedom? That is the point, and you've completely missed it.

Re:Oh, I'm going to get a -1 flamebait for this.. (3)

Thunderhead (32297) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541372)

I'm quite sure you didn't understand the exam. Particularly Question 11, which is apparently the one that got your dander up.

Did you stop to think about the "fundamental" problem this North Korean peasant faces? It is tyranny. Tyranny of the body, and more critically, tyranny of the mind. North Koreans (and people the world over) are kept ignorant of the world-context they live in, since ignorance breeds docility and quashes ambition. If you don't know that there -is- something better, you can't aspire to it, and if you can't aspire to it, you accept your lot. You accept being pushed around by men with guns. You accept having to eat bark and having to feed your child boiled shoe. You accept hopelessness and helplessness as facts of life. Your world-view narrows until you can only see the day, and the day's toil and pain. This is tyranny of the mind, and millions of people live under its oppression.

What you and I fail to appreciate daily is that we have the Tyrant-Slayer in our scabbard.

Granted, we are under no contractual obligation to make the world a better place, but whatever compassion is born of understanding is better than no compassion at all. Once you understand and see beyond your own tiny little mindscape, your own conscience will tell you what is demanded of you to give, and what is fair of you to ask in return.

who's on crack here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541373)

I can't understand how anyone could see these essay collections as advocating any kind of political agenda. Please try reading them before you post again. It's like if I ask you to explain what you would do if I asked you to write an essay question. That obviously is pushing my technocratic views on you. I'm glad that none of my teachers have ever tried forcing their crazy views on me by way of asking what I would do in a particular situation.

Not that hard of a test (2)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541374)

The test asks good questions in the sense of "they need to be asked", but not so good in the sense of "they don't have answers". Several of these problems have solutions printed in the first edition (1994?) of Applied Cryptography. (for instance, see the anonymous and secure poker protocol)

As for question 11, I don't know what the point of this is. If his point is "no amount of information in the world will feed a starving child", though, I have two responses:

1) Wanna bet? The first thing I'd look for information on edible plants, catching fish, trapping birds, etc. North Korea (even in the middle of a war) is not a wasteland.

2) Even if it were a wasteland, the problem is not that information won't feed a child. The problem is that the information wasn't applied early enough. Information on how to keep the soldiers out, how to prevent the child from getting sick (or even conceived), etc is all available.
---

Third World online (5)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541375)

Hmm, I read it completely differently! It didn't make me feel guilty for using technology, it prompted me to think (not for the first time) if and how technology could be used to help with these deep problems.

It is entirely possible that is can't, and that it's hubris to think that technology can really improve the human condition [slashdot.org] ; but in some instances (like the last question in the test) circumstances are so bad it would be really hard for us to make them worse. So with your indulgence, I will speculate...

What could a solar-powered, wireless, tap-proof web terminal do for that oppressed peasant in North Korea? Perhaps the first and most important thing is to help him understand that there is another way of life. People who have been beaten down all their lives come to accept it; the first step towards radical change is to understand that change is possible.

Now, while one person may be a leader and inspire change, it takes many people to make that change happen. That web terminal would let our peasant organize and coordinate not only with others in his own country, but with action groups all over the world. It would be a lot harder for the U.S. Congress to ignore the problems of the third world poor if they were talking to us, one-to-one, over the net.

Our peasant needs to make the most of his meager resources. How can I build a warmer, drier hut? How can I dig a better well? How can I irrigate my fields? How can I take care of my sick kids when there's no doctor in a hundred miles? There might not be a lot of web pages dedicated to these topics now, but if the "third world" gets online you can bet they'll be tops.

Finally, what happens when the time comes for direct action? Whether you need the writings of Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi, or plans for building bombs and blowing up government facilities, the web has it.

Re:very interesting (1)

Cvandal (113626) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541376)

what the hell is a bonding agent

I am assuming that in this context a bonding agent would be an agent (either software or human) to which two parties could go to in order to set up performance/security bonds.

