Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Winding down the winter quarter

A university quarter is ten weeks long of instruction, followed by a finals week.  Not enough time to drill all the way down on so many topics.  In the operational risk course, we've had spectacular presentations on 9/11 and its aftermath, and (last week) on the Paris ISIS attacks last year.  In the ethics, policy and law course, the most interesting component of the course turns out to be the weekly reflections (250-500 words) that students turn, referencing both the readings and the class discussion in the prior week.  Both courses have had outstanding speakers -- a total of 15 speakers for me to coerce into speaking, then coordinate appearances in the classroom.  I'm feeling a bit nostalgic this week since it's the last week I lecture.  Next week, in both classes, students present executive summaries of the long papers they will have written by then.  From experience I know that at least several of them will be publishable.

I see the overlap clearly between how we think about risk and the critical thinking we bring to it from the ethics, policy and law framework where information management is concerned.  Because of what is going on in the world, both classes this week will address the important Apple v. FBI court case that somehow incorporates all the elements we've been talking about.  Code is free speech, says Apple, invoking the First Amendment as well as due process.  Just this once since we screwed up and changed the password, says the FBI.  This puts the case at the heart of questions around government overreach since 9/11 as well as citizens' privacy and Constitutional protections.

Even as we take this up one more time, our guest speakers are illustrative of the other issues we discuss:  in the risk class, our guest speaker is UW seismologist Bill Steele; and our group presentation will be on the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor event several years ago.  In the ethics class, our guest speaker is UW Law Professor Kathleen O'Neill, to speak on intellectual property.  She's spent years on this topic, and I look forward to her remarks to the mid-career students, with what is bound to be a vigorous and lively discussion.


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