Ethics, Business, and Computer Science

I am writing this post after a long discussion in class with a professor of computer science here at Al Akhawayn University. I decided to write it to share with the world how I see ethics and business in the context of computer science.

Computer science is first about ethics. It is about sharing the knowledge and the code with the world without expecting something back. Computer science should not be interpreted as a market. It should not be seen as business and money. Computer science is more than that. It is what gathers open source programmers from all around the globe to make an exceptional thing that improves the technology and facilitates human beings’ lives.  I am talking here about Linux as an extraordinary project that changed computing history.

We discussed an idea about the use of those open source projects in a commercial way which was the argument of considering computer science as a business. I did not agree on that idea because people who developed those interesting things are aware of the use since the licensing of their projects is under one of the public licenses that are commonly used in the field. The famous one is GNU Public License with all its versions which establish an ethical contract between the programmer and the user. I did not use the term “client” here because it is not defined in the open source software dictionary.

They argued on the use of Linux today. They claimed that Windows is more used than Linux-based operating systems nowadays. However, they were not aware of the fact that Android is also a Linux-based operating system. In addition, the number of smartphones nowadays is more than the number of computers. Hence, we can conclude that Linux-based operating systems are the famous and widely used ones.

An important point should be mentioned here is that thinking of computer science as a business lowers the quality of the projects. I saw a hackathon made by a Moroccan company here at Al Akhawayn University. It illustrates how people at this happy land think about money more than the quality and ethics. They are selling the illusion to people in the frame of hackathons and under the umbrella of “Entrepreneurs”. They were using those events in order to test their platform for free even if we are neglecting the quality of the platform itself at that point. And the weird question is that no one asked them about their background and their knowledge in the field. Logically, someone who will judge your application should be knowledgeable than you at least at that specific field. Those people are a clear example of using business in computer science which is bad at some extent especially when it comes to incompetent people. Linus Torvalds famous quote applies strongly in this context: “Talking is cheap. Show me the code.”

So, if Linus Torvalds wanted to sell Linux, we would not achieve what we have been achieving. Open source projects taught me to be generous, to like the community, and to help people that I do not know just because they are humans.The important thing is that they are trying to improve people’s lives.

You should just get the point that we are not doing that for fame or money we are doing it for love.

Credits: open-source-world-wallpapers_10169_1024x768.jpg

A Hebrew Female in My Heart – في قلبي انثى عبرية

I just finished reading a book called “A Hebrew Female in My Heart – في قلبي انثى عبرية” which amazed me. Unfortunately, there is no English version of this book. I would love to read it in English in the future. My rating for this book is 5/5. It is written by Dr. Khaoula Hamdi who is a Tunisian author and a professor of information technology which surprised me when I first read this piece of infomation. She has been telling the story of a Hebrew girl between Lebanon and Tunisia, between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, between war and peace, and between love and religion in 388 pages. If you did not read the book, and you do not want to be spoiled, please stop reading till you finish the book.

This interesting mixture of concepts and the fact that the book shares a real story pushed me to finish it as soon as I can. The way that the author used to describe the events made it more interesting to read.

A Hebrew girl called Nada from a Muslim father and Jewish mother initially lived in Tunisia then moved to Lebanon after the divorce of her parents. Her mother married a Christian man who filled the gap of the father in both Nada and her sister Dina lives.

One day she found two Muslim men on the door in a terrible situation. Ahmed was injured and Hassan his best friend supported him. Nada took care of Ahmed in the garage even if it is prohibited because of the difference between their religions, especially because of the war in south of Lebanon. They felt an unusual feeling with an absolute respect to their religions in the sense of the meeting between people from different genders at that time which would build a great story after.

She faced many consequtive bad events from the death of Rima who was her best friend in the civil war in Qana, Lebanon. Rima saved her life by teaching her Islam in addition to the lessons that Ahmed was giving to both of them, and the injuries that she had in the same war while looking for Rima. In addition to the disappear of her lover Ahmed in one of resistance’s operations which was 4 years long in which Ahmed lost his memory. He lived in a village in this period thiking that he is Christian. Moreover, she was not allowed to live in her mother’s home after she converted to Islam. This path changed her life because of the books that Ahmed gave her and the behavior of Ahmed and Rima which had a critical effect in her life. Moreover, the death of George who was her spirtiual father and her spiritual brother Micheal had a bad effect on her mental health. At the end, she helped all her family members and friends to convert to Islam. She married Ahmed, and they are still living in peace.

I did not mention some events and some other people who played a great role in this story. I strongly encourage you to read it because it pushed me to see things from different angles.

I learned from this book that religion should not be interpreted by judging the behavior of people who believe in it. In addition, the concept of religion itself does not cause the wars. In fact, the political and economic agendas are the main cause of hate.

I learned that media is a “make-up” tool which can make a religion more trustworthy than another. However, this is based on personal opinions or some agendas that those media agencies are serving which makes the media a dangerous tool that affects the public opinion.

I concluded that the religion should be taken as a well-formed set of noble ideas which cannot be interpreted by science because science is not absolute while the religion in it is core can be seen as absolute, so comparing religion with science is not a good path to follow. Religions can be compared to each other based on the concepts that they are promoting without being influenced by a third party which can manipulate the pure opinion of any human being.

I noticed that people from different religions can live in peace if each one of them respects the ideas of the other. This story illustrates this image that media does not promote. It taught me how to respect friendship and how to handle conflict between close friends. In addition, it taught me how to forgive people and take into consideration their special conditions at that specific moment.

