By Fiona McCrae
Read Part I.
Knowledge of computing is especially important when it comes to social media culture. Every day, millions of users log into information buffets like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. They carelessly share their whereabouts, bestow ample images of themselves without restraint, and heap pounds of personal information out onto these online platforms, then selectively consume and interact with the banquet others have laid out. Some manage their menu of data a little more closely, choosing privatized settings, perhaps requiring approval for the guests they allow to take part in their personal communication feast. Nevertheless, a good hacker understands that any personal information someone serves up on the internet can cease to be personal as soon as their fingers grace the keyboard. Every American has free access to a computer and the internet in some way or another, so it is imperative that they know the powers and the weaknesses of that medium. What is at one point a fantastic idea in the head of an impoverished university student can become an iconic product, or the thriving social media network that influences an entire generation’s communication. One over seasoned post, however, can also become prey for identity thieves. We need young people to know the consequences of their actions online, and teaching them computer science can open their eyes to their own “sense of ethical behavior… [and prevent them from] being oppressed by innovation shock” (Fluck 41) and vulnerable to a questionable elite hacker class. If students can understand the principles by which their online spheres are created, they will know the rules that can shatter their bubble of safety.
Knowing the regulations and building blocks of the virtual world will enable students to be “active creators and producers rather than passive consumers of technology” (Fluck 41). All too often, people expect the world of technology to evolve around them, but currently, only a few insiders have the computer science knowledge to become the drivers of social and cultural evolution. Computer science and programming knowledge allow for unbounded creative opportunities for students to “choose their role in society” (Fluck 41). By teaching every child these skills from a young age, we would be empowering them to become problem solvers familiar with the strongest tool of our age, and to develop the necessary technologies of the future. Integrating computational education will be not only a benefit to society but it will also provide students with creative opportunities and thinking skills that will benefit every facet of their minds.
Another cultural and social platform that has grown significantly and is highly affected by computer scientists, but is often marginalized by analysts looking at the serious effects of technology, is video gaming. “In 2014 the global video game market was estimated to be worth $102 billion, compared to box office receipts for films of $36 billion” (Fluck 42), indicating that video games have possibly already overtaken the cultural significance of film. As superfluous as the field may sound to hardworking professionals and frustrated parents, the roles of video game designer, programmer, composer, animator, and even professional gamer already greatly impact cultural diffusion. Ideas involves in video games and their execution create opportunities for millions of careers, which students could be missing out on if they do not have the basic technical or thinking skills associated with computer science to take part in the process. Video game technology goes beyond entertainment: it contains “language, customs, attitudes, ethical values, and more” (Fluck 41) and because video games have such an immersive quality and universal reach, they transmit culture through experience. Just as orchestras, actors, and comedians are valued, and the arts are kept on and often required for graduation in most schools in the United States, computer scientists can contribute to culture and the arts while also practicing central functional skills of computing.
Without a doubt, computers have revolutionized the way we conduct business. Anything imaginable can be bought online. Clicks have become almost a new form of currency, and anyone with the right setup and access to sufficient electricity can mine for virtual currency known as bitcoin (Rice 1-4). From banking to applying for jobs to going grocery shopping, tasks that were once accomplished person to person can be done from the comfort of home, or while riding the bus, or even while on vacation. Technology makes money move faster, and while there is an increase in convenience, there is also the rise in risk associated with putting monetary information out into cyberspace, for example, “MCI [Communications Corp] lost over fifty million dollars when hackers downloaded more than 50,000 credit card numbers, and Citibank lost ten million dollars when its computer network was compromised by a crime group in Russia” (Lee 844). Citizens of both the present and the future world market need to know how to keep their data and the data of their future businesses safe, so that consumers can continue to feel secure while taking advantage of the benefits of e-commerce, and business managers can freely, fairly, and safely expand into the global online market. In the growing realm of commerce insecurity, some believe that “cyberspace actually facilitates effective regulation and technical solutions will ultimately eliminate the threat posed by hackers” (Lee 842), but this can only happen if all users of the internet understand how it works and can visualize inside and out the limits and advantages of cyber commerce, making a basic understanding of computer science, as integrated from a young age, pertinent to the growth of the online marketplace.