This could be anything from an instance where, for instance, you wanted [x] done, and I (fully anonymously) offered to do the work. You don't know me, I don't (or might not) know you. I don't want to reveal my identity, but I want to ensure I get paid. You want to ensure that the work gets done. I take out a "performance bond", you take out a "payment bond". In this case, it's similar to an escrow agent, but a bonding agent would be a more general case of escrow agent.

I don't know enough about arbitrage to answer that question--take the course?

Re:Fantastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541377)

These guestions are the result of some tenured academian with no real world experience trying to elicit thought about something which he knows nothing. Tell that professor to go fuck himself and play mind games elsewhere.

Re:Theoretical v. Practical (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541378)

Your daughter would still starve to death.. because any food shipments would be denied by a government that tyrannical.

Well, in the hypothetical scenario of question 11, the government was unable to deny a shipment of computers. I guess the SAM network got cracked. ;-) The next shipment of food (or arms!) can be arranged more carefully (thanks to crypto) so that it is even less likely to be intercepted.


---

slashdot has been hacked .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541379)

... by the color blind!

Re:It's not just You. (1)

IcI (12130) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541380)

The peachy orange/red ain't too bad.

Strange though, that nothing is listed in the FAQ about this.

Will we be able to choose our own colours in the future (kinda like My Netscape)?

Maybee they should have a poll about this.

It's Funny, Laugh. (1)

trichard (28185) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541381)

FINAL EXAM

Name: _Coward, Anonymous_

Question #11 - Answer:

Step One - Do a Google search for Beowulf-HOWTO.

Step Two - Make a big freakin' Beowulf cluster out of the air-dropped computers!

Step Three - Now you're such a d00d that the army will bring food to you!


(Actually, the questions are interesting. #11 challenges us to define how universal communication can catalize mass cultural change. Hmmmm.)

Gack! (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541382)

All I want to do is setup my Samba print server so the workstations can use it - can I transfer out of this class!?! :))

Chuck

Re:More precisely (1)

ralphclark (11346) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541383)

I kinda like it. I might even get some clothes in this colour.

Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
Thought exists only as an abstraction

Re:Not the most ethical of professors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541384)

Writer's block? Well, where's your fucking treatise, then? Put up or shut up bitch.

Strategies for getting moderated up (1)

CoughDropAddict (40792) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541385)

1. complain that you're going to get moderated down

But I'll probably get moderated down for saying that.

Re:Oh, I'm going to get a -1 flamebait for this.. (1)

Jamie Lokier (104820) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541386)

You can feel good about helping to move technology forward. Don't feel guilty because people starve. Instead, do your thing to help. If that means advancing technology which promotes freedom and knowledge, then by all means get on with it. If it means being a greedy bastard, do that. You might be helping. If it means something else, do that instead.

I invite you to decide how you're going to better your world, and get on with it. Remember, we all share the world, we each have different roles we are able to play, and none of us has the individual capacity to solve all the problems we know about.

The people who go out to voluntarily feed the poor and hungry are angels. But they are not the only angels. The systems which cause misery in this world are complex, and so are the solutions.

We don't know what they are. But we have gut feelings, and minds to make sense of them.

Educate yourself, and with your best knowledge, do what seems like the right thing to you.

The web can help in your learning. It can help North Korean soldiers in their learning too.

Re:Marc is a smart guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541387)

Did you blow him after dinner? You sure are sucking his dick now.

Re:Not the most ethical of professors... (2)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541388)

Maybe I misread it a bit, thinking "If you can answer all these questions, you probably know why thousands of new laws are not the right way to make the Web 'safe'." was in the text of the exam. But given that little header, it seems pretty obvious what kind of answer he's looking for.

The questions themselves assume that use of certain of those "advanced features" can solve the problems.

Several are of the form: you want to break the law, how do you do it? Or: some bad information hurt you somehow and you want to get back at the people who spread it (or at least stop them from spreading it), how do you do it?

Some of them, to me at least, demand legal action (ex. false advertising killed your aunt; both criminal charges and civil suits would be appropriate). Others can be answered with "you'd be breaking the law, don't do that." However, these kinds of answers are clearly not allowed, as the form of the question demands a technological solution.

