Monday, April 04, 2011

[cs402] Professional Issues. Discussed. Wave 1: Week 1 Tuesday.


The following responses are referring to

1. The blog does not accept more than 4096 characters in each comment.
Error from BlogSpot: “Your HTML cannot be accepted: Must be at most 4,096 characters.”

2. Support of text formatting is bad. I don't want to use HTML code.

3. I cannot edit my commentary posts after they are out and published.

4. I wanted to delete one of my comments and it delete the one that I don't want to delete!! Thus, a serious bug detected. (I saved my work in some other places rather than type straight onto the box; however, the less savvy ones will lose their comments.)

5. Alternatives: The platform used (blogger) for this kind of lengthy discussion on blogspot is bad. I suggest to use phpBB if possible. I can even host phpBB for you!

My discussion (7227+ characters) has now moved to:

Here I will be the first. Though it does not cover every aspect, here is my first dose of heavy input. It may need tons of follow ups for appropriate refinements. It is unexpected to have something like this happening for more work at the end of the semester. If we know this earlier during the semester it may help.

Identify the primary and secondary problems raised in the scenario.
Primary: The US power grid is old and has weak security - A gentle curse at the beginning which has become a havoc over the years.
Secondary: Inefficient delivery of energy through old power grid systems, incompatibilities between systems (new, old and different ones cannot communicate with each other without some intensive team-coding/testing), capacitors that are supposed to last in the power grid system for 40 years are allowed to be remained in the system for potential cost saving.

Stakeholders and their perspectives
1. Power industry: Profitability and reputation
2. The government and law makers: Are the laws and monitoring agencies are doing their work? Are policies are in place? Are contingency plans and backup power supply are in place to response to disaster/black outs? Are public education on these issues are enough. Environmental concerns, economical factors.
3. The public: The safety of the public. Is the food safe if a nuclear plant has some problems? Will the environment contaminated (air quality, spent fuel of coal/nuclear materials)? The affordability of their power bills. Is the power grid safe (electromagnetic waves are killing the bees?)? Are there any blackouts that will affect their productivity and safety?

What outside resources (people, literature/references, and technologies) could be engaged in developing viable approaches?
The academia: R&D, testing, prototyping
The power industry: R&D, testing, prototyping, large scale deployment
Technologies employed in new equipment: encryption on all data, mechanisms that detects DOS attack, playback attack, and contingency plans for dealing with these attacks.

Efficiency: smart grid can save energy by delivery power efficiently, and can reduce the number of blackouts.
Policies: background check of employees. Energy companies’ Internet and critical computers are strictly and solely for controlling the power plants and may send readings and communications out to the Internet, but not for personal use, for surfing Internet nor emails. The firewall of these critical computers should reflect this policy. A separate Internet line can be purchased for computers that are for employee’s emails and Internet browsing.

Identify related contemporary issues.
I have identified developing new technologies to reduce safety issues are not much of the concern of the energy companies. R&D money goes towards the question of how to get more powerful plants, rather than setting up for safety policies, and investing in emergency shutdown and recusing technologies.

Here is my condolence to the nuclear disaster in Japan. The Fukushima plant is now 40 years old. Previous issues were covered up over the years. Underestimate/downplay of the severity of the accidents is the norm. They have been forging readings and data to ignore problems over many years. They have failed to upgrade the plants to meet better safety standards. They have failed to move the spent nuclear fuel to a safer remote place for storage. If it is not the others condemning these behaviors, these people probably will not stop their greed until "radiation are frying everyone's guts with mutated-dead-and-born-again-radio-toxic fishes" like a new Chernobyl.

That is not it! Coal mines are deeper and deeper because of new technologies, and miners trapped in the mines more than often across the world. Developing new technologies to reduce safety issues are not much of the concern of the mining companies. R&D money goes towards the question of how to dig deeper rather than emergency and recusing tech.

Oil companies:
Look at BP and the gulf of Mexico oil disaster last year. Without revising the policies and laws thoroughly, another company are allowed to drill. It is way too soon. And we will be failed to acknowledge and act on this problem until another oil spill will occur. This spill won't be the last. We can try this ten times, or hundred times with "this dice that apparently has ones on all sides" and see who will be realizing this problem later, MUCH LATER. However, every time when this dice is thrown, humanity will creep into the graveyard one more step, and eventually bury itself alive.

Hemp and grass could be used to absorb spilled oil and they are biodegradable - availability is very good and removal of petroleum-soaked grass to a ground facility for further processing is easy compare to other various chemical methods (I saw a video demonstrating this and it works). Instead, they used chemicals that are also harmful when applied to the environment alone. Moreover, BP's employees are not even trained enough to use oil containment system properly. Very sad.

Let's take a deep long look at the power industry, and see if some of these energy companies such as TEPCO are powered by and driven by greed and mismanagement. See if they are on our side or exploiting us and the environment alive.

Researches on Rescue Robots:
During the first week of Japan nuclear disaster, at the beginning human were to do all the most important operation for the controlling, recusing, and inspection of the plant. Firefighting robots were deployed after a few days of manned fire engine were deployed. I consider this deployment and disaster response was extremely slow, especially for this developed nation - Japan.
Japan is publicized by the use the robots and gadgets. Yet there are only a handful of types of robots are deployed in this nuclear disaster.

As with all ethics issues, it is hard to define a right or wrong answers.
Opinion in the making: Should BP drill again?

Further readings

The IEEE spectrum has been covering smart grid, smart cars, renewable energy and new technologies. I have been following the free online magazine for at least two years. I have been thinking it is impossible for my school to count my knowledge and understanding into these issues into my grades. I have to point out that most of the knowledge lists above are not attained through the Computer Science degree. These issues are important and we are not even need to learn as much as we need in order to graduate. You know the power of tunnel vision for graduation can be amazing; we can ignore all that around us, if we really wanted to.

My opinion about this CS curriculum is that having a class (cs402) that is so intensively brings up ethics issues can be too much to handle and to think about all at once.  If these are bought up earlier in the degree and being bought up often in other classes that will allow students to think progressively and prompt a better understanding of technology ethics issues.


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