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On-Line Communities

On-Line Communities. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language defines "community" as "people living in the same district, city, etc., under the same laws." In cyberspace, community can be described as “synchronous on-line settings” (White, 2002).

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On-Line Communities

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  1. On-Line Communities • Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language defines "community" as "people living in the same district, city, etc., under the same laws." • In cyberspace, community can be described as “synchronous on-line settings” (White, 2002). • LambdaMOO Community – A “rape” in cyberspace.

  2. Table 11-1: Features of On-line Communities

  3. Democracy and the Internet • Does the Internet facilitate democracy and democratic ideals? • Should the Internet be used as a tool to promote democracy?

  4. Sunstein’s Argument for why the Internet does not promote “Deliberative Democracy • Because individuals use filtering schemes that provide them with information that • (a) reinforces ideas that they already hold and • (b) screens out novel information and different points of view, and • Because an increasing number of people get their information only from the Internet, • The Internet will likely: • (c) insulate more and more people from exposure to new ideas as well as to ideas that may question or conflict with their own, and • (d) lead to greater isolation and polarization among groups, and • (e) encourage extremism and radicalism rather than fostering compromise and moderation, and • (f) reduce the need for the traditional give-and-take process in resolving differences in a public forum. . • Therefore, behavior facilitated by the Internet tends to undermine deliberative democracy and corresponding democratic ideals.

  5. Graham’s critique • The Internet might, perhaps unwittingly, strengthen the "worst aspects" of democracy, because Internet technology facilitates: • (i) political and social fragmentation; • (ii) irrationality (i.e., irrational prejudice in "direct democracies"); • (iii) powerlessness (in "representative democracies").

  6. Table 11-2: Considerations for Using the Internet to Promote Democracy

  7. Virtual Reality • Three different senses of “virtual.” • Sometimes "virtual" is contrasted with "real," as in cases where virtual objects are distinguished from "real" objects. • Other times, "virtual" is contrasted with the term "actual." For example, a person might say that she is "virtually finished" her project. • A third use of "virtual" ca express a feeling that one has "as if" he or she were physically present in a situation.

  8. Virtual Reality Technologies • Brey (1999) defines virtual reality (VR) technology as “a three-dimensional interactive computer-generated environment that incorporates a first-person perspective.” • Three important features in Brey's definition of VR technology are: • (1) interactivity; • (2) the use of three-dimensional graphics; • (3) a first-person perspective.

  9. Figure 11-1: Virtual Environments Virtual Environment On-line Communities VR Technologies VR games, VR applications/models, etc. (must be three-dimensional graphical interfaces) Electronic forums, MOOs, MUDs, etc. (can be two-dimensional representations that are text-based)

  10. Figure 11-2 Summary of Brey's Scheme for Analyzing Ethical Issues in VR Ethical Aspects of VR Behavioral issues Representational issues of the non-virtual entities being depicted in VR applications in VR environments (Interactivity) Example: the LambdaMOO case Misrepresentation Biased Representation Virtual entities fail to correspond accurately to non-virtual entities represented (distortion in representation). Virtual entities are accurate in terms of characteristics represented, but are presented in a way that reflects a bias.

  11. Personal Identity and Cybertechnology • Van Gelder (1996) “The strange case of the electronic lover.” • Turkle (1984) – the computer as a “medium of self discovery.” • Turkle (1995) – “MUDs, “MUD-Selves, and Distributed Personal Identities.”

  12. Self-Expression and Self- Discovery • Turkle (1984) notes that (standalone computers) enabled people to try out: • new ways of expressing themselves; • new cognitive styles; • different methods of problem solving. • Turkle (1995) argues that computers have since moved from being mere “calculators” to “simulators.”

  13. “MUD Sleves” and Distributed Personal Identities • MUDs (Multi-User Dimensions). • Lambda MOO is a variation of MUD. • In MUDs, people can express “multiple identities” – a person can be: • one’s actual self; • male, female; young, old, etc.; • even a non-human such as a “furry rabbit.”

  14. MUD Selves (Continued) • Turkle note that the “self” can be the “sum of one’s distributed presence.” • In Victor, Victoria (the physical world), one moved in and out of gender roles by “stepping in and out of character.” • In MUDS, people have parallel lives • “Real Life “ or (RL) is just one window.

  15. Our Sense of “Self” in the Cyber Era • Three great eras or epochs: • 1. The Agricultural Age; • 2. The Industrial Age; • 3 The information age. • What are the impacts for the Cyber era?

