Should using a computer require a geek license?

By Sterling “Chip” Camden
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

A criminologist in Australia thinks maybe so.  According to Russel Smith of the Australian Institute of Criminology, the simultaneous rise of cyber-crime and suckers born per minute has led to a crisis that requires government intervention.  Quoting Mr. Smith:

There’s been some discussion in Europe about the use of what’s called a computer drivers licence –  where you have a standard set of skills people should learn before they start using computers.

At the moment we have drivers licences for cars, and cars are very dangerous machines. Computers are also quite dangerous in the way that they can make people vulnerable to fraud.

In the future we might want to think about whether it’s necessary there be some sort of compulsory education of people before they start using computers.

People who fall for the various online frauds often do not bear the cost of their mistakes.  When a credit card is involved, banks usually eat the cost if they can’t prove that the customer colluded with the perpetrator.  Those costs get passed on to consumers.

But I for one do not see licensing as a good solution to the problem.  I don’t know how it works in Australia, but here in the US whenever the government lends a “helping hand” it usually means putting their hands into our pockets and helping themselves.  What, are police going to be peeking into bedroom windows to see if anyone is computing illegally?

Would licensing really help?  Judging from how well licensed drivers do on the road, I’m skeptical.

How about if banks change their policy so you have to pay the cost of the fraud if you could have prevented it by having the brains that evolution gave to a chipmunk?  Negligent stupidity.  That might make computer users get a little more savvy before they enter that credit card number on amazon.com.thievesrus.ru.

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31 Responses to Should using a computer require a geek license?

  1. I have had a long-term career as an IT support phone jockey for about the last fifteen years, and I have to say that there's a lot of merit in the idea. Back in 1994 when I started, I thought that as time went on and more people entered the workforce who had grown up with computers, people would get naturally more competent. Alas, I do not see that happening.

    Unfortunately, our business has evolved to become absolutely dependent on the use of computers. You cannot get by without one. I also thought that the fact that computer use is pretty much a requirement for any office job would mean that people would get more competent. I do not see that happening either.

    With few exceptions, people are just as incompetent with computers as they were back in the days of Windows for Workgroups. People like me will always be necessary to fix it when non-geeks screw up.

    • Yes, but is licensing the answer? I would say that employers need to invest in educating their employees because it makes good business sense. Why should the government get involved?

  2. I have had a long-term career as an IT support phone jockey for about the last fifteen years, and I have to say that there’s a lot of merit in the idea. Back in 1994 when I started, I thought that as time went on and more people entered the workforce who had grown up with computers, people would get naturally more competent. Alas, I do not see that happening.

    Unfortunately, our business has evolved to become absolutely dependent on the use of computers. You cannot get by without one. I also thought that the fact that computer use is pretty much a requirement for any office job would mean that people would get more competent. I do not see that happening either.

    With few exceptions, people are just as incompetent with computers as they were back in the days of Windows for Workgroups. People like me will always be necessary to fix it when non-geeks screw up.

    • Yes, but is licensing the answer? I would say that employers need to invest in educating their employees because it makes good business sense. Why should the government get involved?

  3. I agree that the credit card companies should change their policies. There's a point where scams just become incredibly ridiculous, and people who fall for them tend to be quite stupid.

    Forget about the fact that this is related to computers for a second. If a black man approaches you on the street with bad english and says he is the kind of Jordan (or whatever) and that he wants your credit card number so he can give you all his wealth, would you give it to him? How would you explain such idiotic behavior to your credit card company?

    People are just dumb, with or without computers.

    • With freedom comes responsibility. All too often these days, people want to avoid responsibility for their actions. Sooner or later, it will result in the loss of freedom — more control over our lives by banks or the government.

  4. I agree that the credit card companies should change their policies. There’s a point where scams just become incredibly ridiculous, and people who fall for them tend to be quite stupid.

    Forget about the fact that this is related to computers for a second. If a black man approaches you on the street with bad english and says he is the kind of Jordan (or whatever) and that he wants your credit card number so he can give you all his wealth, would you give it to him? How would you explain such idiotic behavior to your credit card company?

    People are just dumb, with or without computers.

    • With freedom comes responsibility. All too often these days, people want to avoid responsibility for their actions. Sooner or later, it will result in the loss of freedom — more control over our lives by banks or the government.

  5. I think it's a great idea. Afterall mandatory driving licences have done so much to take people with absolutely no common sense whatsoever off the roads.

    We could also have a homeowners license to stop all those pesky people who do daft things like setting fire to the place, a step ladder license to cut down all those ER visits and an egg buyers license to safeguard those who don't understand not to put squishy things at the bottom of the bags.

  6. I think it’s a great idea. Afterall mandatory driving licences have done so much to take people with absolutely no common sense whatsoever off the roads.
    We could also have a homeowners license to stop all those pesky people who do daft things like setting fire to the place, a step ladder license to cut down all those ER visits and an egg buyers license to safeguard those who don’t understand not to put squishy things at the bottom of the bags.

