Manifesto Part 2: Fall 2011

Educating the Future: Online Privacy, Access Issues, Appropriate Use, and Knowledge in the Digital Age

Preamble

We trust this manifesto finds you well.

We, the student body, find that technology is not only necessary, but also the means to a better future. This has been the credo of most technologies developed in the past decade or so. They mean to simplify, expedite, and improve the human condition. However, in order to accomplish certain goals, the creators and users of technology sacrifice or even detriment others. The human race has placed their bias in the creation of all technologies. As a people, we must strive to push back and use these tools to better ourselves in all aspects of life - not just a few. This manifesto contains twelve normative statements that we find crucially important in the preservation of our well-being while we continue to exploit the potential of new technology.

Keywords

Free Access

Free access to the network (including cell phone as well as internet services) is what America needs to strive towards. The quality and efficiency of broadband internet services has not improved for years, but the prices continue to climb. In Europe, prices have always been cheap, allowing their entire nation to be plugged in, communicating, and informed at all times. Why wouldn’t the United States want this?

Free access to the network, would be just that: free access. Anybody should be able to have the knowledge of Google behind them if they so desire. However in the United States, free access to the internet gets laughed at whenever brought up. I decided to Google “free internet access” via news and one of the first articles that came up quoted, “the laughably amateurish landing website, aims to offer ‘free wireless broadband, voice and mobile services for all’. Allllllright! No word on whether butter cookies are also included in the offering.” (Wauters) But why is this so laughable? The intentions are perfectly valid. Our preamble states that technology is a way to better our future. By allowing everybody access to a pivotal network in today’s world, think of the possibilities that could expand. Free access to the broadband internet and cell phone towers is something that needs to be acted upon in order to further better the technologically savvy future.

Privacy

Privacy is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “the state of being free from invasion or disturbance in one’s life.” While some argue that this right to privacy can be found in the 14th Amendments Due Process Clause, some might argue that this right is harder to come by now that the world of technology is quickly expanding. Everywhere you look you are asked to give information about who you are, where you live, how to contact you, what your hobbies are, if you are in a relationship, etc. More often than not, we are expected to give up this information willingly with a mere click of a button. Also, there is cheap access to all sorts of information, including even more personal information that is often more detailed and important than one thinks is actually available. Consequently, people often forget that once their information goes public, it remains in the hands of databases and different companies forever. Now, like Sherry Turkle, many wonder if “privacy” is a thing of the past due to this new technologically driven generation or whether individuals are even willing to fight for their right to it. With the help of parental education, governmental restrictions, and an individual’s personal awareness, it is believed that privacy can be restored. It’s merely up to us as individuals as to how willing we are to fight for this inherent right.

Knowledge

In its most basic essence, knowledge implies an understanding of a subject; it refers to the information, facts, and skills that we obtain whether through an informal or formal education, or simply experiences, which vary amongst us all. In class, we have both explicitly and implicitly talked about knowledge as a valuable human asset – in fact, the basis – by which we perceive the world around us, make critical life decisions, learn, and articulate to others what we mean and know.

Knowledge presents itself to us then in many forms. When distinguishing humans from machines, for example, we looked into the importance of tacit knowledge, or knowledge that is not easily transferable through verbal instruction or programming, that cannot be transcribed into a replicable method. In this case, knowledge is acquired through personal experimentation and, moreover, strengthened by trial-and-error and improvisation. Humans, unlike machines, are inherently unpredictable, impulsive, and imperfect; still, we are capable of learning from our mistakes, continually expanding our knowledge, and improving upon ourselves.

We continue to discuss knowledge as a communal act as well, that is, information that can be crowd-sourced and collaborative. As a class, we are living proof that knowledge can and should be shared by more than a select few, that our knowledge is continually evolving, and, perhaps most importantly, that this kind of comprehensive knowledge can potentially lead to a better relationship and future with technology.

Education

Education is how our experiences shape our views, actions, morals and beliefs, among other things. As new technologies emerge to precipitate new experiences, we learn to adapt to these new technologies, which in turn affects our learning. Technology should be incorporated and used in conjunction with traditional modes of teaching in order to ensure that current students receive a more well-rounded education than their predecessors. These new technologies should not only teach but also challenge and change the way we learn and view education. Simultaneously, it is important to preserve many aspects of traditional learning until teaching methods that are equally or more effective is found.

