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Lecture 28
4/21/04 21:25
Lecture 28
Social & Legal Issues
(S&G, ch. 14)
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Simulation & Models
• Recall our discussion of models:
– a model is intended to address a certain class of
questions or issues
– models make simplifying assumptions
• Recall the omission of aerodynamic
stability from bridge models before the
Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster
• Nevertheless, computer models &
simulations are essential
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Evaluating Models
• How well is the underlying science
understood?
• What sorts of simplifying assumptions are
made?
• How well does the model agree with
experimental results?
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Computer Crime
• Often just a new or “better” way to commit
traditional crimes
• Ampliative aspects of computer technology
– may allow committing crimes on a larger scale
• Reductive aspects of computer technology
– may make it harder to detect crimes, identify
criminals, etc.
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Some Kinds of Computer Crime
• Fraud, embezzlement & theft
• Stealing (data)
• “Hacking” (system cracking)
– individual systems
– the information infrastructure
– benign hacking?
• Viruses & worms: reproduce selves
– virus: hides in another program
– worm: an independent program
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Constitutional & Civil Liberties
Issues
• 1st Amendment protects freedom of speech
& press
• 4th Amendment protects against
unreasonable search & seizure
• Do they apply to electronic & other new
media?
• So far, the courts generally have held them
to apply, but there is much uncertainty
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Communication Media
• Is the operator of a communication medium
responsible for the information it carries?
– analogy: telephone companies & post office
– analogy: a privately-owned meeting room
• Can the operator restrict this information?
– analogy: telephone companies & post office
– analogy: private presses
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Encryption & Wiretapping
• Encryption can be used to ensure privacy &
authenticity
– may be used for legal/illegal purposes
• May be subject to export restrictions
• What provisions should be made for
government interception & recording of
communications?
• What limits should be imposed on the
government
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These questions are especially
relevant to issues such as the
“USA PATRIOT” Act
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How do we address these issues?
• Engineering issues (efficiency, economy,
elegance)
– addressed by engineering analysis & other
kinds of technical expertise
• Legal issues
– addressed by lawyers, courts, etc.
• Ethical issues
– addressed by ethicists & ethical analysis
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New Ethical Issues
• Consider a relatively well-defined ethical
problem:
• Is it ethical to “hack” into someone else’s
computer system (and do no damage)?
• Traditional moral codes do not address this
issue!
• So we must apply ethical analysis
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Ethical Analysis
• Only touching on a few basic ideas
• Ethics = “the study of how to decide if
something is morally right or wrong”
• What criteria are used for judging the
rightness or wrongness of an action?
• There are several well-established
approaches to defining criteria
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Consequentialism
• If the consequences of an act are on the
whole good, then the act is good
• If the consequences of an act are on the
whole bad, then the act is bad
• Good or bad for whom?
• Utilitarian criterion: the greatest total
happiness
• Also, may be difficult to predict
consequences
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Deontological Criterion
• Deontology = the study of moral obligation
• Rather than focusing on the consequences
of an act, deontological arguments focus on
the inherent nature of the act
• Two important questions:
– What is the intent of the act?
– Is it a defensible, responsible act?
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Two Important Tools
of Ethical Analysis
• Dialectic
• Analogy
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Dialectical Method
• Root meaning of dialectic is conversation
• Philosophical dialectic: a method of approaching
the truth by moving critically among two or more
viewpoints
• The strengths & weaknesses of each viewpoint are
revealed, especially from the perspective of the
others
• Ideal outcome: a synthesis that combines the
strengths & eliminate the weaknesses
• More commonly, leads to better understanding of
improved viewpoints
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Analogical Method
1. Identify analogous situations that are more
familiar or better understood
2. Identify similarities & differences between
the analogy and the issue of concern
3. Consider their relevance to the issue
4. Explore competing analogies dialectically
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A Method of Ethical Analysis
1. Identify stakeholders
2. Identify what is at stake
(utilitarian step)
3. Identify duties & responsibilities
(deontological step)
4. Think of analogies
5. Make a decision
or repeat the steps
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Three Case Studies
• Sharing music files
• Zimmerman & PGP encryption
• “Hacking” computer systems
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Reminder:
Final Exam
Monday, May 3
2:45 – 4:45
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Next Time:
a movie on the history of
computing
&
a short quiz
(to ensure you pay attention!)
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