  16. Self in the Cyber era (continued) • Williams (1997) considers the impacts of three important discoveries and describes their significance in the following way: The first such milestone, a great (and greatly humbling) challenge to our sense of human beings as uniquely important, came when the Copernican revolution established that Earth, the human home, was not at the center of the universe. The second milestone was Charles Darwin's conclusion that emergence of Homo sapiens was...the result of evolution from lower species by the process of natural selection. The third milestone resulted from the work of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, which showed intellectual, social, and individual creativity to be the result of non-rational (unconscious) libidinal or economic forces – not as has been believed, the products of the almost god-like powers of the human mind.

  17. Cyber-technology as a "Defining Technology" • Bolter (in Turing’s Man, 1984) describes the Western Culture in terms of three periods: • (1) Plato’s Man; • (2) Descartes’s Man; • (3) Turing’s Man. • Each is the result of what Bolter describes as a “defining technology.”

  18. Artificial Intelligence (AI) • The view that only humans are rational is currently challenged on two separate fronts: • 1. recent research in animal intelligence suggests that many primates, dolphins, and whales are capable of demonstrating skills we typically count as rational (while many humans are not, or are no longer able, to demonstrate those skills); • 2. recent work in artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive science has shown that certain forms of "rational activity" can also be attributed to computers. • In fact, questions that have surfaced in AI research have already caused some philosophers and scientists to reconsider our definitions of notions such as rationality, intelligence, knowledge, and learning.

  19. Can Machines Think and are they Intelligent? • 1950, Alan Turing posed a question that has come to be known as the Turing Test. • HAL (2001: A Space Odyssey) seemed to exhibit some intelligence. • Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov.

  20. Expanding the Sphere of Moral Obligation because of AI • Do we need to expand the sphere of moral obligation to include “softbots” and “information entities”? • Can computers be morally responsible agents?

  21. Should we Continue to Research in AI? • John Weckert asks: Can we, or do we want to, live with artificial intelligences? We can happily live with fish that swim better than we do, hawks that see and fly better, and so on, but do we want things that can reason better to be in a different and altogether more worrying category….What would such [developments mean for] our view of what it is to be human?

  22. Nanotechnology • Nanotechnology, a term coined by K. Eric Drexler in the 1980s. • A is a branch of engineering dedicated to the development of extremely small electronic circuits and mechanical devices built at the molecular level of matter. • Current microelectricomechanical systems (or MEMS), tiny devices such as sensors embedded in conductor chips used in airbag systems to detect collisions, are one step away from the molecular machines envisioned in nanotechnology. • A primary goal of this technology is to provide us with tools to work at the molecular and atomic levels that are analogous to what we have at the macroworld level. • Drexler (1991) believes that developments in this field will result in computers at the nano-scale, no bigger in size than bacteria, called nanocomputers.

  23. Nanotechnology (continued) • To appreciate the scale of future nanocomputers, imagine a mechanical or electronic device whose dimensions are measured in nanometers (billionths of a meter, or units of 10-9 meter). • Nanocomputers could have "mass storage devices that can store more than 100 billion bytes in a volume the size of a sugar cube.” • Merkle (2001) predicts that these nano-scale computers will be able to “deliver a billion billion instructions per second – a billion times faster than today’s desktop computers.” • Although they are still in an early stage of research-and-development, some primitive nano-devices have already been tested. • In 1989, physicists at the IBM Almaden Laboratory demonstrated the feasibility of development in nanotechnology by manipulating atoms to produce the IBM logo.

  24. Pros of Nanotechnology • Nano-particles inserted into bodies could diagnose diseases and directly treat diseased cells. • Doctors could use nanomachines (or nanites) to make microscopic repairs on areas of the body that are difficult to operate on with conventional surgical tools. (with nanotechnology tools, the life signs of a patient could be better monitored. • With respect to the environment, nanites could be used to clean up toxic spills, as well as to eliminate other kinds of environmental hazards. • Nanites could also dismantle or "disassemble" garbage at the molecular level and recycle it again at the molecular level via "nanite assemblers."

  25. Worries about Nanotechnology • Since all matter (objects and organisms) could theoretically be disassembled and reassembled by nanite assemblers and disassemblers, what would happen if strict "limiting mechanisms" were not built into those nanites? • If nanomachines were created to be self-replicating and if there was a problem with their limiting mechanisms, they could multiply endlessly like viruses. • Nanite assemblers and disassemblers could be used to create weapons or that nanites themselves could be used as weapons. As Chen (2002) points out, guns, explosives, and electronic components of weapons could all be miniaturized. • Privacy and freedom could be further eroded because governments, businesses, and ordinary people could use molecular sized microphones, cameras, and homing beacons to track and monitor people. • People with microscopic implants would be able to be tracked using Global Positioning Systems (GPS), just as cars can be now. • On the one hand, children could never be lost again; on the other hand, we would likely have very little privacy given that our movements could be tracked so easily by others.