An External Approach of Seeing Education in the Moroccan Context

Since my childhood, I have been loving explaining a concept to my friend. I have been loving writing on the board and seeing my friends behind me. I do not hesitate when someone asks me to help him or her to understand a topic. I love reading what does not appear in the textbooks. I enriched this experience, after years of learning the basics of computer science, by volunteering in teaching web development during a summer camp. It was one of the best experiences that I ever had because I helped some high schools students to build their own websites. It was a unique experience that taught me how to deal with students, how to act in a classroom, and how to explain a hard concept in a fun and easy way. My interviewee was happy to see a student asking about his job because he told me that it is a good opportunity for him to talk about the problems that he faces everyday. He is an associate professor at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. He asked me to not include his name in the report. I was glad to meet him because I learned many things from a different mindset. The interview was as follows:

Ahmed Lekssays: What happens during a typical day?

Professor: I have a few hours of teaching, office hours, and independent research. Sometimes, I have some meetings with the administration about the supervision, curriculum, and students. In addition, I have to deal with students in some internships, capstones, and exit tests.

Q: What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your occupation? What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?

A: I believe that explaining well a topic  and see that students understand it well forms my personal satisfactions.  On the other hand, I believe that if the student did not get the point behind a topic is a dissatisfaction for me. The challenging part of my mission is to explain a topic which requires some prerequisites and background information because I need to explain the  prerequisites  and the actual course material in a short period of time.

Q: What kinds of problems do you deal with?

A: Some of the problems that I face in teaching are politics related problems with administration, lack of students’ motivation, and issues related to U.S. modern educational system.  The U.S. modern educational system reduces the meeting time with students, so professors do not play their mentorship role with students. Hence, professors do not affect their students. I think that the professors’ roles go beyond what is stated in the textbook. They should affect their students in other aspects of life such as ethics.

Q: What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?

A: Success is relative. I will be answering according to my own definition of success. For me, it is making a difference in students’ lives. The 3 keys of success in this mission are sincerity, dedication, and patience.

Q: What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for this position?

A: First, you should not take it as a job or just a position that guarantees an income. Second, you should take your studies seriously. Finally, you should keep learning outside the class and beyond what textbooks stated.

Q: Do you have any special words of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?

A: According to my experience, you should always question your intention. Why am I doing this? Is it for money, fame, or status? This will help you to figure out the right reason. If it is based on money, fame, or status, just look for another mission. Teaching is not for you.

Q: What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?

A: Tutoring would be a great experience, especially if it is not paid. By explaining a concept to someone, you will benefit as well. You should take it as a duty to help your environment understand a concept that you are familiar with.  

Q: How has your job affected your lifestyle?

A: Actually, it affected it in many ways, but the important thing is that you keep learning, and you are always surrounded by young people, which improves your energetic outlook.

Q: How do you see professors’ value in Morocco?

A: Moroccan society shows a high respect to professors in general. However, there are some professors who do not take their job seriously. Thus, they affect other professors who are serious about their mission.

Q: How do you see professor’s’ role in the development of nations?

A: The role of professors is fundamental in the development of nations. However, as I said before the professor should take teaching as a duty. The professor should have an impact in his or her environment. For example, “At Taalim Al-Atik” is a good example of having an impact on students because of everyday meetings. The students learn how to deal with different status. For instance, they know how to deal with him or her when he or she is angry.

Q: Is there anything else would you like to share?

A: I would like to keep my name hidden. On the other hand, I am very disappointed about the status of professors’ around the world. Some professors are teaching because of money, fame, or status. Thus, the work atmosphere has become negative.

I was inspired, motivated, and influenced by my interviewee because the interview contained what I was looking for. I needed to question myself in order to choose the right path. My interviewee sees teaching as I was seeing it. It is not only a job. It is a duty and a mission that can change positively a community. The main points that I got from the interview are hard work, patience, and dedication.

First, I learned that the professor is a hard worker who goes beyond what is stated in the syllabus or course material. The professor should have the ability to think outside the box in order to explain a concept to his or her students. This skill can be improved by looking for different resources and by analyzing different teaching strategies. Thus, the continuous learning is not always about the field of studies. It goes beyond that because it involves analyzing the background of students in terms of psychology, culture, and ability to grasp the information. A professor should have the ability to explain hard concepts in an easy way to help the students to understand it because the way of explaining reflects the understanding of the concept by the professor himself or herself. In addition, the professor should be open-minded because sometimes students know what the professor does not know, so the flow of information should be in both directions.

 Second, teaching is about patience. The professor has a fundamental role in his or her community. He or she is a source of knowledge that can build knowledgeable community. The professor should have an impact on his or her students who represent the next generation. However, it is hard under the American educational system because the meeting time is not enough to have an impact on them. The professor should be a model in different aspects of life because he or she is seen as a leader that the community respect and follow. So, the fundamental key if a student wants to pursue his or her path in teaching is patience. It is not a job that pays materialistically. It pays in terms of personal satisfaction and effect that goes beyond the personal goals. Therefore, it should be seen as a duty not an a source of money.  

Finally, dedication is another fundamental key is building a successful career as a professor. The professor should love what he is doing. He or she should play his or her role without expecting a reward from the community. The best example for a student to experience this job is tutoring, especially if it is unpaid. The student will learn how to give without expecting a reward. It can be unseen because it is not materialistic, but it enriches self-satisfaction which is my ultimate goal. Success can be seen from different perspectives, but I define it as reaching self-satisfaction by sharing knowledge with the Humanity.

To sum up, being a professor is not an easy mission because it involves many aspects such as personality, community, and personal definition of success. The main keys that the students should have in order to be a successful professor who has an impact in his or her community are patience, dedication, and hard work. Sharing and building knowledge is a noble thing because it helps Humanity in the path of development. This mission can be experienced by unpaid tutoring because it is a minimal version of teaching.

Image Copyright: Artsfon×1080/