Trevor Dixon

Don’t Squander Time

In reading about and considering the plight of those addicted to video games and lost in virtual worlds, I sometimes take false comfort in comparing my relatively minor weaknesses to such wild addictions. Few of us abuse technology in such an unhealthy manner as to approach the level of addiction, but to invest in television, video games, social media, or frivolous internet surfing for even a couple of hours each day requires the sacrifice of equally enjoyable but far more valuable pursuits. I believe that committing to more than one TV show and making time for more than one movie per week represents too much media consumption. In my experience, the time saved by consciously limiting entertainment is time I spend playing with my daughter or programming side projects—activities I’m much more proud of.

Software Shouldn’t Be Patentable

Hacking Isn’t Cute

As I reflect on Ghost in the Wires, the memoir of famous hacker Kevin Mitnick, I’m disgusted by Mitnick’s selfish disregard for others. Mitnick’s thesis is that his hacks amounted to harmless games and that he was the victim of unjust persecution by brutish thugs from big corporations and the government. Mitnick never physically harmed anybody and never profited from his hacks, but his actions seriously wounded civil society’s trust.

If we all had to deal regularly with liars like Kevin Mitnick, it would rock the foundations of society. Many social constructs are built on a foundation of trust, and they continue to stand, because most people are trustworthy. Liars that abuse that trust do real harm to those constructs. If everybody lied like Kevin Mitnick, sociality would become dangerous, and the joy of human interaction would be lost. Life would be miserable.

Kevin Mitnick now leads an honorable life, but the idea promoted in his memoir—that hacking and lying are a fun game for those cut out for it—is a dangerous attitude.

Teach Programming to Junior High Students to Get More Women in Computer Science

Exposing teenagers to computer science leads, not uncommonly, to a love affair with programming. Unfortunately, due to cultural influences, girls are far less likely to be exposed to programming by their peers. Computer science should be introduced to every junior high school student. Ensuring so would particularly benefit girls, who are less likely to discover the joy of programming outside of school.

Open Source Everything

Open source software is born, evolved, and maintained in the same way the whole economy of Zion will be. Open source development will work just as well for book authoring, scientific research, city planning, art, and many other disciplines as it does for software development. We’ll benefit enormously if leaders in other fields adopt open source development like the software community has.

A Crippled Internet

To grant companies, ISPs, or the government the power to censor Internet content undermines the principles that made the Internet great and threatens to diminish the Internet’s power for good. The unregulated internet we are accustomed to won out over another vision for the World Wide Web: a tightly controlled, “government-sponsored broadband network that would have delivered video from TV stations and other approved content”—another FCC-regulated medium like radio or television. Such an internet might have been useless for pirating copyrighted material, distributing pornography, or bullying teenagers, but neither would it have facilitated an Arab Spring or inspired a generation of entrepreneurs. The properties of the World Wide Web that make it so dangerous are the same properties that make it a tool for incredible good. To control the Internet is to cripple it.

Security is an Afterthought

Thirty years ago, it was already clear to network managers like Clifford Stoll that the username/password method of authentication is faulty. (People tend to pick easy-to-remember passwords that are easy to guess; complex assigned passwords get written down and are easily stolen.) Given that so many other aspects of computing have evolved dramatically after all these years, it’s remarkable that this model is the still the norm.

Because our authentication methods are the same as they were 30 years ago, many of Clifford Stoll’s hacker’s break-in tactics work just as well against today’s networks as they did in the 80s. At least our intolerance for this kind of hacking has caught up with the risks! Such an intrusion would not be taken so lightly by today’s network managers as it was by those Stoll elicited for support.

Republicans Would Rather Cut Your Baby in Half Than Provide Healthcare to Poor People

Republican lawmakers remind me of the conniving young mother who sought to persuade wise King Solomon that she was the actual mother of the disputed infant, but who shrugged at the proposed bisection of the tot. Democratic and Republican congresspeople argue with equal vigor that the other party is responsible for the shutdown, but out of the other side of their mouths, Republicans mutter it’s not even that bad, betraying their guilt. If Republicans truly believed that President Obama and the Democrats caused the shutdown, they wouldn’t try to downplay its gravity.

Sustenance

To “sustain” somebody doesn’t mean to agree with or pledge loyalty to that person. Sustenance is provided in doing things that uplift or encourage or otherwise help. Feeling or publicly expressing allegiance to President Monson does so little to sustain him; instead, help him to accomplish his mission. President Monson worries about many things and has many goals. Alleviate his worries and advance his goals by serving neighbors and uplifting the elderly and lonely.

Will a Robot Steal Your Job?

No! A robot will do your job for you. Job automation might primarily benefit employers in the short term, putting workers in direct competition with robots and some employees out of work, but ultimately, an automatic economy will liberate humans. Don’t fear unemployment; look forward to free time! Job automation will benefit everybody if the vast wealth generated by robots is shared.

Inspired by What Undercover Boss and The Jetsons Tell Us About the Future of Jobs.