Monday, June 28, 2010

"Computing Ethics: Work Life in the Robotic Age"

In this column, published in the July 2010 issue of Communications of the ACM, Jason Borenstein warns of the economic displacement that advances in robotics might entail and urges the robotics community to "be diligent in dealing with emerging ethical issues."

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Computers Learn to Listen, and Some Talk Back"

One occupational hazard of being an ethicist is a tendency to dwell on the unethical, dangerous, and otherwise undesirable features of any given phenomenon. This story published on the New York Times Web site reminds me why advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and computing are exciting as well as (sometimes) scary. I found the accompanying time line, "Building Smarter Machines," ranging from 1936 to 2009, particularly compelling. Both are a part of the "Smarter Than You Think" series.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2011 Conference of the Society for Philosophy and Technology: Technology and Security

From the conference Web site:
The University of North Texas is proud to host the 17th international biennial conference of the Society for Philosophy and Technology. SPT is the leading international organization devoted to the philosophical examination of technology. The 2011 conference theme is Technology and Security. We encourage contributions that examine the role of technology in fostering and sustaining security as well as creating or exacerbating insecurities. The theme of security suggests a wide range of issues such as national security, social security (poverty, age, disability), cyber security, food security, environmental security, energy security, etc. SPT 2011 will, of course, welcome contributions on any philosophical dimension of technology -- from the perspective of any academic discipline as well as perspectives outside of the academy.
Thanks to Colin Allen for bringing this to my attention.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Skipping Class? Sensors Now Take the Roll"

An article in the May 7, 2010 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education (page A11) tells us that Northern Arizona University "is installing an electronic system that measures student attendance."

The system will be installed "using $75,000 in federal stimulus money," and will "detect the ID cards students are carrying as they enter large classrooms."

The opinions of exactly three people are mentioned in the article: The Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, who favors the initiative, and two students who do not. The students, one of whom created a Facebook group resisting proximity cards, express the opinion that class attendance is a matter of free choice and individual responsibility.

I suspect that some students are in favor of the initiative, too - namely those who responsibly attend class and resent slackers who get a free pass.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director