Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Refugee Story

My father was born in a DP (displaced person=refugee) camp in postwar Germany. He had no nationality, until he became a naturalized citizen of the US as a teenager.

His parents had survived World War 1, the Russian Revolution, and World War 2. They had strange accents, strange names, and strange customs. They weren't English speakers. They weren't Protestants. They were outsiders, desperately fleeing the misery of postwar Europe, trying to find safety and security.

Despite their differences, the United States welcomed them. Despite their differences, they became Americans. My grandfather went on to become a civilian intelligence analyst for the United States Air Force, helping protect this country at the height of the Cold War. My father, a refugee until he was 4 years old, has worked for Fortune 500 technology companies, helping to secure our financial and medical records. My siblings include an entrepreneur, a psychologist and teacher, an engineer, and a college student.

Our family is part of the tapestry of this great nation. We came here as strangers, we were welcomed, and now we are Americans.

I say fling open the doors. Let them come. They will only make us stronger and richer as a society, and will help us best embody our national values and virtues.

By all means, let them come.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Robot Curve

Kevin Kelly's Robot Curve, as rendered by Cory Doctorow

No robot could do my job.
No robot can do my job as well as I can.
This robot can do my job as well as I can, but i need to catch all the exceptions that it's not smart enough to deal with.
This robot can do my job as well as I can but it needs me around to fix it when it breaks.
This robot can do my job as well as I can.
Why would anyone want to do that job? It's a robot job.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Information Doesn't Want to Be Free (it wants to not be anthropomorphized)

Computers and the Internet are essential to the well being of the vast majority of humanity. People with access to the Internet score higher on any measure of quality of life you care to measure - health, education, income, life expectancy, etc. The global network of computers helps artists find fans, small farmers find markets, abused women find legal advice, and LGBTQ teens in small towns find acceptance and moral support. It helps the disenfranchised tell their stories and it helps political activists get their message out.

Computers and the Internet are here to stay. They occupy our vehicles, our workplaces, our homes, our pockets, and in some cases our bodies. They are incredibly powerful tools. Like other powerful tools they can be a great boon. They can also do great harm. 

The rules and regulations that we put in place surrounding computers and the Internet are byzantine and may at first glance appear to be dry and boring. In fact, they are critically important to promoting a free and prosperous society. Luckily, we have Cory Doctorow to help us contextualize and understand the incredibly complex issues surrounding computers, the Internet, and intellectual property.

In his latest book, Information Doesn't Want to Be Free, Doctorow unpacks the complex issues surrounding Internet policy, surveillance, security, privacy, digital rights management (DRM), and how artists can make a living in the digital age. Doctorow does all this in his characteristic breezy, conversational style, making the minutae of International copyright agreements interesting, engaging, and shows how they are relevant to all of us.

If you are someone who uses computers or the Internet (that means you!), this book is essential reading.