  7. Unfortunately, in the US at least, there's no law against being st00pid. ;-)

    And in general, licensing by a gov't agency is less about assuring quality or competency than it is a simple excuse to collect fees for the gov't. Hairdressers and plumbers are licensed, but not mechanics. Why is that? Doctors get training and certification testing from an educational institution, but still have to get a license from a gov't agency.

    We don't force voter education on the issues at hand before allowing someone to vote, in order to prevent someone voting st00pidly. We don't enforce any sort of education or certification on those getting married to prevent them from making st00pid decisions regarding marriage. We don't assure a minimum intelligence level or child-rearing training, or even genetic screening on individuals before they're allowed (or licensed) to have children. We don't penalize people who choose to live in flood-prone areas, and then cry and wail when their house is washed away *for the third time.* All of those ideas could be seen to have merit as well. So 'merit,' by itself isn't enough.

    Unfortunately,you can't legislate morality, intelligence or common sense into existence. The person seemingly either has it, or doesn't have it. There's also 'fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me' to consider. I personally think that skript kiddies, spammers and fraudsters should all be publicly flogged at least, but that idea won't get much traction, either. It's too 'distasteful,' too severe But if one were to know that the punishment for those actions were sure and swift, those willing to undertake it would be far fewer than there are now, because they know that nothing (very) bad will happen to them. In this case, some of you seem to be more willing to punish the victim than you are the perpetrator. Are you going to suggest punishing victims of muggings and rapes because they made the st00pid choice to walk down a particular street at a particular hour, even though that may be their direct route home? Where does one draw the line? In society, we seem to 'grin and bear,' or tolerate a certain amount of aberrant behavior, whether due to stupidity or intent, because we don't find the real fix to be clean enough to be tolerable.

    And yes, for those who wonder, my tongue is half out; but only half.. ;-)

  8. Unfortunately, in the US at least, there’s no law against being st00pid. ;-)

    And in general, licensing by a gov’t agency is less about assuring quality or competency than it is a simple excuse to collect fees for the gov’t. Hairdressers and plumbers are licensed, but not mechanics. Why is that? Doctors get training and certification testing from an educational institution, but still have to get a license from a gov’t agency.

    We don’t force voter education on the issues at hand before allowing someone to vote, in order to prevent someone voting st00pidly. We don’t enforce any sort of education or certification on those getting married to prevent them from making st00pid decisions regarding marriage. We don’t assure a minimum intelligence level or child-rearing training, or even genetic screening on individuals before they’re allowed (or licensed) to have children. We don’t penalize people who choose to live in flood-prone areas, and then cry and wail when their house is washed away *for the third time.* All of those ideas could be seen to have merit as well. So ‘merit,’ by itself isn’t enough.

    Unfortunately,you can’t legislate morality, intelligence or common sense into existence. The person seemingly either has it, or doesn’t have it. There’s also ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me’ to consider. I personally think that skript kiddies, spammers and fraudsters should all be publicly flogged at least, but that idea won’t get much traction, either. It’s too ‘distasteful,’ too severe But if one were to know that the punishment for those actions were sure and swift, those willing to undertake it would be far fewer than there are now, because they know that nothing (very) bad will happen to them. In this case, some of you seem to be more willing to punish the victim than you are the perpetrator. Are you going to suggest punishing victims of muggings and rapes because they made the st00pid choice to walk down a particular street at a particular hour, even though that may be their direct route home? Where does one draw the line? In society, we seem to ‘grin and bear,’ or tolerate a certain amount of aberrant behavior, whether due to stupidity or intent, because we don’t find the real fix to be clean enough to be tolerable.

    And yes, for those who wonder, my tongue is half out; but only half.. ;-)

  9. I don't see licensing, but a good dose of education may help. I am pleased with the computer education at my kids' private school. Along with typing, they teach computer ethics (on pirating, privacy, bullying, hacking) and on internet safety (don't divulge private information, don't fall for free offers, don't trust strangers). I try to reinforce these things at home. I don't know if the public schools do as much, but they should. Basic common sense has to be taught.

  10. I don’t see licensing, but a good dose of education may help. I am pleased with the computer education at my kids’ private school. Along with typing, they teach computer ethics (on pirating, privacy, bullying, hacking) and on internet safety (don’t divulge private information, don’t fall for free offers, don’t trust strangers). I try to reinforce these things at home. I don’t know if the public schools do as much, but they should. Basic common sense has to be taught.

  11. I live in a European country where we have something called "drivers license for computers". But it's really not what it sounds like. You're not in any way required to have this license in order to use or buy a computer (this is not a police state, after all). It merely functions as proof for possible employers that you have acquired basic computer skills. It could as well be called a "diploma", but the bureaucras who invented this thought that "drivers license" sounded cooler. There's nothing more to it than that.