The fact that you aren't allowed to suggest laws to pass (or suggest removing the laws that are the obstacles) means that to obey the form of the exam (clearly the only way to pass) you must do your utmost to support his view that laws are the wrong way to deal with these problems.

Are all these features genuinely doable? (2)

vlax (1809) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541389)

The enhanced capabilites list brings up some questions for me. Perhaps if I had actually taken this "Future of Computing" class, they would be less ambiguous.

Unforgeable pseudonymous identities

Yes, but it will require a global standard in public/private key systems. This standard must be as stable and as universally and unquestioningly accepted as TCP/IP. It must also be backed by laws specifying the nature of the standard and describing the legal rights and responsibilities of using encrypted keys.

In a decade, maybe. The 'Net moves fast, but people don't. There's nothing technologically unfeasable about it, but it will require some changes in public attitudes.

Bidirectional, typed, filterable links

Bidirectional - yes. Should have done it years ago.

Typed - sometimes, and not very reliably. Who does the typing?

Filtered - probably not. Who gets to act as censor?

Arbitrage agents

Technologically, it can probably be made to work. Like key systems, it will take some time to do. A standard for publishing commercial information so that agents can read it is necessary. All agents must use it, and it must become so important to vendors that agents be able to read their information that they would never refuse to use the standard. This can happen - but not yet. Ten years, maybe. As much as 20 if interest in the 'Net drops off.

It's not in any vendor's best interests to help customers comparison shop. This will make it hard to implement.

Bonding agents
Escrow agents

I'm not sure what these mean. Bond has several definitions, and I don't know which one applies. I know what escrow means, but I don't know what it means in this context.

Digital cash

We have it now. With all the time and money pouring into it, it'll be pretty standard soon enough.

Capability Based Security with Strong Encryption

I know what this means, but I'm not sure how it applies either.

I would be interested to see some of the answers students have given to these questions. I'm something of a net skeptic.

I'm not sure there's any obvious solution to #1.

The answer to #2 should be to call the police.

There are a number of answers to #3 - politcal science describes several methods of evaluating the reputation of an unknown agent, but most of the practical ones have been in use since before the web.

#4 is unlikely to ever have an effective technological solution, but may become cause for calling the police someday.

#5 - so what?

#6 - Your government probably isn't reading your e-mail. If it is, your inability to share dirty jokes is the least of your problems.

#7 - public/private key encryption with a protocol for challenging an identity could work for this one.

#8 - There are technological solutions, but I will bet none of them will ever be implemented.

#9 - Call a lawyer. That's what they're there for.

#10 - Sue until dead. No new technology necessary. The ability to unimpeachably establish identites using encryption might help. But speak softly and retain expensive lawyers.

#11 - I'm not sure how much he 'Net has to offer to politics - even in totalitarian states - that TV, phones and faxes don't. The 'Net does makes it a little easier to distribute samizdat, but it also makes it easier to spread propaganda. Furthermore, modern media can make it awfully hard to distinguish the two. The government of every state with free media is sooner or later compelled to lie to it - closed countries can at least keep silent. In North Korea, most people know they are being lied to, even if they don't know the truth. In America, many people suspect they are being lied to, but go on and believe what they hear anyway. The 'Net changes little in that respect.

Re:Attempt at reverse psychology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541390)

Oh shut the fuck up, you sniveling little whining bitch. The guy was right. That was some boring shit and I don't know why it made it to /.

#11 (1)

mackga (990) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541391)

Assuming the tech in the little boxen is advanced enough for wireless web hookup from the rice paddies outside of Pyong Yang(sic)

1. Establish your security and encription

2. amass great amounts of digital cash and using the UPI, stash the cash with the escrow agent.

3. Arrange for groceries to be air-dropped from netgrocers.com - payment via the escrow agent.

4. Ditto homedepot.com

5. ditto gunzrus.com - just in case the soldiers come back :)

6. work with the arbitrage agent to invest your cyber cash

7. Maybe get some drugs and meds from RX.com?

Are the answers mutually exclusive? (3)

killbill (10058) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541392)

I don't have the several hours of time available right now to work through a complete analysis, but I suspect that you could make a pretty good argument that all the problems cannot be solved simultaneously .

