Social impact of computers

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Social impact of computers

  1. 1. 2000/11/17 1 The Social Impact of the Computer J.A.N. Lee Virginia Tech
  2. 2. 2000/11/17 2 A HISTORICAL APPROACH • When did computers begin to have an effect on people? • How have we been affected? • What HAVE we done? • Have we become too dependent on computers? • What can we do about it?
  3. 3. 2000/11/17 3 When did computers begin to have an effect on people? • The early machines - one-off, isolated • 1950: UNIVAC - the first multi-frame machine • 1955: IBM 650 - the first University machine • 1960: IBM 1620 - the first College machine • The period of the “priest-hood” of programmers
  4. 4. 2000/11/17 4 Early Programming
  5. 5. 2000/11/17 5 When did computers begin to have an effect on people? • 1965-1975: Time sharing – 1964: The first e-mail – “Personal computing” – Immediate feedback – Programming by trial and error • 1965 - The introduction of the mini-computer • The beginning of the period of computing as a “public utility” - for the privileged few
  6. 6. 2000/11/17 6 When did computers begin to have an effect on people? • 1970s - The microcomputer for enthusiasts • 1975 - Computers in the office • 1980 - The IBM PC • 1984 - The Macintosh • The period of the “HOME” computer • And since then … The INTERNET For the Millions
  7. 7. 2000/11/17 7 When did computers begin to have an effect on people? • 1940 - first computation over telephone lines • 1960s - the MODEM and Timesharing • 1970s - networking • 1980s - ARPANet, NSFNet, BITNET, … – News groups, LISTSERVs, • 1990s - The INTERNET - WWW – The period of ubiquitous computing
  8. 8. 2000/11/17 8 Ringing the Changes Computer as a Number Cruncher Computer as a Utility Computer as a Communicator Computer as a general purpose system Computer as a Search Engine Computer as a Tool
  9. 9. 2000/11/17 9 How have we been affected? • The early days: – “computerists” became addicted – but proud and dedicated – to the public - the concept of the GIANT BRAIN – to the insiders - the dumb, recalcitrant, moronic computer
  10. 10. 2000/11/17 10 How have we been affected? • 1950s - the emergence of the HACKER • 1960s - the identification of the user – The computer replaces the slide rule – The job of the “future” – The era of job swapping • 1970s - the connected user • 1980s - the personal computer • 1990s - the on-line millions
  11. 11. 2000/11/17 11 How have we been affected? • Users have moved from being an elite “professionally responsible” to a community with widely varying attitudes • Very high level applications allow anyone to develop a program • Including the untrained, the untrainable, and the don’t-wannabe-trained
  12. 12. 2000/11/17 12 The stages of impact • Direct replacement of an activity with little change in productivity • Enhancement of activities by improvements in speed and efficiency • Extending activities to those that could not be done previously
  13. 13. 2000/11/17 13 What HAVE we done? • Created a “DIGITAL DIVIDE” – The have’s and the have’nots • Between schools, between school districts • Between the old and the young • Between parents and children • Between male and female • Between rich and poor • Between town and country
  14. 14. 2000/11/17 14 What HAVE we done? • Look at almost any job description! • Qualifications for a secretary: (1) ...Working knowledge of standard office practices, equipment and word- processing software; …. Preferences given for experience with spreadsheets and graphics software, Microsoft Word, Word Equation and Excel; ... experience editing and proofreading complex documents. (2) Preferences given for experience working on a Mac OS, experience with Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Banner, experience maintaining a database.
  15. 15. 2000/11/17 15 1970 IBM Advertisement
  16. 16. 2000/11/17 16 Yesterday, Marion was a billing clerk Today, she’s a whole department. Friden Advertisement 1965
  17. 17. 2000/11/17 17 What HAVE we done? • WAREHOUSE SUPERVISOR: – Must be computer literate to include word processing, spreadsheets, web-based research, and email. Must have a valid vehicle operator's permit and a good driving record. We have changed people’s lives For good or bad?
  18. 18. 2000/11/17 18 Informality vs the Archive • The e-mail seemed so innocent. "Betty, hi," he remembers cheerfully typing to his colleague. "I haven't been successful reaching you by phone, so I'll try e-mail instead." • And so Bill Lampton--then an employee of a large hospital--dashed off the rest of his note on some trivial office matter and hit the send button. • Betty never got past the greeting. • "I have no idea what you mean about my not returning phone calls," Lampton recalls Betty firing back. "To have you accuse me of ignoring your calls is unthinkable and inexcusable. . . . As to the purpose of the e-mail that you sent me, I prefer not to respond, as I dislike dealing with anyone who assumes the worst of me."
  19. 19. 2000/11/17 19 Have we become too dependent on computers? • Have we become too dependent on: Steel? Cars? Oil? Electricity? Telephones? Plastic? Television? Housing? Airplanes? Clothing? Prosthetics? Society?
  20. 20. 2000/11/17 20 What have we done to Society? • Collapsed time? • Collapsed space? • Broken down natural barriers? • Intermixed incompatible attitudes? • Invaded privacy? • Made it vulnerable? • Created an information overload?
  21. 21. 2000/11/17 21
  22. 22. 2000/11/17 22 What have we done to Society? • Provided a new industry with expanding employment needs • New life for old industries • Improved communications • Created tools that would otherwise be impossible • Saved time • Changed the “Atomic Age” into the “Information Age” For
  23. 23. 2000/11/17 23 What are the dangers? • Using computers where simpler solutions exist • Using software in critical situations – Safety critical applications – Mission critical systems BUT AREN’T THESE OFFSET BY ADVANTAGES?
  24. 24. 2000/11/17 24 What are the advantages? • Using software in critical situations – Safety critical applications – Mission critical systems • More easily upgradeable, replaceable • Millions of new uses, new capabilities
  25. 25. 2000/11/17 25 What can we do about it? • Should we become Luddites? • (See http://www.wikipedia.com/wiki/Luddite)
  26. 26. 2000/11/17 26 Should we have killed the railroad engine?
  27. 27. 2000/11/17 27 Should we NOT continue to develop the computer? • We cannot go backward • We have not had a MAJOR breakthrough since 1970 - the integrated circuit • What is the next big step going to be and where? • What will be the effect?
  28. 28. 2000/11/17 28 Progress, Development, Evolution • Whatever we do – We will not stop progress – We will not stop people using our products in ways that we do appreciate – And we WILL find new uses and applications that will be advantageous
  29. 29. 2000/11/17 29 Stopping Progress An Example
  30. 30. 2000/11/17 30 One last thought • Martin Luther King: “Our technology is outstripping our spirituality”

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