Business and other security conducted with computers also requires a new way of thinking about private and intellectual property and spaces, which can be better understood and managed by people who can think in terms of computing. Anyone’s thoughts can be posted immediately and with little to no regulation. Highly intellectual or academic writing and knowledge is typically protected, but the way we regulate plagiarism, and the way we define online spaces as our own changes when we enter the cyber realm. If “85 percent of company assets are intangible assets stored in networks” (Kellerman 181), that means 85 percent of assets are vulnerable to cyber-attacks of some sort, and that a lot of valuable information critical for businesses is in a currently loosely understood and intangible realm with questionable legal regulation. There is a high demand for computational thinkers who can define and regulate cyber property. Implementing computer science as a regular subject would provide the foundations for every high school graduate to potentially be one of these great thinkers, who defines what ownership is in the modern day, as well as in the future.
Even more troubling, “it remains difficult, if not impossible, to identify the involved parties who hide behind the anonymity and global orientation of the Internet and utilize a catacomb of enablers… [such as] Internet Service Providers (ISPs), hosting companies, merchant banks and online payment systems” (Kellerman 182) to invade and vandalize or steal information online. People need a basis to understand when cyber property is being violated, how to better harden invisible boundaries to protect intellectual property and business assets, and how to begin to systematically catch and persecute black or gray hat hackers who have violated the use of objects that do not physically exist in spaces that are not tangibly navigable or ever completely private. It is necessary to respect and define the proper owners of digital information, recover any vandalized or lost information while minimizing loss of productivity, and to effectively determine and detain the data larcenist, while also understanding that no online areas are truly private. With the addition of computer science and ethics from a young age, professionals, legislators, and lawyers in the future will have a better understanding and therefore a more comprehensive ability to ethically regulate and legally interpret traffic through online property. [break?]
Everything previously addressed to this point– the social, cultural and economic need for computationally proficient thinkers– is affected by the absolute vitality of computer scientists who can defend the legacy of freedom of the United States of America. While we still live on a planet categorized into distinct sovereign nations and governments, the need for defense of national security and identity is imperative. Our next world wars will be fought online, with information becoming the highest casualty. It has already been established that we have a very poor ability to catch cyber criminals, and that there is a shortage of able computer scientists to fill this field. Anything can be bought online, from designer shoes to designer drugs. The Digital Citizens Alliance’s report form 2015, “Busted, but Not Broken: The State of Silk Road and the Dark-net Marketplaces” details how the Deep Web, or the Dark Web, is a hub for illicit activity which grows insidiously and indeterminately under the skin of the familiar web we know, with users anonymously and often illicitly trading, despite efforts from law enforcement to shut it down (2). Weapons can be sold online as well as drugs, or even templates to print out weapons on the quickly evolving 3D printer technology, with absolutely no regulation. Both our information identities and physical lives are at risk without competent cyber patriots to secure international and domestic servers and software.
It all comes down to this simple fact: if we do not implement computer science more thoroughly into modern education in the United States, we will be setting ourselves up for a national security breach. With a basic background in computer science and ethics, every citizen will be equipped with the skills to fight against a range of threats from “identity theft… [to] the United States’ current and potential adversaries–whether radical Islamic terrorists, Iran, or China–[that] are looking for the weaknesses in the US information infrastructure and mapping out where and how they would mount cyber attacks” (Vatis 56-57). Even if they are not actively counter-attacking, knowing the extent of computing powers and vulnerabilities and practicing ethical and conscientious habits will be a massive step toward more complete cyber security. In the Harvard International Review, Michael Vatis states that “The majority of critical infrastructures in the United States are owned by private industries… [so] the US government alone cannot defend the infrastructures but needs the cooperation of the private sector” (57). It does not get much clearer than that. Obviously, if every productive member of American society was well-informed about computer science and ethics, the cooperation of the private sector would be practically guaranteed.