Using technology should not be rejected in school. Forms of multimedia such as videos and PowerPoint and even games have, to a degree, been established as traditional means of teaching.
Introducing newer technologies and gadgets into the classroom will change the rate at which various technologies will be used among the youth. While these can be legitimate educational tools, they have a tendency to prompt solitary play over personal interaction with others.

Online and distance learning may have similar effects. Being able to receive an education in the comforts of one’s home may hinder and inhibit learning social skills and norms that are necessary to properly function in society. The possibility of these outcomes makes it imperative for us to emphasize the importance of integrating new technological devices and social media into classrooms and education without losing sight of the importance of oral communication.

Use

Throughout our manifesto, we outlined how we should “use” the internet, thus the word “use” is one of our keywords. As a verb, “use” is defined as “to put into action or service.” Overall, we determined how people should “use” the internet:

We should not use technology to turn human processes into a method; for example, we should not use therapeutic programs, such as ELIZA, to substitute for real therapists. Internet Service Providers should not be “gate-holders” to information; they should allow us to use the internet as we see fit; and they should also not use our information and provide it for profit. We agreed that parents need to learn to use technology, and understand how their children use technology as a protective measure. We need to be aware that everything we write on the internet is recorded, and use the internet with that in mind. Everyone should be able to use the internet, despite their income level. We should not use the internet to be someone we are not, use technology to enhance already created relationships, rather than have fake new ones. We need to use technology in moderation and maintain a good balance in our lives with technology and humans.

Twelve Normative Statements

1. A human’s ability to improvise should be valued over a machine’s ability to complete a job quickly.

The human experience is now shaped by digital technology more than ever before. However, humans still have an inability to comprehend all aspects of human behavior and abstract concepts such as trust, love, and creativity. Just because a program can beat a grandmaster in chess, it does mean that they are any closer to thinking the same way that a human does. Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer developed by IBM, beat world champion Garry Kasporov because it was able to calculate extremely fast. In The Most Human Human, Brian Christian discusses how people are being replaced with a “method” and not just with a machine or a computer (79). White-collar jobs could be looked at as a combination of different methods that robots and computers can be programmed to complete rapidly. For example, ELIZA can act as a surrogate psychotherapist, but its scope of helping someone is limited because it does not have the ability to do more than it is programmed to do. Therapists, and doctors overall, can never assume that dealing with a patient will be routine. Improvisation is sometimes necessary in order for them to completely provide for their patients. Humans always have the ability to improve and learn from their mistakes, even if we make mistakes more often than a robot would. Different jobs or professions do not need to be looked as as just a method that a machine can simple completely rapidly. Elements of humanity get suppressed in an effort to create something that is better, faster, or stronger. Our society should place emphasis on personal knowledge, judgment, and our ability to anticipate and discover.
Sources: Brian Christian's The Most Human Human, Class discussion

2. Internet Service Providers may not filter content, throttle bandwidth, or give government agencies personal information without warrant. (Net Neutrality)

We know the internet as the “wild west” of information. You can access pretty much everything on the web if you’re feeling adventurous. The companies that offer Internet feel that they should have the right to govern what content you view since they own the lines running into your house. Usually, this is just to prevent you from accessing illegal content – running torrent programs to gain access to illegal copies of music, movies, and software. Some have gone a step further and have staged trial runs of tiered pricing options that allow access to certain levels of content. They’ve also willingly handed out personal information and IP logs to the government under the Patriot Act. Part of me agrees that companies do have the right to control the content running through their “pipes” to your house – under current law. However, what makes the internet the wonder that it is, is cheap access to almost any form of information you can think of. As soon as corporate America steps in, this will inevitably change. It’s extremely important that we keep the internet an open source of access for everyone and we protect the rights of those who use it. Otherwise, the internet will no longer be the internet.

Source: Engadget

3. We should educate parents technologically and teach them how to be more aware of their children’s use of technology.

According to internetsafety101.org, “Almost 93% of kids, ages 12-17, are online, and most exhibit a level of digital proficiency bewildering to those of us who want to protect them." The internet has not been easily accessible for very long, but even in our generation there are countless children growing up with more knowledge about the internet than their parents. To ensure children’s safety on the internet, parents must be taught more about the web and how to keep their children safe. If this principle is adopted, it will protect both children from unsuitable content and users on the internet and also protect the identity of parents and children. This principal extends beyond the internet, including any technologies that could pose a threat to society if not used properly. This principle should be included because technological and internet safety is a major problem in today’s society. Education could serve as the first step to solving the problem of technological (internet) safety. Educating the Digital Immigrant generation will morally improve the culture of the internet by placing more control in the hands of more mature people. Parents need to be educated on technological issues and they need to know how to educate the next generation to improve our society’s command on technology.

