While this is an issue for chemical engineers, it also overlaps with IEEE space in various ways.The IEEE Code of Ethics calls for members to “accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health, and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment.” We do not specify any nationally or internationally “illegal” activities. It seems that this class of weapons might endanger the public and environment. I note IEEE only specified “the public” as a concern, which allows for weapons that might endanger other classes of persons such as criminals and enemy combatants. And of course many IEEE field professionals are involved in the creation of weapon systems, often working for nation states or their contractors, and this is “business as usual.” Ideally, none of these weapons would be used — presuming the absence of crime or combat (one can hope). A related question is the context of such development — if an individual is fairly sure the device will not be used, is that different than a situation where they are fairly sure it will be used?
But the crux of the issue is what is expected of an ethical engineer in a case such as that of Syria? Going to “management” to present the concern that the work might endanger the public or environment would be a career (or life) limiting action. Going to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that is responsible for related inspections/determinations could be difficult, treasonous, and life threatening. Should the IEEE Code of Ethics specifically include illegal or treaty violations as a designated consideration? And what might IEEE do about identified violations?
For those of us who have been enjoying the antics of 007, aka James Bond — and those of us in the real world who have been providing technology that helps our covert entities to accomplish their missions…. it is worthwhile to note that Alex Younger, head of UK’s MI6 agency (which of course does not exist), indicates Bond’s personality and activities do not meet their ethical standards.
“It’s safe to say that James Bond wouldn’t get through our recruitment process and, whilst we share his qualities of patriotism, energy and tenacity, an intelligence officer in the real MI6 has a high degree of emotional intelligence, values teamwork and always has respect for the law… unlike Mr Bond.“
A number of technologists are called upon to support covert, military or police organizations in their countries. There is some comfort in thinking that such entities, including MI6 (yes it is real), have some level of ethical standards they apply. Which does not exempt an individual from applying their own professional and other standards as well in their work.
A recent article on the limitations of computer “players” in online games is that they don’t know about lying. No doubt this is true. Both the detection of lies (which means anticipating them, and in some sense understanding the value of mis-representation to the other party) and the ability to use this capability are factors in ‘gaming’. This can be both entertainment games, and ‘gaming the system’ — in sales, tax evasion, excusing failures, whatever.
So here is a simple question: Should we teach computers to lie?
(unfortunately, I don’t expect responses to this question will alter the likely path of game creators, or others who might see value in computers that can lie.) I will also differentiate this from using computers to lie. I can program a computer so that it overstates sales, understates losses, and many other forms of fraud. But in this case it is my ethical/legal lapse, not a “decision” on the part of the computer.
The Jan. 4, 2016 Wall St Journal has an article “VR Growth Sparks Questions About Effects on Body, Mind” pointing out, as prior publications have, that 2016 is likely to be the Year of VR. The U.S. Consumer Electronics Show is starting this week in Las Vegas, where many neat, new and re-packaged concepts will be strongly promoted.
The article points to issues of physical health – nasua is one well documented potential factor. But work has been taking place on residual effects (how soon should you drive after VR?), how long to remain immersed before you ‘surface’, etc. Perhaps the key consideration is degree to which our bodies/brains accept the experiences of VR as real — altering our thinking and behaviour. (Prof. Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab confirms this is one impact.)
All of the pundits point out that every new technology has it’s potential uses/abuses. But that does not excuse the specific considerations that might apply to VR. A point raised in the article “Scares in VR are borderline immoral”. There is a line of technology from “watching” to “first person” to “immersion” that should be getting our attention. The dispute over “children impacted by what they watch on TV”, moving to first-person shooter video games, to VR is sure to occur. But in VR, you can be the victim as well. I first encountered the consideration of the after effects of rape in a video game environment at an SSIT conference some years ago. Even with the third party perspective in that case, the victim was traumatized. No doubt VR will provide a higher impact. There are no-doubt lesser acts that can be directed at a VR participant that will have greater impact in VR than they might with less immersive technology.
