My Voice: Cyber security: Guarding against evil
Benjamin Jones(Photo: Black Studios l_)
In the popular Terminator movies, Skynet is the evil cyber network that gains self-awareness and begins to carry out its orders to protect Earth. The only problem is, Skynet sees mankind as the threat. Of course, that goes so horribly wrong for humans and the story is so fun to tell, we now have five movies, several comics, a video game, and a television series. It seems we can t get enough of this fictional runaway cyber computer network threatening us. Listening to the news, it seems computers are a real and ever present threat in real life. Life imitating art? Not quite. In the Terminator movies, the evil is portrayed by a single entity, something inhuman and otherworldly, but single-minded in its purpose, being and intent. But in real life, it is hardly a single entity as the Internet is produced, managed, engaged and informed by 3.2 billion people. Almost 50 percent of the planet s humans are making individual decisions that drive your Facebook feed, fill your email box, handle your health, tax, property, financial and personal data and, unfortunately, commit crimes they feel they need to share with us on social media. So, in 2017, we re not faced with the easily understood bad Terminator droids blasting good Terminator droids, but instead faced more repeatedly, more graphically and far less responsibly, with the knowledge of good and evil of our every day events. We must learn how to guard ourselves against violence, malfeasance, jealousies, crimes and all the hot mess of human behavior. That s right, it s not the Terminator commanded by Skynet that s the problem, the problem is us. Listening to Facebook s Mark Zuckerberg after the Facebook live video of a man murdering another man, one would think that we could solve such problems if we just had a better algorithm. Software isn t the problem. Humanity has innate weaknesses, frailties, jealousies that computers can only mitigate, not solve. In short, we must get past this idea that if we only had a better computer, life would be perfect. We ve studied computers long enough at Dakota State University to realize that s a losing proposition. Therefore, as a part of our new Madison Cyber Labs research initiative, we are including an Institute that will help us think more deeply about technology and particularly what it means to be human. The Collaborations for Liberty And Security Strategies for Integrity in a Cyber-enabled Society, or more simply, The CLASSICS Institute, has hired philosopher, author and South Dakotan Joseph Bottum. He will teach ethics to our students and facilitate the creation of a professional cyber-ethics for tech professionals and the public. After all, we need more than the Terminator movies to come to grips with this issue.
Bottum was born in Vermillion, raised in Pierre and then went east for college and graduate school. He taught at Loyola University and has worked as an editor of TheWeekly Standard and First Things. They are publications known for their concern and the exercise of our liberties. In recent years, he has written books such as An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, TheChristmas Plains, poetry,and other essays from his Black Hills home. He ll be joining us at Dakota State University to direct an effort to help students understand cyber-ethics and from there take their more mature understanding into their careers and into our communities. Just as importantly, he will also be organizing public discussions on a wide variety of societal issues and how technology s use impacts us all. We look forward to these new opportunities and hope to see you on campus.
Dr. Benjamin Jones is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Dakota State University in Madison. My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships.
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