Source: Internet Safety 101

4. No employer, insurance agency, or other organization may bias based on genetic makeup.

This isn’t necessarily a problem that we currently have to worry about, as the processes of genetic modification and testing it, are expensive and not adopted by many. There also aren’t too many advantages to genetic modification either… yet. In the future, as genetics become more relevant, it will be important to prohibit biases based on one’s genetic makeup. There are outlying variables that create a “person” and creating an opinion based on the hardware, so to speak, is not fair to anyone. The easiest way to adopt this is through government action. It’s highly unlikely that our Congress would spend any time on it at the moment or near future, but preemptive laws will be necessary to prevent confusion. We don’t want the same scenario we’re having with broadcasting technologies and the internet – deadlock.

5. Knowledge should be communal, collaborative, and crowd sourced.

Current understandings of knowledge (at least in a Western context) privilege individual forms of knowledge production over communal and collaborative methods. This results in a theory of knowledge that supposes that knowledge can firstly be created, that it can be created in a vacuum, that an individual is not influenced by the ideas and contributions of others in the process, and subsequently that the individual has ultimate rights to how such knowledge is distributed and used. I adopted this statement because I believe that the individual form of knowledge production is faulty, and communal knowledge sources can ultimately result in solutions to problems that currently plague humanity. Crowd sourcing is increasingly becoming an acceptable and recognized production method. Wikipedia and Linux are two resounding successes for crowd sourcing. Rather than rely on a limited group of individuals who essentially act as gatekeepers, collaborative crowd sourcing creates a network of individuals so that the sum is greater than the individual parts. Such a production method results in faster changes due to increased manpower, less biased and more comprehensive information due to the diversity of contributors, and a product that more accurately reflects the needs and wants of the users. This statement should become part of the collective manifesto because knowledge as a communal act is already occurring, as evidenced by the existence of a collective manifesto for this class. Accepting this statement means that Western society will need to move beyond the individual basis that capitalism has relied upon, but as current events demonstrate, it has become obvious that the 1% speaking for the 99% has failed, and perhaps crowd sourcing for a solution will result in better future outcomes for the 100%.

Sources: Ubuntu's Community Page and Wikipedia

6. People ought to realize what goes on the Internet (Facebook for example) will always stay there.

We have spoken about this topic in class multiple times, but I believe society really doesn’t realize what goes on the Internet is always there, even if it is erased. The databases store these things, which can be beneficial or destructive, usually resulting with bad results. It’s scary to think that whatever is put online will always be there. This can actually ruin someone’s reputation, even if it is from the past. Pictures that people may have been removed that may have exposed a red cup… those are online somewhere, even if they were erased. It’s because once the database receives something, it stores that knowledge and access, even though it may seem hidden. People don’t realize that this can affect future employment.
Anything online is also out there for society to look at. That relationship status that went from “in a relationship” to “single” gets a lot of debate and attention because it is displayed for the world to see. Everyone is your best friend then, trying to be there for you through this rough time, but in the end, the main purpose is to try to figure out why the break-up occurred. As recently stated by Professor Collier in class on December 1, the topic of digital utopian is becoming one of debate. Some people believe if you have knowledge to share, you should share it. At this point that special factor about that certain person may seem exploited.
In Katherine’s manifesto she also stated, “Turkle talks about this value shift in privacy and what it means to us now vs. what privacy used to mean.” The idea of putting information online for the world to see in the past may have been arbitrary and considered dangerous, but these days we have done exactly that. As stated before, the Internet collects all of our data and sites that we have been to in order to make searching come a little easier. It shows you what you want; you don’t have to show it anymore.
It’s sad that privacy is no longer a word that can be said in the same sentence as technology. Technology has exposed us to the unknown, with us knowing very well that we don’t have to give this information up. That’s the part that can be mind-blowing. If people claim they want privacy, why would they put everything out there in the open?
Sources: [http://ltt.wikidot.com/katherine-david-manifesto] and Sherry Turkle's Alone Together

7. Internet access and cell phones should be affordable for everyone.

“The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” As a society, we can either embrace or reject this maxim when it comes to digital technology. As more and more broadband cables are laid throughout the country and new cell phones towers are erected, our society has the opportunity to make the Internet and wireless communication available to almost every citizen. The U.S. government must consider subsidizing the costs of Internet and cell-phone service for the poorest Americans. Such access makes finding and keeping employment much easier. Furthermore, ISPs and cell phone carriers should seriously consider sliding scales for consumers who make less than x dollars per year. Most broadband lines already exist, and providers are making huge profits. By creating sliding scales, these corporations foster public goodwill, create new avenues for tax-deductible charitable donations, and gain customers they wouldn’t have otherwise (even if at a lower rate).

