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What about the social implications??? May 22, 2007

Posted by alimassoudi in Uncategorized.
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Does a world that subscribes to capitalism, encourages innovation, invention, and strives to embrace new technologies that increase efficiency, reduce cost and add utmost value really ever stop to consider the social impact of the change?

In their ninth edition ofManagement Information Systems Kenneth Laudon and Jane Laudon present a framework to encourage thought about the social, political, and ethical issues surrounding technology. There are five “Moral Dimensions” of the information age as presented in the model, namely: Information rights and obligations; Property Rights and obligations; Accountability and control; Systems quality; and Quality of life. Of course the model is an organized way for academics to evaluate the said moral dimensions. However, this is a reactive approach. Studying the impact of technology is one thing, predicting its potential implications is quite another.

I am of the opinion that the responsibility of examining the social impact of new technologies prior to their design is not only paramount, but should indeed by a mandated part of the development process. So do the professionals that work in their respective fields have enough of an understanding in the social sciences?

I have noted certain trends recently that lead me to believe that the holistic approach to technological development is indeed being fostered (or inherent in some cases):

Firstly, I look to trendspotting.com  in May’s briefing referred to as “Transparency Tyranny” and find comfort in the following words,  “Old economy fog is clearing: no longer can incompetence, below-par performance, ignored global standards, anti-social & anti-eco behavior, or opaque pricing be obscured. In its place has come a transparent, fully informed marketplace, where producers have no excuse left to underperform. TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY for some, TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH for others.”

Secondly, Groups such as the IEEE that comprise of a phenomenal interdisciplinary cross section of professionals and volunteers (over 370,000 members in over 160 countries) who strive to improve the understanding of technology, its appropriate application and potential consequences while accepting responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety public health and well being of the public and/or environment.

Thirdly, I have noticed trends to incorporate courses that inform and educate participants on social, moral and ethical implications of technology. For example Dominique Roelants from the Dept. of Computer Science at Malaspina University-College writes about the importance of incorporating classes that include tools and models to further the understanding of ethics and the social implications of technology that will allow the computer professional to analyze projects that they may be called to work on. 

The pessimist would disagree (with pretty much anything I suppose!), but I find comfort that the topic of ethics, morality and social implications of technology seem to be at the forefront of the current scene.

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