Learn how to Code – at Harvard!

It has always been my goal to learn how to code. Ideally, I would be able to create my own website with all the functions I need for this blog. This is why I chose to obtain a free online course at HarvardX which is especially designed for lawyers and law students. It gives an introduction to computer science. Eventually, I will get an understanding of all the buzzwords flying around and find out if they sound more important than they actually are 😉

When speaking of computer science, I have observed so far that many politicians are reluctant to such topics because they grew up in times without computers, tablets, or phones. However, many human rights risks stem from the internet such as hate speech or the use of personal data by private companies for advertisement. Human rights risk may as well stem from limited access to the internet or censorship through states. Fake news may influence elections and pose a risk to democracies. We need smart laws and policies in place in order to ensure that human rights are respected in the internet.

The course is composed of ten lectures and associated assignments, covering these topics:

  1. Computational Thinking,
  2. Programming Languages,
  3. Algorithms, Data Structures,
  4. Cryptography,
  5. Cybersecurity,
  6. Internet Technologies, Cloud Computing,
  7. Web Development,
  8. Database Design,
  9. Cybersecurity, continued, and
  10. Challenges at the Intersection of Law and Technology.

I learned so far that computers “communicate” solely in zeros and ones. It is called binary code. For example, 01000111110000 may signify “hi”. Every bit of information is represented in a code, even a picture by pixels. Interesting, right?

If you want to learn more, here is a link to the course on the online learning platform edX: https://www.edx.org/course/cs50-for-lawyers

Photograph: 

  • Refik Anadol, Machine Hallucinations – Nature Dreams Centre Pompidou-Metz, France, 2022
  • Une installation de Refik Anadol et Refik Anadol Studio (RAS)
  • MABU Collection / mabu.eth

How to keep up with Human Rights

What are human rights and how to stay informed? Here are my tips:

1. Let’s start with the basics of human rights protection: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 1 declares: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” If I might add: “and sisterhood” 😉

2. Follow the daily briefs of Human Rights Watch. You can sign up with your email for free and receive a compilation of current tweets daily with an explanation about the pending human rights issue.

3. Sign up for an online course, for example on Coursera or edX. Access to the course is usually for free. You can also earn a certificate if you pay a certain amount (50$ to 200$). It can be your chance to study at top universities such as Harvard or Stanford! I found some interesting-sounding courses which you might want to check out:

  1. AI & Law, Lund University (Sweden)
  2. Refugees in the 21st century, University of London (UK)
  3. Child Protection: Children’s Rights in Theory and Practice, Harvard University (USA)
Photographed in Warsaw, Poland

4. Watch documentary films – they can give you great insights. Here are my favourite ones, if you haven’t seen them yet:

  • The Cleaners – a report about the traumatic work of content moderators verifying social media
  • Go – freely available on YouTube – it shows how computer programs learn and outsmart human beings
  • Raving Iran – freely available on YouTube – two DJs make music in a country where electronic music is strictly forbidden. On a side note: the documentary’s music is great

5. Amnesty International publishes country reports and informs about human rights issues in specific countries.

Seen in Münster, Germany