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Vote Against 'Genius'

December 04, 1988

Re: Nov. 20 Business Viewpoints Column, "Hail, Don't Jail, the Genius Behind the Virus," by Ira Flatow.

Flatow gives the "phone phreakers" and (reputed computer virus instigator Robert) Morris (Jr.) far more intellectual credit than they deserve. The only lesson these delinquents have to offer is that unusual intellect does not necessarily ensure good character nor one's ability to ascertain acceptable social conduct and professional ethics.

By his own account, Morris' "experiment" ran amok, so he isn't even a good computer scientist. Valid scientific analysis requires that the experiment be controlled and provide a means of examining test results. How then did Morris plan to quantify the extent of his mischief or qualify its virulence? Did he plan to acquire user IDs and passwords for all 6,000 infected systems?

There is little if any genius in destruction . . . genius is found in creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, there will always be parasites who vandalize mankind's innovation and technological creations.

The creative geniuses who participate in scientific and engineering endeavors for the betterment of mankind normally understand flaws and shortcomings in their models. However, it is sometimes advantageous to implement technology with these flaws and to accept risk on the basis of prevailing social behavior.

Those who violate accepted social rules of conduct should be re-educated and rehabilitated and never rewarded for misconduct. Sometimes, even punishment is required to facilitate rehabilitation. Morris doesn't appear to be a bad person, just misguided. He didn't murder those who may have been saved by the 150 man-years of advanced research--it was more like manslaughter.

No, I don't believe we should employ these vandals in any positions of responsibility. The creators and innovators know far more than they'll ever know. For starters, they know right from wrong.


Huntington Beach

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