Global, Social, and Ethical Issues in Computing

I teach a class at Utah Valley University (UVU) entitled Global, Social, and Ethical Issues in Computing (CS 305G). I started teaching this course a little more than a year ago. It is closely related to a course I taught for more than a decade at BYU (CS 404, Ethics and Computers in Society).

This semester I added a module on logical fallacies. My reasoning was fairly simple: if we’re going to discuss and write about the relevant issues of the day in which computing is involved (i.e., everything), we need to be adequately equipped with tools for proper reasoning.

In the two class periods during which we discussed logical fallacies, it was stunning to realize just how much bad reasoning is applied non-stop by pretty much everyone in the increasingly cacophonous debate over pretty much everything.

Coming out of our in-class discussions, I decided to write a series of posts on logical fallacies. There’s been a lot written on logical fallacies (including a handful of decent books), but for some reason they always leave me dissatisfied. I think it’s mostly because the examples are always so contrived. As a result, appropriate nuance is often (almost always?) missing, so acquiring a proper understanding of the logical fallacy is more elusive than it should be, especially when the goal of the author is to elucidate the logical fallacy in question.

I intend to heavily leverage current events, ideally relating in some way to computers and society, but I’ll revert to good old fashioned mud slinging as needed, since it’s a historically rich source of logical fallacies masquerading as confident intelligent argument.

Stay tuned.

Maria left the chat

One of my pet peeves is online tech support chat in which someone or something on the other side cuts and pastes obviously canned responses that are only tangentially related to the actual questions being asked by me, the customer.

Today’s fun experience involves Maria, a human-impersonating-pseudo-lifeform on the other side of a tech support chat. After about 5 minutes of weird responses that looked like someone randomly selecting canned tech support responses, I decided to cut to the chase and get off the topic of their product and on to something a little more, um, human.


maria, you’re not an actual person are you?

I am an actual person
Please feel free to ask your questions

do you know what a turing test is?

what is it ?

it’s an artificial intelligence test designed to perceive whether someone on the other side of a chat is a human or a computer.
based on all of your answers, you would fail the turing test
all incredibly canned and impersonal
it’s very off-putting and feels super weird on my side of the chat
just some feedback in case it makes any difference

Hello and thanks for your interest in our services!

exactly what I’m talking about…

I personally appreciate your attention

what does that even mean?

ok what is that you want to tell me feel free now

I personally don’t appreciate your impersonal canned responses. it’s just bad customer service. if there’s an actual person on the other side of this chat it should feel like it to the customer. Do you understand that?
now you say something like: “Yes dear customer we value your input — all circuits busy, please hold”
just trolling for actual signs of intelligent life here
nothing. okay.

Maria left the chat

All your blog spam are belong to us…

I recently inventoried the blog spam that my filter is catching. I’m amused by some of the offshore messages left in the blog comments. Thought I’d share a few of these (sans URL and full sales pitch, of course) for our collective entertainment.

hello it is test

Thankyou for such a facilitatory and informative post, it is appreciated!

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That’s Too nice, when it comes in india hope it can make a Rocking place for youngster.. hope that come true.

It only reserve

Quite right! I think, what is it good thought. And it has a right to a life.

Online casinos us… for free to join…

Want to spend your vacation to be remembered for long? Tourism … help you carry out your wishes !

And my personal favorite…

Much interesting, well why all exactly so?


Much offshore spam.

Make this blog a Rocking place for youngster.

Well why all exactly so?