For example, how can you be accountable for your lies about a product, but at the same time anonymous enough to speak out against a totalitarian regime? One requires untraceability, one requires traceability.

I suspect you could answer each question pretty well, but that your answers would be mutually exclusive. How interesting.

Bill Kilgallon

Some observations (3)

yule (42265) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541393)

A few comments on a most thought-provoking exam:


1. Look at the list of enhanced capabilities that were listed.

Unforgeable pseudonymous identities
Bidirectional, typed, filterable links
Arbitrage agents
Bonding agents
Escrow agents
Digital Cash
Capability Based Security w/ S. Encryption


Looking at thie list, you should realize that all of these capabilities, save the last, depand on the first. Without unforgeable identities you can't really perform any kind of commerce. Even more important is the realization that an unforgeable identity is itself dependent on encryption.

Let me repeat that - all higher level models of information exchange are fundamentally based on only _two_ cryptographic primitives, encryption and hashing. In the "Ask Slashdot" interview with Bruce Schneier, Bruce said,

"It's true that I described all sorts of interesting protocols in _Applied Cryptography_. The reality is that none of them is actually useful. What is useful are the few simple primitives -- signatures, encryption, authentication -- and the different ways to mirror real-life trust models using them. These protocols are simpler, easier to understand, and more useful."


This is why encryption is important and it's what encryption is really all about. As a community we should support strong crypto not because it will let us send privete naughty email, but because it is the foundation out of which is constructed digital cash, digital signatures, trusted arbitrage, and a host of other useful goodies.


2. Despite it's Katz-esque nature, question #11 is really rather profound. For the sake of argument let's remove the specificity and replace North Korea with "Oppressive Bastards", or OB for short.

My initial reaction to the question was "Why drop net appliances on these poor people? Send some food instead for the love of (insert deity here)." But then I thought hey, if you dropped them food they would eat, become hungry again, and you are right back where they started. Hmm, maybe air-dropping massive amounts of information is the right way to go. After all, to defeat the Oppressive Bastards you don't really need food or weapons, you need a collective will and the ability to organize. Both of these things can be done with the net, and you need _none_ of the advanced features listed at the start of the exam.

Profound, eh?

-Shane

Oh yeah, it probably wouldn't hurt to also send along Bobby Shaftoe to display some adaptability.

Re:Ouch i failed (2)

Cvandal (113626) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541394)

He gave you the answers to those questions.

Warez manufacturers can be beaten with Unforgeable pseudonymous identities and Capability Based Security with Strong Encryption--in fact a lot of things (virii etc) can be dealt with with the latter.

Spammers can automatically be dealt with by strong filtering measuers (create a set of filters for everyone you already talk to, put (in your signature and on your web site etc.) a specific word or subject that will filter to a specific file/directory all *new* people you wish to talk to. Occasionally go through your unfiltered mail looking for people who missed that information. Simple.

Goverment can't solve the problems--it can't move fast enough--and when it does move fast enough, it often misses badly.

Re:This was lame (2)

Phillip Birmingham (2066) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541395)

What I would want would be a rain of AKs and ammunition.


That's just me though


I'd want the AKs *and* the boxes. Have the firepower and the coordination with my neighbors.

Re:offtopic - funky colors (1)

rrogers (48345) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541396)

Aint it disgusting... It looks like they did that for the Your Rights Online section, kinda like changing the green to gray for Ask Slashdot.

Re:Not the most ethical of professors... (1)

Maclir (33773) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541397)

Geez, I would have gone berzerk if one of my professors tried to force his views down my throat in this manner.
Sadly, you have missed the whole point of a true University education. It is NOT to turn you into the world's best Linux / C++ / Perl / Java / name-the latest-fad-here hacker so you can get a great six figure salary. The main point of going to University is to teach you how to think critically, to learn how to learn, as it were.

These questions are excellent - asking us why should we do things - not just how.

It should have taught you how to spell "berserk".