  26. Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology • Already there are controversies about bionic chip implants made possible by nanotechnology. • Weckert points out that while "conventional" implants in the form of devices designed to "correct" deficiencies have been around and used for some time, their purpose has been viewed as one of assisting patients in their goal of achieving "normal" states of vision, hearing, heartbeat, etc. • These are described as “therapeutic implants.” • Future chip plants, in the form of "enhancement implants" could be designed to make a normal person super-human.

  27. Implants Involving Nanotechnology • Some frame the controversy about implants in terms of an “enhancement vs. therapy” debate. • Moor (2003) points out that this distinction might suggest the basis for a policy that would limit unnecessary implants. • He also notes that because the human body has “natural functions,” some will argue that implanting chips in a body is acceptable as long as these implants “maintain and restore the body’s natural functions.” • Although Moor does not argue for a policy along the lines of a therapeutic-enhancement distinction, he believes that many will find such a policy would appeal to many.

  28. Implants (Continued) • According to Moor (2004): • Pacemakers, defibulators, and bionic eyes that maintain and restore natural bodily functions are acceptable. • But giving patients added arms or infrared vision would be prohibited. • It would endorse the use of a chip that reduced dyslexia but would forbid the implanting of a deep blue chip for superior chess play. • It would permit a chip implant to assist memory of Alsheimer patients but would not license implanting of a miniature digital camera that would record and playback what a person had just seen.

  29. Implants (Continued) • Clear policies and laws will need to be framed needed, as more and more bionic parts become available. • Some now worry that with bionic parts, humans and machines could soon begin to merge into cyborgs. • Kurzweill (1999) has suggested that in the near future, the distinction between machines and humans may no longer be useful. • Moor (2004) believes the question we must continually reevaluate is “not whether we should become cyborgs, but rather what sort of cyborgs should we become.”

  30. Implants (Continued) • We need to assess some of the advantages and disadvantages of bionic implants of the future. • Weckert (2002) invites us to consider the following question: “Do we want to be ‘superhuman’ relative to our current abilities with implants that enhance our senses, our memories, and our reasoning ability? What would such implants do to our view of what it is to be human?”

  31. Should Research in Nanotechnology Continue? • Weizenbaum (1984) has argued that there are certain kinds of computer science research that should not be undertaken – specifically, research that can easily be seen to have "irreversible and not entirely unforeseeable side effects.“ • Joy (2000) has suggested that because developments in nanotechnology are threatening to make us an "endangered species," the only realistic alternative is to limit the development of that technology. • Merkle (2001) disagrees with Joy, arguing that if research in nanotechnology is prohibited, or even restricted, it will be done underground. • If that happens, Merkle worries that nanotechnology research would not be regulated by governments and social policies.

  32. Should Research Continue in Nanotechnology? • Weckert (2001) argues that, all things being equal, potential disadvantages that can result from research in a particular field are not in themselves sufficient grounds for halting research altogether. • He suggests that there should be a presumption in favor of freedom in research. • Weckert also argues, however, that it should be permissible to restrict or even forbid research where it can be clearly shown that harm is more likely than not to result from that research.

  33. Should Research Continue in Nanotechnology? • Weckert offers us the following strategy: If a prima facie case can be made that some research will likely cause harm...then the burden of proof should be on those who want the research carried out to show that it is safe. • He goes on to say, however, that there should be: ...a presumption in favour of freedom until such time a prima facie case is made that the research is dangerous. The burden of proof then shifts from those opposing the research to those supporting it. At that stage the research should not begin or be continued until a good case can be made that it is safe.

  34. Future Considerations Involving Nanotechnology • A model similar to the one used in the Human Genome Project might be appropriate here. • Before work was authorized to proceed on that project, certain ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) had to be addressed and formal ELSI guidelines established. • Genomic research on that project was able to continue only after the ELSI requirements were in place. • A similar set of ethical guidelines could help direct research in nanocomputing and could guide computer professionals currently engaged in research in that field. • All of us – as members of the human race – would benefit from clear guidelines that address moral issues involving future developments in nanocomputing.

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