    • "cool" maybe, "inaccurate" definitely. The word "license" implies something that allows a person to engage in a certain behavior, and does not imply in itself any prerequisite for that privilege.

      • In my country a drivers license is called a "drivers card". That is exactly the same as your "drivers license" (compulsory, required if you want to drive a car). So a drivers license for computers is called a "computer card". The term has the same legal ring to it as the term "drivers card", and it's "cool" because every teenager eagerly awaits the day when they get their drivers license. By using that terminology the bureaucrats probably thought that young people would think it's as cool to get the "computer driving license".

        But my main point is that I think Russel Smith, who was quoted in the story, has misinterpreted the whole thing about European "drivers licenses for computers". We do have an EU system called "European Computer Driving License". But it's not, and it never will be compulsory. As I already said, it's just a certificate showing that you've attended a course and passed it. See http://www.ecdl.com/

  12. I live in a European country where we have something called “drivers license for computers”. But it’s really not what it sounds like. You’re not in any way required to have this license in order to use or buy a computer (this is not a police state, after all). It merely functions as proof for possible employers that you have acquired basic computer skills. It could as well be called a “diploma”, but the bureaucras who invented this thought that “drivers license” sounded cooler. There’s nothing more to it than that.

    • “cool” maybe, “inaccurate” definitely. The word “license” implies something that allows a person to engage in a certain behavior, and does not imply in itself any prerequisite for that privilege.

      • In my country a drivers license is called a "drivers card". That is exactly the same as your "drivers license" (compulsory, required if you want to drive a car). So a drivers license for computers is called a "computer card". The term has the same legal ring to it as the term "drivers card", and it's "cool" because every teenager eagerly awaits the day when they get their drivers license. By using that terminology the bureaucrats probably thought that young people would think it's as cool to get the "computer driving license".

        But my main point is that I think Russel Smith, who was quoted in the story, has misinterpreted the whole thing about European "drivers licenses for computers". We do have an EU system called "European Computer Driving License". But it's not, and it never will be compulsory. As I already said, it's just a certificate showing that you've attended a course and passed it. See http://www.ecdl.com/

  13. There was an experiment recently regarding the type of people that get taken in by phishing schemes. I believe they found that there was no correlation between tech experience and being taken in by scams. So "tech" licenses probably wouldn't help. There were a whole bunch of other facts as well but I can't remember them right now. I have no idea where I read about it… Otherwise I would link it.

    Anyway, it would be nice to get the idiots off the computer but I'm not sure even this would accomplish it.

    • Interesting.

      I once worked with an individual who was quite a bright programmer — he coded in assembly language without the use of comments — but you could ask him for the superuser password and he'd tell you immediately, then realize that he shouldn't have. We played this joke on him a number of times — guarding information just didn't come naturally to him, but sharing information did.

  14. There was an experiment recently regarding the type of people that get taken in by phishing schemes. I believe they found that there was no correlation between tech experience and being taken in by scams. So “tech” licenses probably wouldn’t help. There were a whole bunch of other facts as well but I can’t remember them right now. I have no idea where I read about it… Otherwise I would link it.

    Anyway, it would be nice to get the idiots off the computer but I’m not sure even this would accomplish it.

    • Interesting.

      I once worked with an individual who was quite a bright programmer — he coded in assembly language without the use of comments — but you could ask him for the superuser password and he’d tell you immediately, then realize that he shouldn’t have. We played this joke on him a number of times — guarding information just didn’t come naturally to him, but sharing information did.

  15. As a help desk tech support worker, I absolutely think there should be some sort of minimal skills test when it comes to working on a computer at your job all day. So many people try to avoid responsibility or lie about how they broke their computer because they "aren't a computer person" or are "computer illiterate." A lot of pointless telephone calls could be avoided if people learned basic computer skills.

  16. As a help desk tech support worker, I absolutely think there should be some sort of minimal skills test when it comes to working on a computer at your job all day. So many people try to avoid responsibility or lie about how they broke their computer because they “aren’t a computer person” or are “computer illiterate.” A lot of pointless telephone calls could be avoided if people learned basic computer skills.

  17. What a load of rubbish. I am 76 and have been forced into computer banking, because that's the most profitable way for banks to work. I have all the REASONABLE precautions in place. But if I get ripped off using THEIR system then they can pay out of the vast profits they are making

  18. What a load of rubbish. I am 76 and have been forced into computer banking, because that’s the most profitable way for banks to work. I have all the REASONABLE precautions in place. But if I get ripped off using THEIR system then they can pay out of the vast profits they are making

  19. i think this is a very good and valid idea
    ill point out that in the article, it asked how to police the
    dont police it, make it only possible for license holders to access the internet,
    make isp's ask its customers for their license

    police don't have to waste resources and time, non-tech-savvy people don't have the chance to be lead into fraud and sites riddled with viruses, and cyber bullying might also be affected

    just an idea…

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