This is the time to start sorting out scenarios, possible considerations for vendors of technology, aps and content, and also to watch for the quite predictable unexpected effects. Do you have any ‘predictions’ for 2016 and the Year of VR?
4 President’s Message
Coping with Machines Greg Adamson Book Reviews 5Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Mission 7Alan Turing: The Enigma 10 Editorial
Resistance is Not Futile, nil desperandum MG Michael and Katina Michael 13 Letter to the Editor
Technology and Change Kevin Hu 14 Opinion
Privacy Nightmare: When Baby Monitors Go Bad Katherine Albrecht and Liz Mcintyre 15 From the Editor’s Desk
Robots Don’t Pray Eugenio Guglielmelli 17 Leading Edge
Unmanned Aircraft: The Rising Risk of Hostile Takeover Donna A. Dulo 20 Opinion
Automatic Tyranny, Re-Theism, and the Rise of the Reals Sand Sheff 23 Creating “The Norbert Wiener Media Project” J. Mitchell Johnson 25 Interview
A Conversation with Lazar Puhalo 88 Last Word
Technological Expeditions and Cognitive Indolence Christine Perakslis
SPECIAL ISSUE: Norbert Wiener in the 21st Century
33_ Guest Editorial Philip Hall, Heather A. Love and Shiro Uesugi 35_ Norbert Wiener: Odd Man Ahead Mary Catherine Bateson 37_ The Next Macy Conference: A New Interdisciplinary Synthesis Andrew Pickering 39_ Ubiquitous Surveillance and Security Bruce Schneier 41_ Reintroducing Wiener: Channeling Norbert in the 21st Century Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman 44_ Securing the Exocortex* Tamara Bonaci, Jeffrey Herron, Charles Matlack, and Howard Jay Chizeck 52_ Wiener’s Prefiguring of a Cybernetic Design Theory* Thomas Fischer 60_ Norbert Wiener and the Counter-Tradition to the Dream of Mastery D. Hill 64_ Down the Rabbit Hole* Laura Moorhead
74_ Opening Pandora’s 3D Printed Box Phillip Olla 81_ Application Areas of Additive Manufacturing N.J.R. Venekamp and H.Th. Le Fever
I’ve been using Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in classes for a while now. One key message of the book is that professionals (well everybody) needs to care about their work. Perhaps more in Zen terms, to be mindful while they work. The author asserts that one of the reasons technology is so alienating now-a-days is that the lack of care is evident in the workmanship, robustness, etc. I’ve also been working on an update of the SSIT Strategic Plan, and one element of that discussion has been what catchphrase should we use?… Like on business cards. IEEE’s is “Advancing technology for humanity” which is a good one. Currently we are using “Where Technology and Society Talk” … but it is tempting to use: “Technologists that Give a Damn” … a bit demeaning to imply that some (many?) don’t, but unfortunately this is at least occasionally true. There are at least two levels of caring. The obvious one for SSIT is paying attention to the social impact of inventions and products (the “should we make it” as opposed to the “how we make it“). There is a lower level that is also critical, in software we might ask “is this code elegant?” Oddly, there seems to be a relationship between underlying elegance and quality. Clean, simple design often works better than a ‘hack’, and it takes both a level of mastery, and a level of mindfulness to accomplish. Some number of cyber security holes are a result of code where folks didn’t care enough to do it right. No doubt many “blue screen of death” displays and other failures and frustrations emerge from this same source. Often management is under pressure, or lack of awareness, and is satisfied with shipping the product rather than making sure it is done well. I’m not aware of any equivalent in most development facilities of the Japanese “line stop buttons” that make quality a ubiquitous responsibility. The reality is we need technologists who invent and produce products that are right socially, done right technically — technologists who embrace “care” at all levels. A retired career counselor from the engineering school at one of our ivy league schools in my Zen class observed that we were more focused on ‘career skills’ than ‘quality’ in our education, and may be suppressing student’s sense of care. We then observed that this apparent lack of care, evidenced in so many consumer products, might be a factor in why girls are choosing to not enter STEM education and careers. I suppose the question that remains is “do we care?”