Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

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Strict or Loose Construction?

Marcus argues during class with both Charles and Mrs. Anderson about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Though both sides in the book are represented by extreme views for the sensationalism of attempting to tell a good story, the actual debate is a valid case of differing opinions. The question of when to suspend the Bill of Rights remains contentious, however the government has made rulings in the past relating to the matter. Marcus states that the Bill of Rights is absolute, and should never be suspended. While this is a valid opinion, it does not reflect the views of the nation in “Little Brother”, nor does it reflect the views of our nation. The Supreme court has ruled that shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater, or hate speech, for example, are not protected under the first amendment, freedom of speech and expression. Though I would say that these examples are not necessarily suspending the Bill, the federal governments’ Patriot Act represents a suspension of the Bill in certain cases. The government is given wide latitude to seek out and prosecute terrorism based on a much lesser standard of truth than a court of law. Additionally, an important part of the debate is the right to privacy versus surveillance. Whether the right to privacy exists in the Bill of Rights is not debatable, there is no stated rule that creates it. The only arguments come from the 14th amendment, where Roe v. Wade was ruled based on the implied right to privacy. As part of the debate, Mrs. Anderson brings up how the constitution was made to change and adapt to the times, and that the founding fathers did not mean for it to remain immutable for years. Marcus argues the opposite, what is known as strict constructionism. Though I do not agree with how Mrs. Anderson wants to change the constitution, I would agree that it should not be interpreted literally, and that it should evolve with society. The very idea that the constitution has a built in amendments process shows that the founding fathers did not believe that they were the final say on the way this nation should be run.

Arguments Favouring Privacy

The debate between privacy and surveillance has been thoroughly explored over the course of this semester. I would like to point out some points I believe haven't received due importance. In Citizenfour, it was revealed that the US government withheld information regarding the several programs which involved spying on its people, actively invading their privacy. This blatant disregard shows that the NSA doesn't view the right to privacy as the paramount and essential right it is. By giving them the right to use electronic surveillance, we reinforce this wrong belief and the abuses to the people's privacy will only intensify.

Secondly, I believe that the phrase "in the interest of national security " is extremely ambiguous and while it seems fairly obvious what counts as national security, it can be easily misused since it will be used to justify hypothetical crimes. Also, if the primary reason for electronic surveillance is national security, it won't be very effective since most situations involving national security are by foreign parties who would be aware of the locations with which the US has surveilling authority.

Lastly, it is important to consider the role played by privacy in our lives. Since privacy is primarily a natural right, it is hard to build legislation around it. In such cases, it is important to not give due importance to how it feels to lose privacy. People often argue that privacy is not as important as safety because they tend to poorly estimate the immense role played by their private space in their day to day life.

 

 

Debate Judging Criteria

In the debate tomorrow, I will be judging the strength of each team's arguments based on several criteria.

First and foremost is the clarity of arguments. Teams will be judged primarily on not only the merit of their arguments but whether they can express their viewpoints clearly. Even if a presented argument is powerful, if the idea is not expressed clearly then it will not be considered a strong argument. In addition, conciseness will be considered, as a strong argument should be succinct as well.

Supporting evidence will also be a significant part of the judging criteria. Without sufficient evidence to support a claim, it will be not help support the overall argument the team makes. In fact, an argument without sufficient evidence could likely hurt a team's position, as the other team would most likely capitalize on a weak argument to strengthen their own. However, presenting too much evidence for a claim also is not desirable, because a succinct argument is stronger than an argument supported by a laundry list of evidence.

Lastly, the manner in which teams respond to counterarguments will likely determine how strong their arguments are. Coming up with counterarguments against a claim is relatively easy, but defending a claim against counterarguments is harder and really shows how well a team knows their argument by showing that they considered potential arguments the other side could make. Having strong refutations to counterarguments would considerably improve the strength of an argument.

Criteria for a Strong Debate

I will be a member of the jury for a debate on Monday. There are several things that I expect to see from both teams.

The arguments of both teams need to be well prepared. I want all of the arguments to be thorough and well organized. If the argument is confusing for me to understand, I will be less likely to pick it. I also do not want teams to state the obvious, I want to delve into their topic, and say something that I have not heard before. I want to be compelled by both arguments.
The more unique and interesting a point in the argument is, the more likely I will be to pick it. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than an information that you already know in an argument because it makes the argument boring.

I want teams to have strong counterarguments, and to do this the team must think about what the other team will potentially say. I expect teams to be prepared for counter arguments. To be well-prepared teams must do thorough research for and against their side. Even though the teams need to be well prepared, they need to listen to what the other team says to be able to give a good rebuttal.

Arguments for Pro-Security

In the debate of privacy vs. surveillance in the United States, there are a few arguments that can be made in favor of having more surveillance as a security measure. The biggest and most obvious argument is that it aids in ensuring national security. Without electronic surveillance, it would be almost impossible to catch criminals and terrorists in our technology-filled modern society. At this point, video surveillance would not be enough even the government was somehow allowed to put cameras in our houses. Now that so many of our day-to-day interactions occur on the internet, criminals can communicate with each other with the push of a button. Electronic surveillance of digital devices allows for these communications to be monitored, which makes it much easier to crack down on these crimes.

Another argument for security stems off of the previous argument. When the government says they are collecting our data through electronic surveillance, they may mean just that. Having electronic surveillance helps a lot, but just because the government may be collecting data doesn't mean that they're constantly looking through it. There most likely isn't an NSA agent looking through each one of our texts and our social media accounts. But, one they have reasonable suspicion that a seemingly ordinary citizen is doing something shady, they have the data there, and they can finally use it.

