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Lecture - PowerPoint Presentation

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									Perspectives on Computing
       and Society

            Days 1,2:
  Characteristics of a Computer



                                  1
    Characteristics of a Computer
        From The Philosophical Programmer by Daniel Kohanski

   What characteristics of computers present
    unique ethical problems?
       Magnification
       Believability
       Malleability
       Impermeability
       Inflexibility
       Autonomy of Operation
       Anonymity and Alienation

                                                               2
                Magnification
   Computers magnify our ability to
    calculate
   We take this for granted…but think
    about what would be involved in
    computing by hand the monthly
    payment on a 15 year home mortgage
    of $155,750 at 6.5%
                              0.065
           M  155,750          12
                                        180
                               0.065 
                       1  1        
                                12 
                                               3
                 Magnification
   One example of true computational
    magnification is in science
       Computation of gravitational forces of
        massive objects in space to detect invisible
        black holes
       Modeling airflow in designing a car or
        airplane
       Forecasting weather
   What we are actually magnifying is the
    speed of the computation since given
    millions of years these things could be
    computed by hand                                   4
                 Magnification
   How do computers magnify our ability
    to manage large quantities of data?
       Storage?
       Search and retrieval?
   Before there were computers, a
    mischievous teenager might egg a
    house. With a computer, mischief can
    be magnified. How?
   So computers magnify the “good” we
    do as well as the “evil” we do
                                           5
            Magnification
   What are some ways computers
    magnify the good we can do?
   What are some ways computers
    magnify the evil we can do?




                                   6
               Believability
   How many of you total your transactions
    each month to verify the account balance
    on your credit card or checking account?
   How are computers involved in various
    stages of purchasing something from
    Target…from the original purchase to the
    posting of your credit card statement?
   What opportunities are there for errors to
    creep in along the way?

                                             7
                      Believability
   There is an ethical problem with the
    believability of computers since we are
    predisposed to believe that the numerical
    results of a computer are correct.
   “The computer simply provides us with too
    much information too fast for us to do
    anything more than assume it is correct.”
    Kohanski, p. 24




                                           8
                 Malleability
   Data written to a computer storage media
    is malleable, that is, it can be changed
    with very little evidence of any
    modification.
       Words can be changed
       Images can be altered




                                           9
               Malleability
   Here is a photo I received in my e-mail
    some time back.
                                According to the
                                e-mail this photo
                                “was taken near
                                the South African
                                coast during a
                                military exercise
                                by the British
                                Navy.”



                                                10
                  Malleability
   Problems with this
       It’s not “near the South African coast” (the
        Golden Gate Bridge is in the background)
       It’s not “the British Navy” (it’s a U.S. National
        Guard Helicopter in a training exercise)




                                                      11
                            Malleability

       The photo is also a fake. It is a composite
        of two actual photos.




   Debunking information found at www.urbanlegends.com

                                                          12
               Malleability

   This is just harmless fun, I suppose.
   What would be a use of the malleability of
    data in computers that would not be so
    benign and would become an ethical
    issue?




                                            13
               Impermeability
   Open an overhead projector such as we
    have in most of our classrooms here at
    Bethel.
       What do you find inside?
       How do the pieces work together to make the
        contraption work?
   Open a computer such as we have in most
    of our classrooms at Bethel.
       What do you find inside?
       How do the pieces work together to make the
        contraption work?
                                                14
                       Impermeability
   The impermeability of a computer refers
    to the fact that when we open a
    computer, what we see inside does not
    give any clues about what it does or how
    it does it.
   How does this contribute to the tendency
    of people to believe whatever comes out
    of a computer?
   “Any sufficiently advanced technology is
    virtually indistinguishable from magic.”
    Arthur C. Clarke
                                           15
                    Inflexibility
   In general, computers work in only one
    way.
       Give correct input and they (probably) give
        correct output.
       Give input other than that expected by the
        computer and who knows what will happen.
          the program might crash
          somebody might not get paid

          a medical device may malfunction and injure
           someone
   The same “invalid” input would probably
    not confuse a person who saw it.
                                                         16
             Autonomy of Operation
   Computers are designed to reduce the need for
    human supervision.
       They automatically paint cars on assembly lines
       They continuously monitor and adjust fuel/air
        mixture in a car’s engine
       They automatically adjust medication in a patient’s
        IV pump
       They automatically operate trains determining their
        speed and stopping them as they arrive in stations
   How can this characteristic of computers
    present an ethical dilemma?
                                                       17
     Anonymity and Alienation
   Much of the credit card fraud against U.S.
    citizens is committed by Internet users in
    non-U.S. countries such as Russia and
    Indonesia.
   Why do people find it easier to use
    abusive language against others in e-mail
    or on a bulletin board than in person?
   Computers allow people to interact with
    each other while retaining their
    anonymity.
                                            18
     Anonymity and Alienation
   Computers alienate the programmer from
    the user making it easier for the
    programmer to rationalize cutting corners.
   Why should this alienation inherent in
    computer technology challenge the
    believability of a computer?




                                            19

								
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