Computers and Society, History to the Present Day | Ronald M. Baecker

Computers and Society, History to the Present Day | Ronald M. Baecker


I’ve been interested in computers and
society issues ever since I was a student at MIT between 1959 and ’69.
Concerns about computers or automata or machines come to life of course go back
to literature and science fiction, but one of the first written expressions of
concern was actually the father of cybernetics Norbert Wiener who wrote a
piece in 1949 that was never published and was recently uncovered by the New
York Times technology columnist John Markov. I became interested in the issues
in the 60s in part through the writings of a man named Joe Weizenbaum who was a professor at MIT who was one of the first to articulate concerns about how
programmer’s personalities might affect their work and also very visionary
concerns about how programs would ultimately grow so large and so
complicated that no human being would understand them any more would be able
to fix them. There was also in the 60s Alan Westin, a law professor at
Columbia, wrote a very important book called ‘Privacy and Freedom’ looking both
at the legal issues and also at the psychological importance of privacy. All
of this has become much more important now because in this millennium we’ve
seen several developments. We’ve seen technology become pervasive with cell
phones and with what’s called ubiquitous computing, which is tiny computers
embedded everywhere and you don’t even know where they are but they’re watching
you. With the success in robotics and continuing efforts at automation
increasingly imperiling the livelihoods of more and more
people and particularly in the last decade, the success of artificial
intelligence which has moved well beyond its success in mastering games like
checkers and chess and Go and Jeopardy to being proposed for use in ways that
affect human life and death and welfare in much more profound ways. So computers in society now is I believe a very current topic and one that all computer
science students should should read and think about and in fact is important for
educated individuals in general.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *