Originally Published: Friday, 22 June 2001 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: opinion_articles/opinion Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Kristina in Space: Evil Colleges and Universities

On Friday Linux.com lets its hair down with another installment of Kristina-in-Space. Our intrepid and sarcastic geek 'o the week takes another tongue-in-cheek spin through the landscape of the 21st century and discovers the evils of knowledge. Remember: information not only wants to be free, it wants you to blow things up.

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It still seems like every day there's something in the news about the horrors of cyberspace or technology. You know, "13-year-old Boy Blows Up Home with Explosives Made from Internet Recipe," or "Teenager Makes Methamphetamine from Formula found on the Internet," that sort of thing. It's all a bit disturbing, isn't it? Here you are, bringing something into your home that's supposed to be educational, and entertaining and look what happens: suddenly, little Janie is cracking the Pentagon with a r00t kit she downloaded from some warez site. It's a very, very serious problem: no doubt about it, but not nearly as serious as an even greater threat to society lurking ominously in our very midst. I'm speaking, of course, of your local universities, colleges, and libraries.

Oh sure, you might say that your college is just an institution of higher learning with a tradition that goes back hundreds of years, or that it creates the scientists, engineers, teachers, and business people who run the world, but I have seen its diabolical purpose and I feel I must proclaim the truth to you, my readers. Do you have a University in your town? Do you have any idea what truly goes on there? Here's a prime example: do you realize that most universities have a Chemistry Department? That's right, an entire department devoted to...well...chemicals. That means that right here in your community, people can just pay a fee, walk into class, and learn how chemicals interact with each other. Well, as I'm sure you can see, it's just a short step from there to figuring out how to put some chemicals together to make an explosive or a drug, right? In fact, some of these so-called "students" go on to design new drugs in their careers with Pfizer or other large pharmaceutical companies! Yet we tolerate the presence of Chemistry professors who, in true "open source" fashion share their knowledge of chemical interactions in these publicly funded institutions.

I know it's hard to believe, but it gets worse. Many universities also have a Physics department. Doesn't anyone realize that the people who invented the atomic bomb were physicists? Physicists are very dangerous people: they control all the laws of the physical universe. Think of it: your tax dollars are going into teaching people the theories and practices they need in order to be able to build a nuclear weapon. In my opinion, this is far too dangerous -- why, you can even go to the University library and see that there are books on atomic physics just lying around on the shelves for anyone to see and read. Book on explosives too. We really cannot stand for this sort of thing.

I hate to even mention that my old university had an entire college devoted to Engineering. People can just walk into these classes and learn the principles involved in building a computer (which, of course, can then be used to access the evil Internet) or a space shuttle, or even worse things, like bridges and skyscrapers. Oh, and don't forget Mathematics, without which the Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering people couldn't perform their science. Forget the Internet: it's a small fry, while all this is going on right under your noses!

Let's get back to reality for a moment here, shall we? Just as chemistry can create a medical miracle drug or a poison, things like the Internet are not evil or good in their nature, but simply exist. If you have cable television with some naughty channels, your children can channel surf their way to the porno movies. If you have the right dictionary in the house, your children may come across an obscene four-letter word while they're innocently trying to look up "fuchsia." If you let your child go to the library, they may be able to find information on sex or drugs or explosives. And the list goes on.

We really should put things in perspective. I've found hundreds of pages on info on the Net about how to crack the phone system, how to rip off people's credit card numbers, how to build explosives from (mostly) common household ingredients, etc. Have I ever tried to actually make a bomb simply because I knew how? Nope. Why should I? There's nothing that I want to blow up so badly that it's worth going to jail over--that's just common sense. It's also common sense to know that any decently stocked library will have books with enough information to teach someone how to do the same thing.

Just think about this the next time you hear a cyberspace horror story and see someone raging over poor little Bobby who blew up his garage: if we banned and/or regulated everything that could be used for illegal or immoral purposes, there would be no universities, no books, no libraries, no television, and precious little technology. Take the hype, and the Internet, as you should take everything in life, with a grain of salt.

Now, if you'll excuse me, by backyard is getting a bit overgrown, and I need to run to Google for that Napalm recipe.

Kristina Pfaff-Harris has, over the years, worked as: Air Traffic Controller with the US Army, Casino lounge singer, freelance journalist, portrait photographer, English teacher, Resume writer and self-marketing consultant, systems administrator and Perl programmer, among other things. Her years of extensive on-the-job research and training, combined with an amazing general knowledge of all things geek, led to her current position as features writer for Linux.com.





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