At the end of chapter 2, the textbook lists a set of social issues which are related to the way in which computing influences everyday life. Choose one such issue, state it, and discuss its implications.
The chosen issue was: “Is it ethical for an individual to take the attitude that he or she does not need to know anything about the internal details of a machine because someone else will build it, maintain it, and fix any problems that arise? Does your answer depend on whether the machine is a computer, automobile, nuclear power plant, or toaster?”
It is ethical for an individual to take the attitude that he or she does not need to know anything about the internal details of a machine because someone else will build it, maintain it, and fix any problems that arise.
My opinion is, that most of the time it is simply not a question. Our technology is so advanced, that it is almost impossible to even list the names of the machines we use in our everyday life. All machines are made of parts, numerous and different parts. It’s practically impossible to be able to know how they made. Be it a household appliance or a nuclear reactor, the user, operator of the device usually cannot know the machine’s internal details. So this side is not a question of ethic in case of the user.
But we should investigate some other participants of the business. There are ethical questions about the decision makers. Although they are also human beings, who cannot be professionals in all aspects of business and technology in the same time, they are responsible for their decisions. And questions about ethics arise when the decision maker’s decision affects other peoples’ life, which is a common situation. For example Brendan Borrell in Scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-is-a-pitot-tube, 2009) stated that there is a chance that the pitot tube caused the tragedy of Air France Filght 447. In this article he states that “Airbus’s pitot tubes were known to have icing problems, and Air France had begun replacing them on April 27 when an improved version was released.” In that case the top decision makers are probably not engineers. They do not design pitot cubes themselves. But it is definitely not ethical to let thoose airplanes fly without assuring that they are able to be sure that thoose planes are safe to fly. This doesn’t mean that they have to know the internal details of the pitot cube, but it’s not ethical to make the decision, which affects thousands of people’s life, without acquiring the information with at least the minimum information the decision maker needs to make the safe decision.
Edward Cody (Washington Post, August 1, 2009) wrote “Airbus said Friday that airlines flying its A330 and A340 long-haul jetliners should replace most of the planes’ external speed sensors that investigators suspect may have played a role in the crash of an Air France A330 on June 1.” The decision makers in the various airlines are probably not pitot tube designers, but this raises an important question: Is it ethical to allow flying thoose airplanes, until they are not completely sure about the safety of the whole plane?
Brendan Borrell (2009) ’What is a pitot tube?’, Scientific American [Online]. Available from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-is-a-pitot-tube (Accessed: 03. October 2009).
Edward Cody (2009) ’ Airbus Says Speed Sensors Should Be Replaced’, Washington Post [Online]. Available from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/31/AR2009073101195.html?hpid=moreheadlines (Accessed: 03. October 2009).