312 - 07 - Evaluating Technology

Evaluating and
Controlling Technology
Legal, Social, and Ethical Issues in Information Systems
Evaluating Info on the Web
• Much of what we find on the Net is wrong
• Search engines rank by popularity, not accuracy
• “Democratic journalism”
• Wikipedia vs. Citizendium
• Site operator responsibilities
• Image manipulation
Writing, Thinking, Deciding
• Computers make many tasks easier
• does this lead to a loss of basic skills?
• New tools can change social patterns
• People let computers think for them
Computer Models
• Models allow us to simulate and investigate
possible effects of different scenarios
• they are simplifications
• life-cycle models, finite-element models
• Conclusions differ based on the model used
• e.g., climate, car crashes, health care
Computers and Community
Computers change the traditional idea of “community”
Critics: computers reduce face-to-face gathering
Is the Internet destroying communities?
Wal-Mart analogy
Online communities
Second Life, gaming communities
The Digital Divide
• Some groups of people have access to
computers while others do not
• Focus has shifted from rich vs. poor to
developed vs. poorer countries
• Divide is generated by cost and ease of use
• “haves” and “have-laters”, rather than
“haves” and “have-nots”
The Global Divide
• 1B people have access to the Web
• That leaves 5-6B without access
• One Laptop Per Child initiative
• $100, ruggedized laptop running Linux
• Need to provide access in culturallyappropriate ways
• Electronic health records
• Google Health, Continuity of Care Record
• Telemedicine (live vs. store-and-forward)
• Health-related Web sites
• WebMD, MedicineNet
Evaluating Computers
• On a scale of “miracle” to “catastrophe”,
where do computers fall?
• Should we condemn the technology as a
whole for the risks it carries?
• Should the textbook have been named
“Pandora’s Box” instead of “A Gift of Fire”?
• 1811-12: English workers, led by Ned Ludd,
attacked factories and mills that used new
• “Luddite”: one who opposes technical
• Neo-Luddites: people who criticize
computers and the Internet
Neo-Luddite Criticisms
Cause massive unemployment, de-skilling of jobs
Cause social inequity
“Manufacture needs” rather than satisfying real
Cause social disintegration
Do little or nothing to solve real human problems
The Neo-Luddite Perspective
• Negative view of businesses and capitalism
• technology to increase profit, not help
• Technology creates a need for itself
• Buyers are manipulated by ads, work pressure
Neo-Luddite Views (II)
• Tech offers no or limited improvement in life
• improvements are “industrial virtues”
• many generations got along without tech;
we can too
• Morality: a thing is “right” when it enhances
nature, and wrong otherwise
Technology’s Accomplishments
• Some people say things have gotten worse over
time due to technology
• counter-arguments: food prices, wages, crop
yields, life expectancy
• Who benefits most from tech?
• Gov’t? Big business? Ordinary people? The
poor? The disabled?
Making Decisions
About Technology
Some Questions
• Who should decide whether to use part or
all of a technology?
• Some people say we should investigate all
possible consequences first
• How well can we predict the consequences
of a new invention?
Prediction Difficulties
• Computers were originally designed to
calculate ballistic trajectories
• PCs were originally designed to write
documents and perform computations
• Web was originally designed by physicists to
share data
• Each has evolved beyond its original intent
Next Time
• Chapter 8
• Errors, Failures, and Risks