Essential Arugements in Security vs. Privacy Debate

As a notetaker, I hope to hear arguments by both sides that provide answers for the more philosophical questions behind the debate. I see both sides of the privacy vs. security debate, but I definitely lean towards privacy. However, since I come from a point-of-view that's on the fence for certain issues, hearing one of the sides provide a really solid answer for one of those heavy hitting points could tip the scale.

One such point for the surveillance side that I myself would love to have a counter for is in regards to the inherent nature of government. Above all, the United States government is supposed to ensure the well-being and prosperity of its citizens. Yet, how are they able to carry this out without having a wide latitude of electronic surveillance? Even the most seemingly normal people can go on to commit atrocious acts, so would it not be in the best interest of the people to be able to keep some watch over the citizens? I am not even sure that there is an exact answer for this because, at the end of the day, the answer comes down to personal belief on a person to person basis.

An argument made by security that I would like to see countered is the fact that those for security seemingly overvalue the threat of terrorism. In reality, terrorists are a rare occurrence, so why should many have to suffer for one?

Overall, I look forward to listening from the sidelines as the topic is debated. The side that can find really concrete answers to questions along these lines will be able to make the best argument in my opinion.

Criteria for Debate

The first criteria I am planning to use to evaluate the two teams is clarity of argument. This refers to whether the presenter can clearly convey the main points they are trying to make in an orderly manner. I am looking to see if I can isolate some a sort of thesis statement in each of their arguments. I will then be evaluating the strength of the evidence for the argument. I will see if the presenter has relevant examples to support their thesis, whether it be empirical or anecdotal evidence. There are many examples we studied in this course which can benefit the position of both teams and it will be interesting to see if any teams make connections to the coursework.

I will also be evaluating whether each team is able to find weaknesses in the other team’s arguments and consequently, present counterarguments. Each team should be able to defend against any counterarguments. To be able to refute the opposing side’s arguments, each team needs to listen. They need to listen to what the other side is saying and digest the information instead of just listing off the arguments they have. There is a difference between a debate and a speech. A debate is a conversation.

Essential aspects about the debate

First of all, a debate is about providing arguments. So arguments are the first aspect of the debate that might be essential to the debate. Having strong arguments about the topic is the first step of having a good debate. As a note taker, it’s important to find out the main arguments of both sides and record those arguments, since those arguments are the main themes of the debate.

Second, when debaters have their arguments, they’ll have to illustrate them using examples. There’re often times when debaters do have their strong arguments but also have a hard time putting forward their ideas. The debate’s purpose is to let the judge or audience to understand the debater’s concepts. Examples serve to help the audience directly get debaters’ ideas and believe them. Therefore, examples are the second aspect that is essential to the debate.

Third, it’s also important how the debaters respond to the arguments from the other side. The debate is different from a speech. A speech can focus on only one side of a topic and talk only about the side that the speech giver stands on. A debate is different. Responding to the opponents’ arguments and prepare counter-arguments toward them is essential to the debate. It’s what makes a debate a good debate.

Overall, as a note taker, it’s important to record debaters’ arguments or counter-arguments and examples used to sell their arguments. These aspects can also be used to determine the quality of the debate.

Judging criteria for the debate

As a jury of a debate, I would like to consider several issues as the judging criteria for the debate on Monday.

First of all, the basic points for pro team and con team must be explicit and reasonable. In their first round, they must build at least one solid point of view, which should be prepared well before the debate. What I expect to hear about is the real voice for the citizens that which one is more important, privacy or security, and why. The best form of their speaking is the combination of points and examples in order to make the point more convincing.

Secondly, after hearing the point of the opposite team, they should know what is the core statement of the opponent and build up an effective counterpoint for that. For example, if the pro team states that electronic surveillance could help track criminals, I expect the con team to consider that sometimes it does not work with the system and there might be false positives that lead to the wrong direction and harm innocent people.

Thirdly, they should also learn about the possible weakness of their own points. If they could point out the weakness by themselves and do concession. Then they actually effectively eliminate one possible point of opponents. Both teams should prepare these ideas well before the debate so that they could react quickly in the class.

People cannot convince others thoroughly, but they could use their ideas to influence others' thoughts, at least make others agree to part of their points and consider the issue from some new aspects. If they made it in this level, then they might do better than the opposite side and win the debate.

A Surveillance Story That Hits at Home

In Radiolab’s podcast, Darknode, the story of the “suburban Boy Scout turned black hat hacker” resonated with me the most in terms of the security vs. privacy debate. For starters, the story truly represented how “you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” (The Dark Knight Rises). In today’s society, we are surveilled - plain and simple. So, what I found so compelling, was how Radiolab was able to portray that no one is immune to this new era of life and anyone can become part of it. Specifically, in this case, the person being surveilled eventually became the one executing the surveillance; I personally took it as his form of “rebellion” even though he was not necessarily as drastic as the friend that initially introduced him to the concept.

The second reason that this story resonated and made such a strong case with me is because I have actually lived the story being told. When I used to be much more active in my internet explorations, I actually encountered, and was friends with, many “script kitties” (as described in the podcast these are scripters who are able to take advantage of just enough of the tools available to scrape the surface of hacking). What I found fascinating, is the story and development of how botnets came into existence and how they initially had a more innocent origin. I was also able to piece together that his reference to “hitting people off the internet over video games” was a reference to a term I became very familiar with called DDoSing. It was truly amazing hearing an experience so similar to my own that was able to shape the course of someone’s life.

Overall, this section of the podcast furthered my opinion of how the issues of privacy vs. security are changing the way humans interact in today’s society.

 

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