Cover image for Computers, ethics, and society
Computers, ethics, and society
Ermann, M. David.
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
ix, 376 pages ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QA76.9.C66 C6575 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Over the last two decades, computers have become more and more important to our everyday lives, helping to manage our finances, fly our airplanes, run our factories, and even educate our children. As computers become more powerful, and more essential to the functioning of business and government, their potential for stripping us of our privacy and autonomy increases exponentially, so that now more than ever there is a need to grasp the ethical and social implications of their growing use. Computers, Ethics, and Society meets this need by providing a comprehensive, interdisciplinary set of readings ideally suited to address the potential problems of the computer age. Taking into account technical, social, and philosophical complications, the contributors consider such topics as the labor ramifications of automation, the ethical obligations of computer specialists, and the threat of violation of privacy that comes with increased computerization.

Author Notes

M. David Ermann is Professor of Sociology at the University of Delaware
Michele S. Shauf is a scholar of graphics visualization and usability. She is currently employed in the private sector

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This collection of readings edited by Ermann, Williams, and Gutierrez is an outgrowth of courses they have taught at the University of Delaware. The readings, which were selected with feedback from students, are arranged in three sections: "Ethical Framework for Computer-Related Issues," "Computers and the Ideal Life," and "Issues Facing Computer Professionals." There is an excellent introduction, and each section and reading also is briefly introduced. The book appears similar in intent to the earlier set of readings, Ethical Issues in The Use of Computers, comp. by D.G. Johnson and J.W. Snapper (1985), but, surprisingly, the books have no articles in common. Computers, Ethics, and Society takes a more philosophical tack, with readings in ethical theory and the focus on "Computers and the Ideal Life," while Ethical Issues is more practically oriented and focuses more on concrete problems facing professionals, as well as on legal issues. Both cover professional codes, liability for software, privacy, and moral responsibility. The two books are as much complementary as competing. Both would be highly desirable as references for the very important issue of ethics in computing. Upper-level undergraduates. -H. D. Warner, Western New England College

Table of Contents

John HospersJames RachelsAristotleRonald E. Anderson and Deborah G. Johnson and Donald Gotterbarm and Judith PerolleRobert N. BargerSissela BokBatya Friedman and Peter H. Kahn, Jr.Eugene H. SpaffordHerbert L. Dreyfus and Stuart E. Dreyfus and Tom AthanasiouPhillip BereanoRobert PoolNeil PostmanBill JoyMichael HeimSimson GarfinkelRichard M. StallmanJessica BrownKaty CampbellAnthony M. TownsendMartin CarnoyNational Research CouncilCraig Summers and Eric MarkusenDorothy E. Denning
Prefacep. vi
I. Ethical Contexts
Philosophical Ethics
1. The Best Action Is the One with the Best Consequencesp. 3
2. The Best Action Is the One in Accord with Universal Rulesp. 12
3. The Best Action Is the One That Exercises the Mind's Facultiesp. 16
Professional Ethics
4. ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conductp. 23
5. Using the ACM Codep. 31
6. Can We Find a Single Ethical Code?p. 42
7. The Morality of Whistle-Blowingp. 47
8. The Ethics of Systems Designp. 55
9. Are Hacker Break-ins Ethical?p. 64
10. Using Computers as Means, Not Endsp. 74
II. Historical and Cultural Contexts
11. Technology Is a Tool of the Powerfulp. 85
12. A History of the Personal Computerp. 91
13. Informing Ourselves to Deathp. 101
14. Why the Future Doesn't Need Usp. 110
15. Boolean Logicp. 123
III. Social Contexts
16. Privacy in a Database Nationp. 137
17. The GNU Manifestop. 153
18. Crossing the Digital Dividep. 162
19. Gender Bias in Instructional Technologyp. 171
20. Computers and the Work Experiencep. 184
21. Information Technologies and Our Changing Economyp. 190
22. Music: Intellectual Property's Canary in the Digital Coal Minep. 202
23. The Case for Collective Violencep. 214
24. Activism, Hacktivism, and Cyberterrorismp. 231