Re:Not that hard of a test (1)

semiriot (99245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541398)

Unfortuanetly it doesn't work that way, unless the starving peasant farmer just happened to know english. It be like dropping you in the middle of the sahara with a field manual written in ancient sumerian.

Re:Theoretical v. Practical (1)

ralphclark (11346) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541399)

Q11 was a semi-philosophical question, a bit like the one John McCarthy set his students: how does the man who can heal anything with just one touch dispose himself so that the maximum utility is achieved?

In this type of question, certain common-sense practical considerations are left out of the picture in order to reduce the problem to its essentials and get straight to the heart of the matter.

IMHO Q11 should be interpreted as a sort of simplified metaphor. He's really asking how this kind of technology, in its most ideal state, could be used to benefit people who are barely hanging onto the very bottom rung of existence.

Given that we've barely begun to explore the real possibilities offered by the internet, and that a meaningful answer to the question may well be possible, it's one of the most important questions that has ever been asked.

Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
Thought exists only as an abstraction

Re:Possible answer to the starving child question. (3)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541400)

Anyway, anyone else find it funny how this "final exam" is about the future of computing but most of the questions (1-4,8-10) were about, well, mostly money and the commercialization (sp?) of the internet? Is that all the internet is good for these days? *sigh* Granted there were some privacy questions in there, but 8/11 about money?

Even granting your ratio -- a couple of those were only peripherally "about money" -- I think it's a sign that there's some realism behind the questions. A lot of issues are about money, even if it's in terms of "How do we support things like peace and justice and freedom when so many people are willing to sell chunks of those things away (especially other folks' peace and justice and freedom) for some ready cash?"

An excess of white mc guilt? (2)

eddy the lip (20794) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541401)

I don't think we read that question the same way at all. The exam seemed to me to be worded in a way that indicated the prof. thought these devices would help.

Consider:

  • you have access to information that may help you diagnose and treat your daughter
  • you have the ability to communicate with others in the same plight
  • you have the means to organize
  • suddenly the army's actions are well known outside of your corner of the world

Sure, it's an open question if any of these things will actually help, but there is certainly the possibility that they might. Is there an underground you can communicate with? Is there a sympathetic doctor in the area? Is the army interested in looking like an ass in front of the world? If thousands of communication devices are being dropped, it's possible that a food drop will follow. Now you can at leat find out about it.

Consider the importance the fax machine has had in anti-government actions (think China, latter-day Soviet Union).

Can you immediately feed your daughter a bunch of silicon chips? No. It's a tool that gives you an advantage you didn't have. It may not solve your problem and save your daughter's life, but if it was me, I wouldn't chuck the thing.

I don't think this was about the uselessness of communications technology at all.

Question #11 (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541402)

I think most people are missing the point with question #11. Giving poor, oppressed people access to the Internet isn't going to help them much.

What is going to help them is the ability to communicate securely and anonymously. The point isn't to contact the outside world for help, it's to organize a revolution.

Re:Third World online (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541403)

Following up to myself:

Woody Guthrie used to have this slogan written on his guitar: "This Machine Kills Fascists". Music has always been a strong tool for communication, for organizing and inspiring people. The escaped slave knew to "Follow the Drinking Gourd" north to freedom. The civil rights marchers chanted "We Shall Overcome". Soldiers sing their battle hymns and their marching cadences.

If we - the developers of technology - do our job, I think that slogan could well be written on computers.

It's up to you and me. Do you want to build machines that kill fascism, or do you want to build Big Brother?

Re:Not that hard of a test (2)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541404)

My guess is that #11 is at least partly a Rorshach test. I bet Mr. Stiegler doesn't have a "point" to #11, but wants to see what "points" people attribute to him.

Harping on Q11, and the quiz itself (1)

wesmills (18791) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541405)

The fundamental problem I find with the entire quiz is that the options listed at the top are not the sum total of everything that has been invented as a result of the Internet. Arbitrarily limiting your choices is almost as bad as having no choices at all, as you can't rely upon yourself to pick the appropriate tools.