Computer science and programming involve processes of thinking that challenge the student to constantly modify and improve their work to keep up with new technology and to make systems more secure, effective, and efficient. Giving a student computer programming skills is handing them the golden egg that will carry them to social empowerment, cultural influence as opposed to passive reception, economic success, a comprehensive understanding of the security deficits that come hand in hand with technology, and the toolkit to expand computer technology and safety for generations to come. We desperately need more computer scientists and white hat hackers, and the sooner we get to making computer science and ethics a staple in the K-12 American education system, the sooner we can increase our global competitiveness as a world power. Contemplating the big picture of the future demands that we seriously implement fundamental computing or “hacking” skills–not just requiring students to mindlessly click through an online class that has nothing to do with increasing technological skill–as basic in the education system. Code alone is not enough to perfect the DNA which determines how the body of society functions, we need more manpower that is capable of maintaining the rapid pace of technologic evolution. Especially at our current dependency, it will take every tech savvy student produced by our education system to manage this innovation addiction.
“Busted, but Not Broken: The State of Silk Road and the Dark-net Marketplaces.” Digital Citizens Alliance, 2015, https://perma.cc/9PLU-GGHG.
Charoula Angeli, et al. “A K-6 Computational Thinking Curriculum Framework: Implications for Teacher Knowledge.” Journal of Educational Technology & Society, vol. 19, no. 3, 2016, pp. 47–57. www.jstor.org/stable/jeductechsoci.19.3.47.
Fluck, Andrew, et al. “Arguing for Computer Science in the School Curriculum.” Journal of Educational Technology & Society, vol. 19, no. 3, 2016, pp. 38–46. www.jstor.org/stable/jeductechsoci.19.3.38.
Kellermann, Tom. “Civilizing Cyberspace.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 2011, pp. 180–184. www.jstor.org/stable/43133827.
Lee, Michael, et al. “Electronic Commerce, Hackers, and the Search for Legitimacy: A Regulatory Proposal.” Berkeley Technology Law Journal, vol. 14, no. 2, 1999, pp. 839–886. www.jstor.org/stable/24115668.
Logan, Patricia. “Is it Safe? Information Security Education: Are We Teaching a Dangerous Subject?” Proceedings of the 8th Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education June 2004, CISSE, 2004, West Point, NY. pp. 65–70. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0ahUKEwj00qXiw4PSAhUEQCYKHb8_ArUQFgg7MAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cisse.info%2Fresources%2Farchives%2Fcategory%2F2-papers%3Fdownload%3D10%3As3p02-2004&usg=AFQjCNGTFndJ9eJeMxkOJvTARkKeqSfi3A&sig2=5brSGZA-x-79F6oJveVgRg
Pashel, Brian. “Teaching Students to Hack: Ethical Implications in Teaching Students to Hack at the University Level.” 2006, pp. 197–200. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/42cc/cd84f9a973e1d7ba8d0f44c023c426c5de93.pdf.
Rice, Denis T. “The Past and Future of Bitcoins in Worldwide Commerce.” Business Law Today, 2013, pp. 1–4. www.jstor.org/stable/businesslawtoday.2013.11.06.
Sussman, Herbert. “Cyberpunk Meets Charles Babbage: ‘The Difference Engine’ as Alternative Victorian History.” Victorian Studies, vol. 38, no. 1, 1994, pp. 17–18. www.jstor.org/stable/4618879.
Vatis, Michael. “The Next Battlefield: The Reality of Virtual Threats.” Harvard International Review, vol. 28, no. 3, 2006, pp. 56–61. www.jstor.org/stable/42772645.
Wible, Brent. “A Site Where Hackers Are Welcome: Using Hack-In Contests to Shape Preferences and Deter Computer Crime.” The Yale Law Journal, vol. 112, no. 6, 2003, pp. 1577–1623. www.jstor.org/stable/3657453.