The text of the message that follows this one is taken verbatim from the HUMAN-NETS Digest (HUMAN-NETS@RUTGERS), 11 Sep 1985, Volume 8 : Issue 29, on the topic of risks in EMAIL. That topic is of vital significance to the RISKS Forum, for at least two reasons: (1) You should recognize the risks that might be incurred by you in submitting messages to this forum, and in sending on-line messages in general. (2) The free propagation of messages not copyrighted can itself lead to significant risks to the contributor and to the RISKS Forum, if those messages were false or libelous, or if they are altered. In general, you and I must assume that any message on this forum may be forwarded indefinitely and read by anyone, and could appear in print in all sorts of strange places. (If something worthy of inclusion in the ACM Software Engineering Notes is at all controversial, I ask for explicit permission before publishing it.) What is even RISKIER is that your message can be trivially altered along the way as it traverses the network of networks, possibly drastically changing your intended meaning. Use of check sums and crypto seals can reduce the risk of undetected alteration, but does not solve the problem entirely. Peter G. Neumann (This message is not copyrighted.)
Copyright-by: Larry Hunter, 1985 After consulting with several lawyer friends, the conclusion I reach is that anything you send out over the nets is public property — ie, anyone can reproduce it verbatim, for profit and the author has no right to control its use. There is, however, a very simple way to preserve the author's rights to control the use his messages are put to. The courts have held that practically any clear attempt of an author to preserve his/her rights to a written work are sufficient to actually preserve them. No need to add the 'circled c' to ASCII, just add a 'Copyright-by:' line to the header of your local mailer and voila! your rights are preserved. Larry PS. I am not a lawyer and this is only my opinion - if you have a vital interest in some related matter, talk to a real lawyer!
Someone sent me this and I thought the people on this mailing list might be interested. Excerpt from a pamphlet by Dow Chemical Corp, entitled Life is in the Balance: Dr. richard Wilson, who is professor of physics at Harvard, has devised a mathematical formula that measures risks in terms of the minutes and seconds of life lost. Taking the average person of 30 who has a life-span in the United States of approximately 73 years, Wilson says that statistical person cuts time from his life in the following ways: Smoking one cigarette - minus 12 minutes Drinking a diet soft drink - minus about 9 seconds Driving without a seat belt - 6 seconds for each trip Being an unmarried male - minus 1800 days Being male rather than female - minus 2700 days We can also view risks by figuring which risks are qeual. For example, the following items all pose an equal risk of increasing the likelihood of death by one chance in a million: Drinking half a liter of wine Spending three hours in a coal mine Living two days in New York Traveling six minutes by canoe Riding 10 miles on a bicycle Driving 300 miles in a car Flying 1000 miles by jet
This is definitely old news, but then again the facts behind the case have only recently seen the light of day. In his recent biography "Alan Turing: the enigma" (Simon & Schuster) Andrew Hodges reveals in some detail the inner workings of the German Enigma encryption device (arguably a "computer") which contributed (backhandedly) to the development of computers as we know and love them today. (If you're interested in Turing, computers or WWII history read it, if you haven't already.) The portion of the book devoted to Turing's stint at Bletchley Park is peppered with lost opportunities on the German side. Apparently with little additional effort the Germans could have rendered the "Bletchley bombes" completely useless. In fact the only reason the Germans were not careful was their unswerving faith in the Enigma device. Even when there was ample evidence pointing to a message-security problem the integrity of Enigma was never seriously questioned by the Germans. There were, of course, countless other factors, but the German faith in their technological answer was in large measure responsible for their losing the U-boat war and very likely the war itself. Another anecdote, not related to computers (recounted in either "The Ultra Secret", Winterbotham or "Bodyguard of Lies", A. Cave Brown, two other excellent books on the secret war) gave one reason for the German atomic bomb project not really getting off the ground. It seems that a German professor of the old school was in charge of finding a material for moderating a chain reaction (by absorbing neutrons). Graphite was tried but failed which meant that deuterium (heavy water) was thought to be needed. When it was suggested that the graphite might not be pure enough (which, as it turned out, was the reason the test failed) the professor reacted with rage that his authority was being questioned and he effectively derailed German research in reactor design. (Later the plant for making heavy water built in Norway was sabotaged