Second, Q11 is unfair and ungrounded. What many people fail to realize is that technology is not our overall saviour, and it will not fix every problem. Sooner or later, we're going to have to use some good ol' human compassion to help those around us. I didn't think Q11 made me feel guilty, it made me realize that now, even more, I have to work harder to bridge the gap between myself and those less fortunate.

How the quiz at all relates to educating those who would make new laws is beyond me, unless your goal is to make them technically savvy.

--------------------

Re:Answer to #11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541406)

i vote linux beowulf for distributed.net

Re:Are the answers mutually exclusive? (1)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541407)

> For example, how can you be accountable for your lies about a product, but at the same time anonymous enough to speak out against a totalitarian regime? One requires untraceability, one requires traceability

Of course you can have both. I trust the product reviews of Tom's hardware page a lot more than I do those of "Anonymous coward". The first time I read the question, I took it to mean that a trustworthy-seeming source was wrong and that an elaborate deception or large corporate payoff had taken place. On rereading it, I see that there is no such assumption.

Let's take the internet out of the picture:

1) Searching for a new snack in a bar, you find a grafitto in the loo in which the grafittist raves about a particular snack. You buy the snack and discover it is revolting. You desire to prevent this person's writings from harming anyone else--and you desire to prevent the snack from disappointing anyone else.

Answer: Hit yourself over the head with a mallet until you pass out.

Re:More precisely (2)

jms (11418) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541408)

"Your Rights Online" should be red ... 'cause by the time I'm finished reading one of those articles I'm usually seeing red anyway.

Technology != life (1)

droob (71208) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541409)

You're not evil. The exam's not trying to say you are.

Question eleven illustrates that, no matter what fine-tuning is done to the web, it's still useless out in the physical human day-to-dayness of the majority of the world. It's easy to become so involved in net culture and technology (see JonKatz's latest effort) that you forget what actual life is like. And this question is a reminder that computers, the internet, and the hype around them, are just part of the icing, not the whole cake.

Re:Actually... (1)

Shadarr (11622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541410)

Your work to advance technology as a whole can pay dividends in indirect and unforseen ways. Hell, you might be the one who figures out a low-cost, low-power sattelite modem that is used in the machine that's dropped to that little girl's family.
Or you could invent the technology that helps the government monitor the family and know when they're planning to flee to Canada so soldiers can come shoot the girl as a warning. The thing about technology is that there is no way to restrict its use once the discovery is made. Technology is neither good nor evil, and it will never solve the world's problems, it only changes them. You have to do the research because you enjoy it--if you focus on the possible altruistic possibilities you set yourself up to be crushed by the petty and self-serving uses it will actually be put to.

I work in tech, but not because I think it will make the world a better place. For that I volunteer.

Re:Ouch i failed (1)

techwatcher (112759) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541411)

All of the marvellous complexity and diversity of the living world! -- which is many orders of magnitude beyond even the complexity and diversity of the Web -- EVOLVED (rather than being dictated by a Top-Down God, or "managed"). The Web can and will evolve as long as anyone who wants it to work can make whatever changes our minds can conceive.

The key to achieving a society that approaches "utopia" (which I fear is normally considered a stable, rather than dynamically stable, society) is to realize it won't be perfect. Or, to put it in terms of games theory (suitable math for other currently insoluble problems), it will be a satisficing rather than an optimizing solution! And elegance (least number of rules) counts....

The *Future* of Computing... (2)

nano-second (54714) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541412)

atleast half the questions posed aren't relevant to today's 'net.

The course was called the Future of Computing. The point is to consider the effects of 'what is' now, on 'what may eventually be'.

I don't think the point of any of the questions was practical applications. I think they were supposed to be theoretical... the questions were intended to make the students THINK. I got the impression that the course was intended to teach the students to think about causes and effects. They were supposed to learn about thinking, not learn about how to do a specific task. The point is that in the future, and now, they will be prepared to think about how to address problems and create solutions. That will be the practical skill... knowing how to think.
---

John Brunner (2)

Nyarly (104096) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541413)

Question 11 is (I think) a web spin on a short story by John Brunner called "Who Steals My Purse." I'd ruin it if I went much further, but I think the situation is so close to the story it would be hard to believe that the author of the exam hadn't read it.

