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I am an engineer. My degrees are in electrical engineering and my work has been in the digital systems area, mainly digital logic, but also computer organization, software and theory. I am a Professor, Emeritus, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Columbia University (retired 6/08 after four decades at Columbia). Before joining the Columbia faculty, I worked at Bell Labs for about five years, and while at Columbia I worked in industry (e.g., at IBM, and RCA Laboratories) often during summers and sabbaticals, as well as doing some consulting work.
I have always been interested in the social implications of technology and have done a lot of work in this area, giving talks, writing articles and doing some organizing. Topics I have been actively involved in include engineering ethics, resisting government imposed secrecy in technology, environmental issues. I wrote, "Controlling Technology: Ethics and the Responsible Engineer", 2nd Ed., 1994, Wiley. (Also authored two books on digital logic).
Tuesday, December 17, 2013 SOS--Save Our Schools (6 comments)
Public schools are under attack. Just as many prisons are now tax-funded private enterprises, under the charter school concept, an increasing number of schools are being operated by private companies. Taxes that would otherwise fund public schools have been diverted to pay the bills.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 Our Descent Toward Third World Status (29 comments)
Third world countries are generally dominated by a tiny, wealthy upper crust, bolstered by a thin layer of people hanging on to middle class status, ruling over a mass of people at or below the poverty level. A unique combination of factors are moving the US into that world. Remedies are possible, but the prospects are dim.
Monday, September 16, 2013 The Demise of Unions and Why We Need to Revive Them (15 comments)
A key reason why many Americans are going thru hard times is the near demise of unions. Individuals have no leverage to negotiate with employers, especially given the surplus of workers in virtually every field. Since the end of the New Deal, government has not supported unions.
Friday, August 23, 2013 Privacy, and open government: both under assault (2 comments)
Edward Snowden's heroic action has made it clear that the ability of government to obtain information about individuals has been greatly expanded, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to obtain information about their government. Individual privacy is being eroded, while government secrecy is growing.
Thursday, January 3, 2013 Hi-Tech Election Fraud (1 comments)
E-voting machines seem really neat. But, after you push the last button on a touchscreen machine, or feed your ballot into an optical scanner, who knows if your votes are going to be counted correctly? This depends on the integrity of people, such as polling place technicians, and those who manufactured the machine. The long history of voting fraud should make clear that a trusting attitude is not appropriate in this realm.
Saturday, August 11, 2012 Should You Vote for the Best Candidate? (4 comments)
Many people are agonizing over the upcoming presidential election. Their problem is not deciding who is the best candidate, but rather deciding on whether to vote for a candidate they don't like in order to help defeat a worse contender. There is no sound basis for this agony. Voting for a bad candidate is a bad idea.
Saturday, May 14, 2011 2012 Presidential Election: Silent Liberals (3 comments)
Are liberals going to sit out the upcoming presidential election? Are they going to continue to blindly back the Democratic party, which clearly despises them? How come that, altho Americans all over the political spectrum would like to see the formation of a third party, liberals don't even talk about this? What happened to their outrage about Bush's wars, torture, civil liberties violations and subservience to bankers?
Sunday, March 21, 2010 Brutal Prisons Are Hurting Us All (2 comments)
Being "tough on crime" may not seem so great when it translates into prisons full of people serving long terms under harsh conditions, for petty non-violent crimes. Apart from being very expensive, this converts many petty criminals into violent ones, This is really tough on their victims. Maybe we need "smart" more than "tough".
Sunday, March 14, 2010 Can Progressives Declare Independence? (26 comments)
Progressives played a major role in electing a Democratic congress and president. What has changed? The wars and gross Bill of Rights violations continue. "Free trade" policies that have exported American manufacturing jobs continue, and no effective action is being taken to ward off the growing threat of climate change. Must progressives remain subservient to the Democrats? Can they stand up for what they believe?
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 Fixing Our Broken Democracy (3 comments)
Our democratic system has been badly damaged by the need for big money in election campaigns, faulty and corruptible e-voting systems, plurality voting (which pressures many people into NOT voting for the candidate they prefer), the electoral college, and more. We can do better. There ARE ways to tackle these problems. Let's do it!
Monday, May 4, 2009 The Need for People-Friendly Research & Development
We live in an age of rapid progress in science and technology, with
new applications announced at an amazing rate, as well as detrimental side effects. Scientific and engineering resources are largely controlled by private corporations, deployed mainly to maximize profits rather than serve the general public. We should to expand both in-house government R&D facilities and public funding of university research.
Sunday, March 22, 2009 The War On Terror: An Exercise in Hypocrisy (19 comments)
We are, supposedly, engaged in a "War on Terror," even tho the average number of Americans killed annually by terrorists since 9/11 is less than 3, all outside our borders. Defining terror leads us to look at our own history. What would really secure us is to recognize the danger posed by nuclear stockpiles.
Friday, December 5, 2008 Escalation in Afghanistan: A Really Bad Idea (1 comments)
While most Americans are, understandably, focusing their attention on our economic crisis, both the outgoing and incoming administrations have agreed to plunge our country deeper into yet another military quagmire--the Afghan civil war. This can only cost more American and Afghan lives, and add to our financial woes, with little chance of any real benefits. The flow of American troops should be out of, not into Afghanistan.
Friday, November 14, 2008 Why Abortion is NOT Murder (19 comments)
Many abortion rights opponents sincerely believe that abortion constitutes the murder of innocent human beings. Defenders of abortion rights seldom dispute this claim directly, preferring to raise other points that they consider strong enough to outweigh it. This is a big mistake; there is no valid basis for the contention that abortion is murder. My justification for this position does not involve any biological arguments.
Saturday, November 1, 2008 Voting Early: Sounds Good, But Its Not the Answer
Many people, concerned (properly) about the integrity of e-voting systems are voting early or casting absentee ballots. Unfortunately, these are both highly vulnerable to being manipulated by either insiders (those running the election systems) or outsiders (intruders breaking into the systems). The problem is lack of proper monitoring of the processes by monitors from competing campaign organizations.
Saturday, October 18, 2008 Forward to the Past: Junk the Machines, Count Votes Manually (2 comments)
It does not seem possible currently to enact even minimal reform legislation, leave alone bills that get at the fundamental problems. Perhaps the best that concerned people can do is to educate as many others as possible, and to encourage the adoption of HCPB systems by local jurisdictions.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 We Can Do Better than Instant Runoff Voting (11 comments)
Instant Runoff Voting looks good on the surface, but has serious faults. Approval Voting is a better solution to the "spoiler" problem. It is free of quirks and much simpler.