The Internet will only begin to act like a democracy once everyone has equal access to it.

Source: Why Broadband Prices Haven’t Decreased (Kellogg Insight)

8. Social media should enhance our relationships, not replace relationships between humans.

In Turkle’s Alone Together there was a section speaking about how the high school student’s online personas were different than their in real life personas. Social media should serve as a supplement to our relationships in the fact that it makes our face-to-face interaction with our friends a more positive experience. Tools such as Facebook can serve as a way to invite people to events, which will promote face-to-face interaction in the future. Facebook also provides an opportunity to make groups where people can post things, chat, and interact despite physical distance. In this case, it should be used simply as a means of keeping in touch when face-to-face interaction isn’t possible. Sherry Turkle worries that we hide behind computer screens to communicate with one another instead of seeing each other in person. She worries that we will lose our ability to speak to one another face-to-face because we rely on the computer screen as a crutch. For this reason, it is imperative that we monitor our use of social media. Ultimately, we have control of how much or how little we rely on these mediums. If used correctly they can enhance our relationships, help us to keep in touch, and plan to see each other. Society could benefit from monitoring their use of social networking as a whole, especially focusing their attention on their real life appearance rather than their online appearance. By focusing on real life, falsehood would be diminished in society, self esteem possibly rise in teenagers, and would create an, overall, more realistic internet.

If this rule isn’t taken into consideration, we may lose perspective of what a true relationship is. By hiding behind our computer screen and judging others based on their social media information sections, we are missing out on who our “friends” truly are. No person is defined solely by his or her use of social media. We must be sure to use these social media outlets as complements to our relationships and as a means to connect with our friends in a face-to-face manner.

Sources: http://ltt.wikidot.com/brittany-kelly-study and Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together

9. Technology should be used to augment humanity, not supplant it.

Among many programmers and theorists there is a fascination with the singularity and a desire to perfect Artificial Intelligence to the point of consciousness. But what human purpose does such a technology serve? Is it to simply “marvel at our own magnificence” as Morpheus suggests in The Matrix? Rather than spend time and resources to create a consciousness that can never be fully understood or controlled, technology should be used to understand and augment humanity. There is still so much about the human body (including the mind) and the surrounding world that remains unknown, wild and untamed. Instead of playing God and flattering ourselves by creating a machine in our own image, we should work to improve the lives of humans by developing a near perfect understanding of the body to prevent and cure diseases, work on solutions to common problems such as starvation and natural disasters, and to also heal the world around us. I selected this statement because too often the human element gets obfuscated in an effort to create something better, faster, and stronger. If the human element is retained as the primary goal, then there is still a lofty goal to strive for and plenty of areas for exploration. Furthermore, this will require society to examine its social issues and take a more humane approach to its problems, while using technology for a practical purpose to improve the lives of all. However, this augmentation will require a code of ethics so that augmentation does not become eugenics and result in more discriminatory practices. This statement should be part of the class manifesto because it provides a solution to the dystopian visions of the future while also maintaining social justice as a central component to humanity’s future.

10. We should regulate how and when we introduce technologies to ensure their meaningful use within education.

As digital technology has played an increasingly important role in our society, children have been introduced to it at an increasingly younger age. As this trend continues, we will eventually find that our children are disconnected from the natural world because they learn through the lens of technology. This lens will stand in between young people, forcing them to learn about the natural world in technological terms, rather than learning to use technology in natural terms. Eventually, if all our learning goes through that lens, we are helpless without the aid of technology, on which we should not be dependent. We are concerned that introducing students to technology at inappropriately young ages without the necessary framing for the technology will ultimately prove detrimental to the development of children's social skills.
However, we also find it necessary to use digital technologies in the classroom in meaningful ways in order to develop the necessary technical skills for children. Digital technologies can be and should be integrated in the education in order to revitalize the classroom in problem-based, self-motivated learning methods. This integration should reflect the concern that students are becoming more disconnected, so technology should be used with traditional social pedagogies in order to most benefit the student and his/her particular developmental level.