Besides, Brunner is one of those authors, like Stephenson, who appeals greatly to the hacker in me. Brunner was predicting the internet in the mid Sixties. And a nomadic American populace, moving from job to job amazingly frequently. (The Shockwave Rider). Brunner was, in my opinion, more visionary than any other science fiction author, especially in the wisdom of his predictions.

Answers (1)

Kaa (21510) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541414)

1) Searching for a decision analysis tool on the Web, you find a review in which the reviewer raves about a particular product. You buy the product and discover it just doesn't work. You desire to prevent this person's ravings from harming anyone else--and you desire to prevent the product from disappointing anyone else.

You can't. This is basically a reputation issue. Why should the web belive you and not the reviewer? How do people know *you* are honest? Of course you can set up a site www.thisproductsucks.com, post your experience to Usenet, etc. etc. but all this is possible with the existing Web.

2) A product you buy based on a rave review opens your email address book, grabs your entire list of friends, sends itself to them, and sends your password files to a mysterious IP address. It's too late now, but which features would you install before ever touching your computer again?

You bought it, right? So there is an electronic/paper trail to the guys who made it, right? Viruses are illegal in the US, so you can complain to cops.

Other than that, there is nothing you can install on your machine that will prevent this from happening ever again (none of what this trojan did required root/admin privileges). Unless you want to set up a separate untrusted environment and try all unknown code there, there isn't much you can do.

3) A product is advertised on the Web. It sounds good, but the offerer has no Web reputation. What arrangement would you consider adequate to go ahead and procure the product (Note: there are several possible answers; give 2 entirely separate solutions, and that is considered answering 2 questions).

Simple escrow, in whatever form available.

4) You start receiving thousands of emails from organizations you don't know, all hawking their wares. You want it to stop, just stop!

Welcome to the club. Change your e-mail address and spam-proof what you expose in places like Usenet and Slashdot. And browser does not give out your email address to every site that asks, does it?

5) You wish to play poker with your friends. They live in Tampa Florida, you live in Kingman. This is illegal in the nation where you happen to be a citizen. You want to do it anyway.

Encryption.

6) You hear a joke that someone, somewhere, would probably find offensive. You wish to tell your precocious 17-year-old daughter, who is a student at Yale. The Common Decency Act Version 2 has just passed; it is a $100,000 offense to send such material electronically to a minor. You want to send it anyway--it is a very funny joke.

Exactly the same problem and the same answer: encryption.

7) Someone claiming to be you starts roaming the Web making wild claims. You want to make sure people know it isn't really you.

Unless you have a public key and registered it somewhere, you have a problem. Even if you had and did, you still have a problem. The degree of the problem depends on whether the guy just posts on the Usenet under your handle, or he messes with your bank account using your passwords/certs.

8) You have brought out a remarkable new product. There is a competing product making claims you know are false. You want to make sure anyone going to their site finds out your product is better.

You can't. To do this means that you have to be able to see everybody who goes to a competitor's site, and then spam them. This is technically hard, an invasion of privacy and may be even illegal.

9) Your elderly aunt sees a drug advertised on the Web that promises relief from arthritis. She dies shortly after starting to take the drug. You think the drug, and he company that made it, is at fault. Meanwhile the company is sure they didn't have anything to do with it. You want justice.

And what does the web have to do with this? That's a case from tort law (maybe criminal, as well). It makes no difference whether your aunt seen the ad on the web or read it in a newspaper. Of course the www.theykilledmyaunt.com site is always an option.

10) You are the CEO of Bloomberg News, one of the most prestigious (and expensive) stock information services in the world. An article circulates on the Web, based on a mock-up of the Bloomberg News information page, claiming that PairGain Corp. will be acquired by ECI Telecom. PairGain stock rises 32% in 8 hours. Investigators later find that the false report was created by a PairGain employee about to cash in his options. You want to ensure that your brand is never used
like this again.


You can't. Authentication would help somewhat, but will not solve the problem completely.

