View Full Version : Computerization & Controversy

Herman J. Woltring
03-09-1991, 08:19 PM
Dear Biomch-L readers,

Following last year's publication of Tom Forester & Perry Morrison's "Computer
Ethics -- Cautionary Tales and Ethical Dilemmas in Computing" (Basil Blackwell,
Oxford/U.K. & Cambridge, MA/U.S.A.), the following book is a worth-while acqui-
sition for anyone interested in wider issues of computers and their impact on
our lives. I have not yet seen the book, but I know a precursor to Jon Jacky's
contribution, which is concerned with the tragedy of a radiation therapy machine
some years ago where, because of improper hardware, software, and human inter-
face design, a number of patients died because of overradiation. Mr C.S. Tur-
ner, a lawyer with the Software Safety Research Group, Software Engineering
Department, University of Califormia at Irvine is studying this case, and he
wrote me recently:

"The software component of the ...... was so little understood that the
radiation overexposures occurred periodically over a period of almost
two years. The injurious incidents often could n o t be reproduced
by the investigators, y e t the manufacturer claimed to have fixed
the problem, or determined that there was n o problem. (Not only did
the "users" not have access to "source" to investigate, but the manufac-
turer apparently overlooked the very possibility of software problems.)"

In our field, we try to design and implement models to help in making diagnos-
tic and therapeutic decisions with respect to the motor apparatus. While life-
threatening errors are less likely here, the responsibility remains that what
we produce should be reliable and robust. In an emerging field like movement
analysis in clinical and ambulatory care, this does not only imply providing
good, standardised machinery with its imbedded software, but also proper edu-
cation of the users.

The other day, I attended the 4th Rehabilitation Technology Symposium in The
Netherlands. One of the speakers emphasized that the Biomechanician/Kinesio-
logist should be familiar with the physician's way of thinking, but he did not
at all address that there is a similar responsibility on the part of the medi-
cal profession. "Turn Key" systems with "simple, user-friendly" interfaces
and protocols should not result in blind use of and reliance on technology:
when training physicians, emphasis on the use of computerised, diagnostic and
therapeutic tools is now a mandatory task for any educator. In particular,
confidence in "intelligent" decision-support systems (less appropriately
called `expert systems') that are simple to use should not detract from the
user's own responsibilities.

Herman J. Woltring, Eindhoven/NL
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Date: Wed, 06 Mar 91 17:33:08 -0800
From: Rob Kling
Sender: RISKS-Forum Digest (Vol. 11, #22, 7 March 1991)
Subject: Anthology about social issues of computing available

Computerization & Controversy, an anthology of articles about social issues of
computing (including risks), by Charles Dunlop and Rob Kling is now available.

Computerization and Controversy: Value Conflicts and Social Choices

Charles Dunlop and Rob Kling (Editors)
Univ. of Michigan - Flint Univ. of California - Irvine

Many students, professionals, managers, and laymen are hungry for honest,
probing discussions of the opportunities and problems of computerization.
This book introduces some of the major social controversies about the compu-
terization of society. It highlights some of the key value conflicts and
social choices about computerization. It helps readers recognize the social
processes that drive and shape computerization, and to understand the para-
doxes and ironies of computerization.

Some of the controversies about computerization covered in this collection
* the appropriateness of utopian and anti-utopian scenarios for under-
standing the future
* whether computerization demonstrably improves the productivity of
* how computerization transforms work
* how computerized systems can be designed with social principles in view
* whether electronic mail facilitates the formation of new communities or
undermines intimate interaction
* whether computerization is likely to reduce privacy and personal freedom
* the risks raised by computerized systems in health care
* the ethical issues when computer science researchers accept military
* the extent to which organizations, rather than "hackers," are significant
perpetrators of computer abuse

The authors include Paul Attewell, Carl Barus, Wendell Berry, James Beninger,
John Bennett*, Alan Borning, Niels Bjorn-Anderson*, Chris Bullen*, Roger
Clarke, Peter Denning, Pelle Ehn, Edward Feigenbaum, Linda Garcia, Suzanne
Iacono, Jon Jacky*, Rob Kling, Kenneth Kraemer*, John Ladd, Kenneth Laudon,
Pamela McCorduck, David Parnas, Judith Perrolle*, James Rule, John Sculley,
John Shattuck, Brian Smith, Clifford Stoll, Lindsy Van Gelder, Fred Weingarten,
Joseph Weizenbaum, and Terry Winograd. (*'d authors have contributed new
essays for the book.)

Each of the seven sections opens with a 20 page analytical essay which
identifies major controversies and places the articles in the context of key
questions and debates. These essays also point the reader to recent additional
research and debate about the controversies.

Published by Academic Press (Boston). 758 pp. Available: March 5 1991. $34.95

ISBN: 0-12-224356-0 Phone: 1-800-321-5068

Individuals may purchase copies directly from Academic Press by calling
1-800-321-5068 or by writing to: Academic Press Ordering Academic Press
Wharehouse, Order Dept., 465 S. Lincoln, Troy, Missouri 63379.
[as in SoftWhare?]

Faculty who offer courses about social issues in computing may order
examination copies from Academic Press. Write on university letterhead or
enclose a business card, and include the following information about your
course: class name and number, department, # of students, books used -- in
the past, adoption deadline.

Send your requests for examination copies to: Amy Yodannis, College and
Commercial Sales Supervisor, Academic Press, 1250 Sixth Avenue, San Diego, CA
92101, tel: 619-699-6547, fax: 619-699-6715