Would you agree that a computer, like an empty blackboard, is a blank slate which can be used to transmit both truth and lies? The internet is not just one computer, it’s a huge amalgamation of thousands of connected computers, but one can experience the principle of ‘garbage in-garbage out’ through learning to program a single, small, general-purpose machine. Once you have programmed a computer to repeat “The moon is made of green cheese!” to anyone who will glance at your screen you are on your way to developing immunity to the huge wave of garbage the internet exposes us to. Even more powerful is the disconnect between you who composed the message and whoever reads it. Unless you choose to disclose your authorship you can make a computer tell any lie you like and no one will be the wiser. Heady stuff for a 10-year-old learning to write her first computer code. Headier still for someone who wants to influence the US presidential election.
Trump supporters seem to worry a lot about voter fraud. They advocate easing mechanisms for challenging a voter’s registration and encourage strict requirements for proof of identity and residence. There is more evidence of demonstrably fraudulent political information on the Internet than fraudulent voting. If their concern is genuine, they should support a real-names policy for domain registration.
It is through the ‘domain registration’ that you can find out who actually is behind something you find on the internet. Most domain registration is handled by ICANN, a “not-for-profit corporation (the “new corporation”) managed by a globally and functionally representative Board of Directors”. Larry points out that fraudulent articles posted on the internet before the election may have misled many voters. Current international policy permits individuals to keep their domain information a secret. Just like the mischievous 10-year-old, any one can post anything anonymously. But instead of reaching only those standing within view of your little screen these messages are delivered to billions of people across the globe.
How is this phenomenon related to HCLE? We are providing an historical backdrop for the contemporary issues and policies you and your children must deal with. What do we need to teach our children today so that they can better distinguish fact from fiction as they surf the web? What were we exposed to during our formative years that left us so vulnerable to the lies computers forward to us? Was this problem anticipated? What did the Educational Technology Pioneers think we should do about it? And what should we do about it now? If you care, read more of what Larry Press has to say.