11) You live in North Korea. Three days ago the soldiers came to your tiny patch of farmland and took the few scraps of food they hadn't taken the week before. You have just boiled the last of your shoes and fed the softened leather to your 3-year-old child. She coughs, a sickly sound that cannot last much longer. Overhead you hear the drone of massive engines. You look into the sky, and thousands of tiny packages float down. You pick one up. It is made of plastic; you
cannot feed it to your daughter. But the device talks to you, is solar powered, and teaches you how to use it to link to the Web. You have all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips; you can talk to thousands of others who share your desperate fate. The time has come to solve your problem in the most fundamental sense, and save the life of your daughter.


The device is useless to you. All information in the world means nothing, if you cannot do anything. The situation is set up so that you are completely powerless in the real world and have access to a virtual world. Sorry, the virtual world cannot not help you. You and your daugher die. This does solve your problem in the most fundamental sense.

Kaa

Re:Third World online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541415)

> What could a solar-powered, wireless, tap-proof > web terminal do for that oppressed peasant
> in North Korea?

The terminal could be easily sold in the market and exchanged for food. And that's the first thing that will be done with them. Only if the place was totally saturated with terminals (so they lose their value), a peasant would think of actually trying to look something up.

And what's worse, THE GIRL MIGHT STUMBLE INTO A PORNO SITE!!!


Re:Possible answer to the starving child question. (1)

superape23 (56097) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541416)

Exactlty right, carl marx baby.
Not my own personal choice of a way to parse the world but viewing behavior and intention through economics often gets you some damn accurate results.



-follow the money.

Outside the box, DAMMIT! (3)

zantispam (78764) | more than 14 years ago | (#1541417)

Dude, you are so totally off-base.

"however atleast half the questions posed aren't relevant to today's 'net."

Ummm, one of the postulates of the exam is the 'net of the future.

"Provided it did occur, there would be precious little time to spend making pleas on usenet or elsewhere."

Ok. Let's think about this for a minute. Anyone dropping shiny boxes that talk and allow you to connect to the internet would (logically) be dropped by someone sympathetic to your plight. How hard would it be to make your home site the default homepage of the box? How tough would it be to build a GPS into the box? How about 512 bit encryption?

Here's my take on the scenario:
"The time has come to solve your problem in the most fundamental sense, and save the life of your daughter." So, you read the instructions (in Korean) and fire up the box. You are immediately connected via ssl to the homepage for Free Korea(tm). They ask for your first name and if you are in any danger. You reply (speaking, of course, since you are illiterate) that your daughter is sick and that your family is starving. This is translated via voice recognition software into plain text (Uniocode), encrypted, and sent along with your exact coordinates (remember the GPS?) to Free Korea's site. The data is correlated, flight plans are made, and the next day another aircraft flys over. This time, it drops c-rats (icky, but they will get you by), medicine for your daughter, and instructions to call back in ASAP. So you eat the first real food you've had in days and your daughter's coughing lessens enough for her to sleep. When you call back in, you are told that you will have to move someplace and to start packing.

Meanwhile, back at Free Korea, your plight has been posted to the homepage in several languages along with stories from hundreds or thousands of other people. Free Korea, working with the G7 nations, have been putting pressure on North Korea to improve it's human rights practices; now they have hard evidence.

So you wake up the next morning to the sound of the aircraft again and eagerly check the package left in it's wake. This time, it's maps of the area (topo and symbol), water purification tablets, more food, more medicine, instructions, and something even more important: hope. You learn that millions of people are aware of your situation and that the superpowers are working to help you (gee, I didn't know they cared ;-). The instructions direct you to some clear land close by; a refugee center with food, water, doctors, shelter, etc. By this time, you are too amazed by the help you have received to not go. Your daughter is actually up and moving around. The severity of the coughing has lessened and you feel ready to make this trip.

I'll stop now, but that's the point of the excercize. I believe you failed for failing to read the directions...

" It probably won't get an 'A', but atleast it'll get moderated up a point, maybe even two."

That's not very funny.

Re:Strategies for getting moderated up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1541418)

I think you just proved that your stragety works!
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