Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Electronic Elections

We Vote Electronically Everyday
As a technologist, I am astonished by the issues raised about electronic voting systems. We vote (purchase) many times a day, every day, from a plethora of candidates (products and services) from numerous parties (businesses) using electronic voting systems (registers). The system processes hundreds of millions of transactions and tens of trillions of dollars in tangible assets daily with an efficiency and accuracy that is astounding. Yet we trust the abacus (punch-card) more?

I will demonstrate that such an attitude is unfounded. I do not intend this to be technologically exhaustive.

Opponents assert that a hacker could compromise an elections system with ease. This assertion seems plausible enough on the surface with all the precautions that we have to take at work and at home to protect our systems from intruders. However, let me remind you that the main reason precautions are necessary is the Internet.

A system can only be compromised from an access point. To access the system, the proper equipment, protocols, and authentication are needed. Barriers to fraudulently accessing the system are an isolated network, strong authentication standards, encryption, access point preregistration, etc.

Presuming access is accomplished, an understanding of the system is required. Data will have to be changed in all areas where it is used and stored to prevent the raising of self-auditing exceptions within the system.

It is my understanding that on the most popular systems, there is no network. The system's electronic ballots begin blank and are created by the elections officials, making them different from precinct to precinct. The voting stations are standalone. The voting stations store the accumulated ballots in an encrypted table on the voting station and on a removable storage device (RSD), like a jumpdrive. When voting is completed, the RSD is removed and plugged into the tallying system for precinct-level tallying. When all RSDs have been tallied, the results are sent by the elections officials to the county by whatever process they use.

Opponents assert that seniors are able to use punch-card systems that they may have used at most 20-30 times in their lifetime, depending on when the system was introduced, but are befuddled by systems that are like the ones that they have used hundreds of thousands of times in their lifetime. I don't buy it!


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Defending the Notion of Absolute Truth

I attended a lecture by Dr. Ravi Zacharias Friday, Nov. 13th, at the University of Utah. His lecture was entitled The Basis for Truth: Defending the Notion of Absolute Truth. He was clear, supported his positions well with outside sources, and logically illustrated his points. He was also very funny. He has gone around the world seeking to understand the other religions and philosophies to better present the truth to others and to present Jesus as the truth. Christianity challenges a persons world view, especially those outside our culture. Yet, now our culture's world view is becoming pluralistic.

I found it inspiring and challenging. It is easy to talk with like-minded people. It is harder to talk with those who think differently than you, especially when they communicate emotionally or denigratingy. I often hear things that are not the truth, but am so distracted by the alarms going off in my head that I cannot fully articulate the truth at the time. It isn't until later that I think of how I could have presented a coherent and reasonable counter-point. I suppose it is a step in the direction of being able to do so.

There were 3 interesting points to his lecture:
  1. Secularism leads to no morality (, absolutes, or truth). He defined it as the process of removing religion from social significance.
  2. Pluralism, when taken to the extreme of moral relativism, leads to no reason. Pluralism is good, but can be bad if reason is abandoned or unanchored. Each person is equal, but not every idea is.
  3. Privatization leads to no meaning. He defined it as the removal of morality from public discourse and relegating it to only the private experience.
Now obviously, this is a little succinct for a 2-hour lecture. However, we will leave this as a teaser for upcoming postings since I will be getting the DVD of the lectures and can make more concise notes.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Truth Be Told

I am very excited about being able to share my thoughts with others and get thoughtful feedback in return. In my discussions with others, I have found many valuing my insights, even if they disagree. I have also valued others insights and have grown from them. In the seemingly growing uncivil discourse in legacy media today, truth and intellectual capital have suffered. Ergo, the name of my Blog. Here are some thought provoking quotes* on truth:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 - 1860)
As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.
Josh Billings, 'Affurisms from Josh Billings: His Sayings,' 1865
US Humorist (1818 - 1885)
A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
Lenin, Russian Communist politician & revolutionary (1870 - 1924)
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.
Sir Winston Churchill, British politician (1874 - 1965)
Truth is truth
To the end of reckoning.
William Shakespeare, "Measure for Measure", Act 5 scene 1
Greatest English dramatist & poet (1564 - 1616)
The history of our race, and each individual's experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.
Mark Twain, Advice to Youth, US humorist, novelist, short story author, & wit (1835 - 1910)
No further comment is needed.

* Quotes provided by