NYTimes: Court Case Asks if ‘Big Brother’ Is Spelled GPS

September 11, 2011

This in an interesting article discussing whether technology is be used as Orwell envisioned. Compare what is described in here to the quotes in my post of several days ago. Is this really the same?

NYTimes: Court Case Asks if ‘Big Brother’ Is Spelled GPS http://nyti.ms/nMhr4i

Big Brother?

September 9, 2011

All of my teaching experience has been online. While this is not a post to discuss advantages and disadvantages of online courses, one benefit that I will point out is the ability to have in-depth discussions involving the entire class. It is easy to require everyone to participate, and unlike in a face-to-face class, the one guy who feels he must dominate the conversation has no stronger voice online than does the shyest student.

In one of my IT Security classes I wanted to discuss George Orwell’s vision of technology in 1984, and how reality has not met his expectations. I posed the following question for discussion:

In his book 1984, George Orwell predicted that technology would be used by the government (Big Brother) to obliterate citizens privacy and allow the state to completely control citizens lives. To what extent has Orwell’s vision been realized?

I was hoping students would discuss the ways in which citizens in repressive regimes used technology to undermine state control. Instead, many (though not all) of the students argued that the U.S. government is using technology to invade privacy just as Orwell had predicted. This I did not expect. Wondering how many of the students had read, or remembered Orwell’s book, I added the following details:

In Orwell’s 1984, every apartment has a telescreen.

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live –did live, from habit that became instinct– in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinised.


Each morning Winston does exercises in front of the telescreen.

‘Thirty to forty group!’ yapped a piercing female voice. ‘Thirty fo forty group! Take your places, please. Thirties to forties!’

Winston sprang to attention in front of the telescreen, upon which the image of a youngish woman, scrawny but muscular, dressed in tunic and gym-shoes, had already appeared.


‘Smith!’ screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. ‘6079 Smith W! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! That’s better, comrade.

Even with that further description of 1984, many students continued to argue that the U.S. government, while perhaps not as extreme as Big Brother, did many of the things described in the book.

What do you think?

Completed Teaching

September 6, 2011

There is a reason that this blog has been so quiet for nearly a year; I have been teaching IT Security and Project Management classes. I now have a new appreciation for the professors who have taught classes I have taken. Grading is grueling work.

Over the past year I have learned a great deal that I plan to share shortly.

Stay tuned…


October 8, 2010

I just finished watching a documentary called “Helvetica” on Netflix. It always amazes me when something so seemingly simple turns out to be quite complex. I just don’t have the kind of eye required to care about fonts. When I was in college using the first generation Apple Macintosh computers in the computer lab, I remember using New Century Schoolbook for all my papers. Now I just use whatever default font Bill Gates happens to choose. The movie  reinforced how much the right expert can add to a project. I can’t imagine looking at fonts all day long, but these people really love it; makes the world go round.

This is another aspect of the IT field that I love. IT either encompasses or touches many professions; it is impossible to know them all, and in order to be effective, we rely on collaboration to get the job done. It isn’t important to know all those professions, but it is certainly nice to appreciate them.

Watching an 80 minute movie about a single font is a new experience for me. I am not sure that I’d recommend you watch it, but if you do I’d like to know what you think. Will you be using Helvetical exclusively from now on? Is there another font you prefer? Are you quitting your day job to go design fonts?

Why Have a Design Review?

October 5, 2010

Just saw this on @NASAGoddard’s Twitter page and is just as applicable to IT projects as space flight projects.

Collective Intelligence: How to Determine Which Groups Will Perform Better

October 3, 2010

Gartner Fellow Tom Austin blogged about an article in Science on defining and testing “collective intelligence”, the ability of a group to accomplish cognitive tasks. You’ll need a subscription to Science to read the article, or pay $15 to purchase the article, but lead author  Anita Williams Woolley discusses the research in Science’s podcast available for free.

In the podcast, Woolley said that the a group’s collective intelligence was higher when members took turns speaking. Groups with a few members who dominated conversations had a lower collective intelligence. They found very little, if any correlation between individual intelligence of members of the group and the collective intelligence of the group. They also found no correlation between high extrovert scores of members and collective intelligence. But there was a strong correlation between groups of individuals with high social sensitivity and collective intelligence.

Incidentally, the higher proportion of women in a group the higher the collective intelligence. Woolley explained this because women tend to have higher social sensitivity than men and she did not seem to think there was any other factor influencing this gender difference.

As we move toward technology that gives groups unprecedented ability to collaborate, how can we use this research to more effectively manage our efforts?

Can we use tools that either mandate turn taking, or allow everyone in the group to participate as she or he sees fit to lessen the impact of low social sensitivity?

Mobile Security in the Cloud

October 1, 2010

I found the blog posting called Embed or Empower? by Rik Ferguson very interesting.

Now granted, he works for Trend Micro, so taking shots at McAfee is to be expected. But I find his argument compelling. Are we really going to move to hardware based security as Intel clearly believes in their purchase of McAfee? Is that the best model?

Read Rik’s blog and let me know what you think.