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Stephen Unger

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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).

OpEd News Member for 764 week(s) and 5 day(s)

43 Articles, 1 Quick Links, 517 Comments, 2 Diaries, 0 Polls

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Crowd in street., From WikimediaPhotos
(9 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Too Many People Allowing large numbers of people to enter our country, legally or illegally, is very harmful to the millions of poor Americans who they are replacing in the workplace. Along similar lines, many American engineers are being replaced on the job by immigrants from China or India. American public schools, particularly in poor neighborhoods, have been deteriorating in quality for over a half century.
Death, From PixabayPhotos
(1 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Monday, October 7, 2019
The Demise of Death We are a long way from being able to produce a duplicate of a particular human being. But there is no obvious reason to believe that this could never be done. Why would we want to do this? One reason might be to deal with problems caused by accidents or disease.
school crossing sign, From FlickrPhotos
(1 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Revive the Public School Education in the USA is in chaos. Both public and private schools vary considerably in quality. Catholic parochial schools, teach mostly the same subjects taught in public schools, in addition to a minimal amount of religious material. For economic reasons, Catholic parochial schools are handling many fewer students than previously. Yeshivas, ultra-orthodox Jewish schools, are almost entirely devoted to religious material.
The White House - Washington DC, From FlickrPhotos
(10 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Monday, January 21, 2019
Donald Trump: the Bad and the Good Donald Trump had no experience as a politician. But his predecessors did not set high standards. Trump's positions on the environment are terrible, and he slashed many good programs. But he is doing well negotiating with North Korea, and has announced a plan to withdraw our troops from Syria. Altho crude in his rhetoric, Trump is trying to cut the immigration that is hurting poor Americans (tho he is not advocating E-Verify).
Ivy Mike H Bomb, From WikimediaPhotos
(1 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Saturday, November 10, 2018
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.
dice, From FlickrPhotos
(8 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Saturday, June 2, 2018
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.
William Penn 2, From WikimediaPhotos
(10 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Monday, March 26, 2018
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.
bombers, From FlickrPhotos
(4 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Sunday, December 24, 2017
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...
Ivy Mike - mushroom cloud, From WikimediaPhotos
(6 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Tuesday, August 29, 2017
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.
Steel Worker, From FlickrPhotos
(3 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Saturday, July 15, 2017
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.
Washington D.C. - The White House, From FlickrPhotos
(4 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Thursday, September 15, 2016
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.
Ballot box, From FlickrPhotos
(14 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Wednesday, April 27, 2016
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".
firefighter, From ImagesAttr
(9 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Wednesday, February 17, 2016
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?
Pile of Bills on Black, From FlickrPhotos
(5 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Sunday, January 10, 2016
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.
File:1990 Bowl Teams-USA-states.png - Wikimedia Commons, From GoogleImages
(4 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Saturday, December 5, 2015
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.
I Voted!, From ImagesAttr
(7 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Thursday, October 22, 2015
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.
From,_Sr.jpg: Robert M. La Follette, Sr., From ImagesAttr
(4 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Tuesday, July 21, 2015
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?
Crowd, From ImagesAttr
(22 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Friday, March 27, 2015
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.
YM Movement, San Francisco Bay, From ImagesAttr
(6 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Monday, December 15, 2014
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.
PeoplesClimateMarch-2179, From ImagesAttr
(5 comments) SHARE More Sharing        Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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.

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