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  • Computerized Technology and Human Responsibility

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Written by Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@ora.com)
    Last Updated:  January 30, 1997
    

    It is not particularly odd to list common questions about technology and human responsibility. The odd thing would be to answer them!--or, rather, to propose a set of *canonical* answers.

    The answers put forth here most definitely are not canonical. Think of this FAQ instead as a template, for which you must substitute your own answers. This is not to suggest a rootless relativism, but only to acknowledge what holds true in all matters of moral responsibility: every individual must knit his own pattern into the overall, harmonious fabric of truth, beauty, and goodness.

    Portions of the following are adapted from the author's book, "The Future Does Not Compute -- Transcending the Machines in Our Midst," with kind permission of the publisher, O'Reilly & Associates. Other portions are adapted from a work in progress called "Daily Meditations for the Computer-entranced." Yet other portions are completely off-the-wall.

     

    CONTENTS

    The Challenge of Intelligent Tools
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    1. Does computerized technology threaten our future?
    1. What is an example of this threat?
    1. Do computers extend our capabilities?
    1. Were the printing press and other earlier technologies risk-free?
    1. Is the computer just another tool?
    1. What gift does the computer bring us?
    1. Does more sophisticated, user-friendly software reduce the risks?
    1. Are there still risks when the computer's active intelligence recedes into the background, acting as a relatively passive conduit for human communication?

    Technological Neutrality and Human Freedom
    ------------------------------------------

    1. Isn't technology Neutral? 'Guns don't kill people; people do'
    1. Are we free?
    1. Can you and I do anything to alter significantly the technological juggernaut that is transforming society?

    The Net and Personal Psychology
    -------------------------------

    1. Does the Net help us to overcome prejudice by putting race, religion, age, gender, and handicap out of sight?
    1. Does the Net help us be more vulnerable to each other?
    1. Haven't Net courtship and the infamous flame proven that computer-mediated communication allows intimate personal exchange?
    1. Is projection a problem on the Net?
    1. What is the antidote to projection?
    1. Does the Net make us scatter-brained?

    Education
    ---------

    1. Children in today's world need to be familiar with computers, don't they?
    1. Wha