by British agents which made a reactor impossible which preventing the manufacture of fissile material.) These examples suggest that excessive reliance on either technological solutions or "authoritative opinion" may carry grave risks, albeit in these cases for an evil regime. The question facing us is whether we (or the Soviets, for that matter) have fallen into the same traps. I would say that we (both) definitely have, for the means to power are now more than ever technological (as opposed to political or diplomatic) and one or another "expert" is routinely trotted out to "prove" the efficacy of this or that technological scheme. Indeed, how can it be otherwise? Hitler opened the Pandora's Box of applying high-tech to warfare and it worked (at least until a higher-tech response prevailed). After WWII a new era was born in which global political power no longer rested on moral authority but on a command of the new applied sciences and scientists. Engineers had provided political leaders with instruments of war for centuries, but now scientists are looked upon as the fountainhead of political power, by dictators, politicians and the people alike. It may now be said truly that Knowledge is Power. To some the risks of technology are the inevitable consequence of the inexorable "progress" that technology itself represents. It seems to me that this view places too great an emphasis on the growth of "technology" itself at the expense of our ability to integrate it with human wants and needs. It's almost to say that "technology" has a virtual life of its own that we have no control over. This is manifestly untrue because "technology" is the mere summation of the creative acts and compulsions of a great number of people enamored of the idea of "technology". But if "technology" does have a life of its own it must be based on a willing denial of responsibility on the part of each member involved in furthering it, particularly when large populations or the world are put at risk by introducing a new "technological development". It seems, therefore, self-evident that morality and technology are intimately interwoven. In the largest sense, the risks of computers are the risks of having an increasing number of computer experts that are in a position to tell people what computers can be safely used for. Their expert opinions may be well thought out or erroneous, as the case may be, but they are in fact the only opinions that the public, financial institutions, military establishments or politicians can depend on. The fact that any or all may place a value on this expert information and act on it puts a heavy moral burden on the providers of this information, whether they like it or not. The only population that I have had direct contact with who have faced this primal issue of the risks of technology are the Amish-Mennonites of Ontario; I made a film about their 150th Anniversary in Canada. (I have also edited films about the Amish in Lancaster Co., PA.) The trigger for the Amish was rubber-tired wheels on carriages around the 1870's because this allowed the young of courting age to "go to town" more easily, with a perceived disruption of Amish life not far behind. To this "improvement" they said "No". Subsequently, the Amish have taken great care to keep the increasing technological developments surrounding them at bay, but not by pure rejection. In short, they have evaluated the risks of adopting technologies. For instance, gasoline engines are permitted for stationary use (and also on horse-drawn wagons) for harvesting, threshing, bailing and for powering milk refrigerators. There's no contradiction in using a valuable power source so long as it isn't applied to providing the means for increased contact with the outside world. Electricity is used if generated within the farm; and public telephones may be used as well; as long as wires (i.e. connections) to the outside world are avoided there is no reason to avoid using the technology. The oddity of the Amish is based on common sense when their objectives are known. Although the Amish reaction to technology may strike many as merely "quaint" they do show that it is possible to stop short the "inevitable" growth of technology. (The Amish are renowned for their success in farming, which is not the case for many others that have embraced modern technological ways.) I am not advocating a general return to Amish ways (indeed this only makes sense within the context of Amish values), but I will say that we all face a similar confrontation with a technology that may do us great harm on many fronts. Unfortunately we are prone to treat our own creations (be they buildings, cars, chemicals or computers) as if they are as benevolent as the products of 5 billion years of co-adaptive evolution. As increasingly complex and interdependent as our creations become, the more they will reveal themselves as ill-suited to the tasks they were meant to perform; it only stands to reason because of the lack of a truly global feedback in the design process. And also, how are we to judge the efficacy of our machines if we have lost sight of the reason we have created them?
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