Everywhere you turn, companies are promising to change the world. But when the people already on top promise to change the world, you have to wonder how and for whom. The how isn’t usually in your benefit, and the for whom isn’t usually for you. The world is working exactly as they’ve designed it to work. So if we really want to change it, we need to change not just how we design it, but who is designing it.
Tagged with “ethics” (8)
How user interfaces are designed to trick us. Plus, the legacy of Victorian computing pioneer Ada Lovelace.
Ever subscribed to a mailing list by mistake? Booked travel insurance without noticing? Then you’ve fallen for a Dark Pattern.
This week on the podcast we investigate the murky world of Dark Patterns: user interfaces that use psychological techniques to trick us into doing things we might otherwise not do.
And as a new exhibition dedicated to Ada Lovelace opens at the Science Museum, we find out why the Victorian computing whizz is the hottest ticket in town 200 years on.
Nathalie Nahai is joined by digital product designer Cennydd Bowles, Channel 4 News tech journalist Geoff White, designer Dan Lockton and Science Museum curator Tilly Blyth.
MIT’s Media Lab makes a strong claim to being the place where the future is designed. A class called Science Fiction to Science Fabrication, taught by researchers Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner, makes that connection direct by using science fiction as an inspiration for real-world inventions.
Sci-fi is full of imagined technologies, some plausible (killer robots), some far-out (time-traveling DeLoreans). Students in this class mine the work of authors like Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, J. G. Ballard, Ray Bradbury, and William Gibson for ideas, such as an empathy testing machine like the one used to identify androids in Blade Runner.
But most science fiction writers aren’t advocating that we build their technologies; they’re asking how we would use, or misuse, them. That’s exactly why Brueckner and Novy decided to put science fiction in front of the students at the MIT Media Lab. “Reading science fiction is kind of like ethics class for inventors,” says Brueckner. Traditionally, technology schools ask ‘how do we build it?’ This class asks a different question: ‘should we?’
Novy adds, “With the ability of any technology or application to go viral over the planet in 24 hours, I think it is even more important to think about what you’re doing before you release it into the wild.”
Gabriella Coleman, the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy in the Art History and Communication Studies Department at McGill University, discusses her new book, “Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking,” which has been released under a Creative Commons license.
Coleman, whose background is in anthropology, shares the results of her cultural survey of free and open source software (F/OSS) developers, the majority of whom, she found, shared similar backgrounds and world views. Among these similarities were an early introduction to technology and a passion for civil liberties, specifically free speech.
Coleman explains the ethics behind hackers’ devotion to F/OSS, the social codes that guide its production, and the political struggles through which hackers question the scope and direction of copyright and patent law. She also discusses the tension between the overtly political free software movement and the “politically agnostic” open source movement, as well as what the future of the hacker movement may look like.
George Lakoff is a cognitive linguist at the University of California at Berkeley. But unlike many of his scientific peers, he’s known as much for his work on politics as for his research.
Lakoff the famed author of many books on why the left and right disagree about politics, including Moral Politics, Don’t Think of an Elephant, Thinking Points, and most recently, The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century Politics with an 18th Century Brain.
Throughout these works Lakoff has applied cognitive and linguistic analysis to our political rifts, and his ideas about "framing," "metaphor," and the different moral systems of liberals and conservatives have become very widely known and influential.
Chair Zeinab Badawi introduces the motion ‘The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world.
Initial Vote: 678 For, 1102 Against, Undecided 346
Final Vote: 268 For, 1876 Against, Undecided 34
Arguing in favour of the motion are Archbishop John Onaiyekan and the Rt Hon. Ann Widdecombe MP.
Archbishop Onaiyekan begins by insisting that if the Catholic Church were not a force for good, he would not have devoted his entire life to serving it. He says that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church exists because of its 1.6 billion members worldwide, rather than in spite of them. He points not only to the spiritual assistance that his Church provides, but also to the tangible aid that is given internationally through Catholic projects. Finally, he admits that Catholics are not infallible, but are by necessity sinners trying to improve themselves through their faith.
Ann Widdecombe suggests that in trawling all the way back to the Crusades to find something to blame the Catholic Church for, Christopher Hitchens merely demonstrates how flimsy his argument really is. Why would the Pope have hidden 3,000 Jews in his summer palace during the Second World War if the Catholic Church was an antisemitic organisation? Admittedly, the New Testament does blame a Jew for the death of Christ; but it also blames a Roman, Pontius Pilate. Are we to infer then that Catholicism is anti-Italian as well as antisemitic? Widdecombe insists that the actions of the Catholic Church in the past should be judged with a degree of historical relativism; they were not the only people to murder and torture those deemed guilty of wrongdoing. She entreats us to imagine a world without the benefits of the Catholic Church, which provides hope, education and medical relief all over the globe.
Arguing against the motion are Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry.
Christopher Hitchens asserts that any argument trying to identify the merits of the Catholic Church must begin with a long list of sincere apologies for its past crimes, including but not limited to: the Crusades; the Spanish inquisition; the persecution of Jews and the forced conversion of peoples to Catholicism, especially in South America. He illustrates the vacuity of recent Catholic apologies by drawing on the case of Cardinal Bernard Law – shamed out of office in the US for his part in covering up the institutionalised sexual abuse of children – whose punishment from the Vatican was to be appointed a supreme vicar in Rome, and who was among those assembled in the 2005 Papal Conclave to choose the next Pope. Hitchens concludes by reminding the Archbishop that his own Church has been responsible for the death of millions of his African brothers and sisters, citing the Church’s disastrous stance on Aids prevention, as well as the ongoing trials in Rwanda in which Catholic priests stand accused of inciting massacre during the 1994 genocide.
Stephen Fry concedes that his opposition to the motion is a deeply personal and emotional one. He criticises the Catholic Church not only for the horrors it has perpetrated in the past, but also for its ideology, and for its sinister temerity to preach that there is no salvation outside of the Church. With two words he refutes Anne Widdecombe’s suggestion that the Catholic Church does not have the powers of a nation state: “The Vatican”. As a homosexual, Fry reflects how bizarre it is to be accused of being “immoral” and “a pervert” by an institution that has persistently hushed up the rape and abuse of children under its care, and whose leading members, abstentious nuns and priests, all share an attitude towards sex that is utterly unnatural and dysfunctional. He concludes by questioning whether Jesus, as a humble Jewish carpenter, would have approved of all the pomp and excess of the Catholic Church, and whether he would even have been accepted by such an arrogant organisation.
Professor Michael Sandel begins the 2009 Reith Lectures by exploring Markets and Morality. Are there some things which should not be sold? Do we need to think of ourselves less as consumers and more as citizens? The first Reith Lecture was recorded before a live audience in the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House.
Dr. Robot, I presume? Your appendix may be removed by motor-driven, scalpel-wielding mechanical hands one day. Robots are debuting in the medical field… as well as on battlefields. And they’re increasingly making important decisions – on their own. But can we teach robots right from wrong? Find out why the onslaught of silicon intelligence has prompted a new field of robo-ethics.
Plus, robo-geologists: NASA’s vision for autonomous robots in space.
- P.W. Singer – Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, and the author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
- Wendell Wallach – Chair of a technology and ethics working group for Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, and the co-author of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong
- Pablo Garcia – – Principal engineer working on medical robotics at SRI International, Menlo Park, California
- Robert Anderson – Planetary geologist, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Robyn Asimov – Daughter of author Isaac Asimov