11. We should restrict the development of emotional intelligence in robots and computers.

Currently, one of the most obvious distinctions between humans and artificial intelligence is the ability to experience emotion. Emotional intelligence remains decidedly human, and although robots may be able to mimic emotional responses, technology has not advanced to the point where they can successfully “feel” any convincingly human emotion. It is imperative that this does not change. The development of a thinking, feeling robot could easily result in a loss of human control over artificial intelligence. The idea of a “robot revolution” in which artificial intelligence rebukes human authority seems like a ridiculous science-fiction plot today. But what if artificial intelligence could experience feelings—rage, jealousy, or hate, for example—that could combine with other areas of high intelligence to initiate some type of mutiny? Another issue is just how “real” the emotions of artificial intelligence could become. Where could we ever draw the line between synthetic and real emotion in robots, if we have no absolute certain methods of ascertaining this? If humanity gave robots emotion and still considered them non-human machines, an incredibly ambiguous ethical dilemma could ensue. Consider the film AI (and the Brian Aldriss short story upon which it was based.) Robots were programmed to feel love and still treated as disposable mechanical devices—the pain of rejection in a robot might be technically synthetic, but does that really render it irrelevant? Researchers from Idaho National Laboratory advocate the importance of setting preventative limits, writing on their website, "We cannot shirk responsibility by calling the future inevitable. It is difficult to direct a snowball as it careens down the slope; thus, it is now - when there are only a handful of functional humanoids around the world - that we must decide the direction in which to push." Giving artificial intelligence the capacity for emotion would bring humanity to the slippery slope of playing God, and it seems deeply unethical to do so when we would be so unprepared and in disagreement about how to deal with the myriad consequences.

Source: Idaho National Laboratory

12. Internet Content Providers may not sell or give away sensitive personal information without explicit consent by the user beyond the EULA.

There are still debates going on about the effectiveness of the End User License Agreement. These are the “I agree” forms that you must submit before using almost any piece of software or signing up for any website. Very rarely does anyone actually read the agreement and even if they do, cannot decipher the heavy law jargon. Many companies have been known to abuse the EULA. For instance, Apple has a clause in the iTunes EULA that says you may not use the software to manufacture nuclear arms. While it (hopefully) was placed in as a joke, it just goes to show that there isn’t much of a point to EULA’s. It then becomes important to supplant the power they have with explicit permissions. Facebook’s EULA could say that they have the right to use your personal information in any manner they see fit. Once you’ve hit agree, depending on the court, you have no right to any information you place on Facebook. Once again, adopting this would require political action.

Source: Wikipedia

Conclusion

Our twelve statements provide parameters and establish values for how we want to apply technology in our lives. We believe that while technology has the ability to help create a better future, human beings are the directors of that future. As such, technology should strive to preserve or improve the well-being of human beings. We urge all participants of technology to use it meaningfully. We recognize that using technology requires understanding it, and we urge individuals to educate themselves accordingly. We also recognize federal governments’ and corporations’ powerful position in creating, allocating, and using new technologies, and we demand restrictions on that power.

We value humanity.

References

A list of all works cited and consulted

"A.I. Artificial Intelligence." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 2 Dec. 2011. Web.

Christian, Brian. The Most Human Human. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.

Collier, James. Living Through Technology. Issues in Professional and Public Discourse: Class Discussion. Blacksburg: Fall 2011.

“Community.” Ubuntu.com. Ubuntu, 2011. Web.

Epstein, Ron. “Ethical Dangers of Genetic Engineering.” Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought. Fall 1999. Web.

Greenstein, Shane and Ryan McDevitt. “Why Broadband Prices Haven’t Decreased.” Kellogg Insight. Kellogg, School of Management, Sept 2010. Web.

"Super-Toys Last All Summer Long." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 9 Aug. 2011. Web.

"Software License Agreement." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 27 Nov. 2011. Web.

“The Perfect Storm.” Internetsafety101.org. Enough is Enough, 2010. Web.

Toor, Amar. “Senate to vote on net neutrality repeal today, Obama counters with a veto threat.” Engadget. Aol Tech. Web. 10 Nov 2011.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.

Wadsworth, Derek, and Doug Few. "Ethical Considerations." Idaho National Laboratory. Robotics and Intelligence Systems. Web.

"Wikipedia: Introduction." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 30 Jan. 2011. Web.