Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bad to the Bone - Part 1

United Airlines to honor tickets sold for $0.
Computer glitch sending wrong bills for toll roads.
Hollywood condo owner receives $154,000 water bill.
Google flags the entire Internet as malware.

Each of the above is a real headline.  The news media loves stories like these as it breaks up the monotony of the local crime report and it also allows the media to subtlety pin the blame on an inanimate object instead of a real living human being. 

They are constant too.  This past Sunday, a Miami Marlins pitcher tossed a no-hitter, a pretty rare feat for baseball.  The Marlins organization allowed people to purchase the un-sold tickets.  If you chose the print-from-home option for these tickets, you’ll soon discover they were printed with the wrong dateComputer errors are simply all too common.

Computers have deeply integrated into our society and will continue to integrate itself even more in the foreseeable future.  It is hard to imagine where society will be in a few years with technology like Siri and cell phones becoming more like personal assistants than an emergency communications device.

Yet we seem to forget that computers are nothing but tools.  Extremely powerful and useful tools but they are tools nonetheless, doing nothing of their own initiative, only doing what someone else has programmed them to do.  (Even Artificial Intelligence is nothing more than a randomization of a pre-loaded set of instructions.)

We all can agree that for the most part, computers have benefited society.  Who hasn’t been mesmerized by Wikipedia?  If you’ve ever used online bill pay, you appreciate not having to write a paper check once a month and making odd trips to the post office trying to get more stamps.

But as much good as computers have done for society, there are bad people in this world who also have computers.  These computers are programmed to do things which are judged by others as “bad”.  These exists a whole industry whose purpose is to protect your computer from the over 200,000 pieces of malware which is discovered daily.

Even we bot owners are not immune.  We’ve all profited from Library and we are satisfied with its operation.  However, there are those who think that their profits are not enough and will do unethical things to attempt to get those profits.  We’ll be discussing those in this series and we’ll start next time.

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