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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).
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
The existence of humanity is endangered by thermonuclear weapons possessed by 9 countries. The US dominates the world militarily. Global warming is being addressed in a half-hearted manner. There is no real movement to deal with overpopulation. Due to the near disappearance of American labor unions, immigration, and the export of industry, income of working people is very low. The super-rich control both major parties.
Saturday, June 2, 2018(8 comments)
Sortition: Government by Jury
Choosing citizens at random to serve on juries to indict or try people for alleged criminal behavior is generally considered to serve the cause of justice. Ordinary people behave conscientiously in such situations. Over 2000 years ago, the Greeks used a randomly chosen legislative body.
Monday, March 26, 2018(10 comments)
Quakers: Earliest Activists for Peace, Freedom, Women's Rights, and the Environment
Quakers (Society of Friends) have been around for well over 3 centuries. From the outset, they strongly, but nonviolently, took positions supporting the rights of women and minorities of all kinds. They recognized and acted upon the need to protect the environment. Quaker were leaders in opposing slavery, and strongly advocated prison reform.
Sunday, December 24, 2017(4 comments)
The Ugly Side of Post-WWII American History
With a few important exceptions, US history has been on a downward path, starting with the Hiroshima A-bomb. We are in a state of war in various parts of the world, with no end in sight. Millions of innocent men, women, and children have been killed by Americans (mainly via bombers), and by those lavishly supplied with American weapons. The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has been instrumental in overthrowing a number of...
Tuesday, August 29, 2017(6 comments)
H-Bombs: The Need Not to Have Them
We are fortunate in that there has been no further use of nuclear weapons after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The continual danger posed by these weapons, including the possibility that one might fall into the hands of terrorists, is unacceptable. It is essential that the US take the lead in negotiations to eliminate this ongoing threat to humanity.
Saturday, July 15, 2017(3 comments)
The Downside of Technology
Well thought out technology makes our lives more pleasant, and often safer. But, to an increasing extent, technology is being carelessly or even perniciously used, often degrading our environment. The ultimate example of that being deadly weapons. The idea that it is OK to market any product unless there is strong evidence that it would have pernicious effects is a cause of many problems.
Thursday, September 15, 2016(4 comments)
Greater Good Versus Lesser Evil
Many voters, in order to help defeat a terrible candidate of one major party, vote for a candidate of the other party, who they also dislike, but feel is not quite as bad. This approach has led to a downward spiral. We need to take a longer range view in order to turn things around.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016(14 comments)
When is a vote wasted?
A vote is a tool for influencing government policy. While it may seem simple to use it in any election, many people try to use it in a complex way. But I believe a straightforward approach is best. One justification for this belief is based on a powerful moral principle due to the philosopher Immanual Kant; A modernized wording is, "Adhere to a rule if you believe its widespread observation would be generally beneficial".
Wednesday, February 17, 2016(9 comments)
What If There Is a 9/11 Encore?
The consequences of the 9/11 attack included a series of wars costing hundreds of thousands of lives, trillions of dollars, and the implementation of an array of troublesome, costly regulations and procedures. What would be the likely response to another such attack?
Sunday, January 10, 2016(5 comments)
Putting a Limit On Wealth
Those with tons of money can use if for many purposes. When spent on lavish living, the damage, generally in the form of waste, and perhaps pollution, may not too serious. But, when the super-rich use their great wealth to acquire and exercise special political power, that should not be tolerated.
Saturday, December 5, 2015(4 comments)
Nice Party versus Tough Party: is this fight real?
While they may hotly debate such matters as gun control, or the death penalty, and while many politicians wax eloquent over the need to ensure world peace, and to improve the lot of working people, neither major party will do anything to antagonize the moneyed interests who control them.
Thursday, October 22, 2015(7 comments)
A Political Platform Worth Fighting For
I vote only for candidates that I believe would, if elected, generally support my views. In this essay, I specify those views on a variety of topics. Obviously, one can't expect perfection, but I would not vote for any candidate that I disagreed with on more than a few major issues.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015(4 comments)
Who is Today's Version of "Fighting Bob" La Follett?
A century ago, the rich dominated government. But they were staunchly opposed by a few militant defenders of civil liberties and egalitarianism, who also opposed militarism. Occasionally victorious, they laid the foundation for the New Deal. Who has taken their places today?
Friday, March 27, 2015(22 comments)
Why Good People Vote For Bad People
Americans across the political spectrum agree that our political system is in very bad shape. Almost two thirds of the eligible voters abstained in November 2014. Many who did vote in that election say that they were trying to prevent the election of a candidate even worse than the one they voted for. Unless they are personally very wealthy, candidates for high office are viable only if backed by people with tons of money.
Monday, December 15, 2014(6 comments)
Selling out America: Transnational Trade
While transnational trade can be a good thing for all, it can also hurt many people. A consequence of globalization is to make workers a commodity, subject to laws of supply and demand that are driving down wages and salaries, and degrading working conditions. Americans are being hurt to a growing extent.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014(5 comments)
The Need For Solidarity
An individual parachuted into some uninhabited wilderness area is not likely to prosper. Humans can come close to realizing their individual potentials only when they are in a civilized community. Individuals need to support one another in reasonable ways. A basic problem today is that most people seem to be unable, or unwilling, to join with others to defend against usurpation of power by a small, wealthy minority.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014(2 comments)
Children Crossing Borders
There have been several sources of immigrants in US history, as people have come here for one or more of several different reasons. The recent, and apparently ongoing, surge of children illegally crossing our southern border is unprecedented. Altho the consequences may not be all that different from those associated with conventional immigration of adults, sometimes with their children, many people are responding very differen
Saturday, September 13, 2014(5 comments)
How Pharmaceutical Products Differ From Tennis Balls
When it comes to tennis balls, sellers do best by producing a good product and selling it at a fair price. Unfortunately, in a far more important area, pharmaceutical companies can, and do, maximize their profits by operating in ways that harm their customers in many ways.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014(1 comments)
Is Progress in Technology Always Beneficial?
We are accustomed to hearing about wonderful new products resulting from technological break-thrus. But "new" does not always mean "good". In many cases, possible serious drawbacks of seemingly beneficial new technology cannot be assessed without very extensive research, and perhaps long-term use.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014(1 comments)
Justice for All
Since winning in a courtroom is heavily dependent on the ability of one's lawyer, those unable to hire the best lawyers (most of us) are at a great disadvantage in both criminal and civil cases. Can we alter our system to make a trial not a duel, but an effort to unearth the truth?