The Boundaries of Ethics

The U.S. government recently announced sanctions targeting Syrian scientists (and no doubt engineers, news papers are not clear on the differences.)  Presumably the individuals targeted are ones involved in engineering chemical weapons, which contravene the International Chemical Weapons Convention.   So here is my question, is the development of these weapons or their precursors (specified in the convention) unethical?

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?

Bond Doesn’t make the Ethics Cut

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.

27 Oct 2016 UK Telegraph article

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.

“Remaining Human”

CLICK HERE for the must-watch short film:

produced with a small IEEE grant on the work of Norbert Wiener.
Launched October 21, 2016, at the IEEE ISTAS 2016 conference in Kerala, India. EXCLUSIVE. #norbert#wiener #cybernetics #communications #ethics #feedback #brain#machines #automation

For more see and


Teaching Computers to Lie

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.

Ethics of Virtual Reality

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?


T&S Magazine September 2015 Contents

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Volume 34, Number 3, September 2015

4 President’s Message
Coping with Machines
Greg Adamson
Book Reviews
5 Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Mission
7 Alan 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

*Refereed article.

T&S Magazine June 2015 Contents

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Volume 34, Number 2, June 2015

3 ISTAS 2015 – Dublin
4 President’s Message
Deterministic and Statistical Worlds
Greg Adamson
5 Editorial
Mental Health, Implantables, and Side Effects
Katina Michael
8 Book Reviews
Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future
Stealing Cars: Technology & Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino
13 Leading Edge
“Ich liebe Dich UBER alles in der Welt” (I love you more than anything else in the world)
Sally Applin
16 Tools for the Vision Impaired
Molly Hartman
18 Learning from Delusions
Brian Martin
21 Commentary
Nanoelectronics Research Gaps and Recommendations*
Kosmas Galatsis, Paolo Gargini, Toshiro Hiramoto, Dirk Beernaert, Roger DeKeersmaecker, Joachim Pelka, and Lothar Pfitzner
80 Last Word
Father’s Day Algorithms or Malgorithms?
Christine Perakslis

SPECIAL ISSUE—Ethics 2014/ISTAS 2014

31_ Guest Editorial
Keith Miller and Joe Herkert
32_ App Stores for the Brain: Privacy and Security in Brain-Computer Interfaces*
Tamara Bonaci, Ryan Calo, and Howard Jay Chizeck
40_ The Internet Census 2012 Dataset: An Ethical Examination*
David Dittrich, Katherine Carpenter, and Manish Karir
47_ Technology as Moral Proxy: Autonomy and Paternalism by Design*
Jason Millar
56_ Teaching Engineering Ethics: A Phenomenological Approach*
Valorie Troesch
64_ Informed Consent for Deep Brain Stimulation: Increasing Transparency for Psychiatric Neurosurgery Patients*
Andrew Koivuniemi
71_ Robotic Prosthetics: Moving Beyond Technical Performance*
N. Jarrassé, M. Maestrutti, G. Morel, and A. Roby-Brami

*Refereed Articles


T&S Magazine March 2015 Contents

LOW RES T&S March 2015 cover 1

Volume 34, Number 1, March 2015

Special Section on Social and Economic Sustainability

18 GUEST EDITORIAL Jason Sargent, Khanjan Mehta, and Katina Michael

20 Long-Distance Telecommunication in Remote, Poor Areas* Martin J. Murillo, Juan A. Paco, and David Wright

31 Integrated Energy Resources Planning for the Electricity Sector: Targeting Sustainable Development Miguel Edgar Morales Udaeta, Flavio Minoru Maruyama, Andre Luiz Veiga Gimenes, and Luiz Cláudio Ribeiro Galvão

39 The Role of ICT in a Low Carbon Society Michael Koenigsmayr and Thomas Neubauer

45 RFID Individual Tracking and Records Management – Solutions for Slum Communities* Ali Zalzala, Vivienne Strettle, Stanley Chia, and Laura Zalzala


56 An Anticipatory Social Assessment of Factory-Grown Meat* Carolyn S. Mattick, Jameson M. Wetmore, and Braden R. Allenby

65 Resolving Multiplexed Automotive Communications: Applied Agency and the Social Car* Sally A. Applin and Michael D. Fischer

74 Mobile Technology for Socio-Religious Events – A Case Study of NFC Technology* Mohamed Ahmed Mohandes  


Inside Front Cover ISTAS 2015 – Culture, Ethics, and the Knowledge Society Call for Papers

4 President’s Message SSIT Past and Future Greg Adamson

5 Book Review The Circle


7 Ruminations on the “IQ2 Debate: We Are Becoming Enslaved by Our Technology” Jeff Robbins

9 Are Social Media Making Us Stupid? Liz Stillwaggon Swan and Louis J. Goldberg

11 Commentary Considering Social Implications of Biometric Registration – A Database Intended for Every Citizen in India Usha Ramanathan

80 Last Word Lessons from the Sea Christine Perakslis

*Refereed article.

Cover Image: ISTOCK.

T&S Magazine Winter 2014 Contents

T&S Winter 2014 cover low res

VOL. 33, NO. 4, WINTER 2014

Dear SSIT Members…
Laura Jacob

Katina Michael

Enslavement by Technology? Reflections on the IQ2 Debate on Big Ideas

Are we Enslaved by Technology?
Michael Eldred

Excessive Conference Fees

Lonely Ideas: Can Russia Compete?
Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World
User Unfriendly

Remotely Piloted Airborne Vehicles
Philip Hall

Recommendations for Future Development of Artificial Agents
Deborah G. Johnson and Merel Noorman

Channeling Digital Convergence in Education for Societal Benefit
Arturo Serrano-Santoyo and Mayer R. Cabrera-Flores

Influential Engineers: Where Do They Come From and Where Do They Go?
J. Panaretos and C.C. Malesios

Videoconferencing for Civil Commitment: Preserving Dignity
Muaid Ithman, Ganesh Gopalakrishna, Bruce Harry, and Deepti Bahl

Snowden’s Lessons for Whistleblowers
Brian Martin

How and Why to Keep the NSA Out of Your Private Stuff – Even If You’ve “Got Nothing to Hide”
Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre

Using Data to Combat Human Rights Abuses
Felicity Gerry


44 Leaning on the Ethical Crutch: A Critique of Codes of Ethics*
Jathan Sadowski

48 User Understanding of Privacy in Emerging Mobile Markets*
Cormac Callanan and Borka Jerman-Blazic

57 Questioning Professional Autonomy in Qualitative Inquiry*
R. Varma

65 Cell Phone Use While Driving: Risk Implications for Organizations*
S. Yang and R. Parry

73 Building Trust in the Human—Internet of Things Relationship*
Ioannis Kounelis, Gianmarco Baldini, Ricardo Neisse, Gary Steri, Mariachiara Tallacchini, and Ângela Guimarães Pereira

*Refereed articles.

Cover Image: ISTOCK.

Technologists who Give a Damn?

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?”