Ethics, Information, and Our “It-from-Bit” Universe

Author: Terrell Ward Bynum
Southern Connecticut State University

The essence of the Computer Revolution is found in the nature of a computer itself. What is revolutionary about computers is logical malleability.
James H. Moor 1985

It from bit . . . every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself . . . derives its function, its meaning, its very existence from [bits].
John Archibald Wheeler 1990

Abstract: Using information technology, humans have brought about the “Information Revolution,” which is changing the world faster and more profoundly than ever before, and generating an enormous number of ethical “policy vacuums”. How is this possible? An answer is suggested by ideas from James Moor regarding “logical malleability,” in his classic paper “What is Computer Ethics?” (1985) The present essay combines Moor’s ideas with the hypothesis that all physical entities — including spacetime and the universe as a whole — are dynamic data structures. To show the usefulness of taking such an approach, in both physics and in computer ethics, a suggested “it-from-bit” model of the universe is briefly sketched, and relevant predictions are offered about the future of computer and information ethics.

Computer Programs and Humans in the movie “Her”

her a spike jones love story

by Gabriel Muniz

Machine-mediated modes of communication like emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, among others, have done much to depersonalize the way we communicate in the 21st century. The ease with which users can share information, post pictures, and update profiles has, with the assistance of ever-advancing smartphones, laid the groundwork for a world where humans can live dual lives—their public person and their online persona. Social networking sites and online gaming are two arenas where this phenomenon is especially clear to see.

Both allow for the careful creation of a unique personality—games allow for avatars, figures representing particular persons in computer games, while social sites allow users to craft a more socially acceptable image. In both instances, the more users remain enchanted with earning upgrades for their avatar, or the most Facebook “likes” among friends, the more the line between the real world and online amusement becomes blurred. Human relationships, said to be enlivened by the constant communication with significant others, instead suffer. Users end up as the title of Sherry Turkle’s book puts it: “Alone Together, expecting more from technology and less from each other.”

The recently-released film “Her” explores such a theme. A science-fiction romantic comedy drama chronicling the life of a man who develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system (OS) that has a female voice and personality, the film explores the degree to which technology can bring reassuring comfort, and at the same time, unintentionally cause self-alienation and relational friction. A New York Times review says the following about the movie: “At once a brilliant conceptual gag and a deeply sincere romance, “Her” is the unlikely yet completely plausible love story about a man, who sometimes resembles a machine, and an operating system, who very much suggests a living woman” (Dargis).

In the movie “Her,” the protagonist Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix), while working for a business that composes heartfelt, intimate letters for people who are unwilling or unable to write letters of personal nature, is himself a lonely introverted man. In private, like a recluse in the real world who creates an alter personality with which to use online, Theodore spends most of his time at home playing a 3D video game projected into his living room where he can do what he fails to do in public: explore and interact with others. Theodore is later driven to purchase a newly-released operating system with which to curb his loneliness and heartache (he is in the midst of tragic divorce as well). An irony worth noting is the fact that Theodore cannot do what the OS he falls in love with can do; namely, adapt and evolve. Theodore fails to confront the changing and challenging circumstances in his life, instead finding refuge, and eventually love, in an operating system that names itself Samantha.

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Empowering Patients through Mobile Patient Education Systems

AUTHOR
Dezhi Wu , Rob Robertson and Eric Freden

ABSTRACT

Mobile technologies have enabled people to access information anytime and anywhere, which makes our lives more convenient and efficient. Mobility has been greatly enhanced due to the implementation of cutting-edge mobile communications and networks. It is now common to see people on the go using their iPhones, iPads, and Android smart phones to check email, play games, and connect with friends and coworkers through the mobile version of social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The rapid advancement of mobile technologies has made a large impact on our society; in particular, it has started to benefit the healthcare field, which is generally called mHealth. The mHealth area covers prevention, screening and diagnosis, disease management, rehabilitation and physical therapy, decision making, and so on. It creates a new emerging business model for the healthcare field through delivering care anytime and anywhere. Nowadays, the role of patients is being changed from a traditional passive receiver to an active partner with their doctors to make decisions concerning their health situations. Mobile technologies used in patient education programs empower the patients to be more knowledgeable on their health issues and to be more engaged in communicating with their doctors (Charles et al., 1999; McNutt, 2004). Mobile patient education software is playing a key role in this interactive process, creating more cost-effective, personalized, and convenient patient experiences, which improve the quality of patient care.

In practice, it was reported that over half of young medical doctors were using mobile devices in their clinics (Martin, 2003). A recent news item from 2011 (http://www.pwc.com/ ) indicates that a two-year study by the Mayo Clinic Department of Family Medicine shows mHealth systems enabled e-visits to eliminate 40% of in-office visits in 2531 cases. On average, about 40% of physicians said that using mobile health technologies such as remote monitoring, e-mail, or text messaging with patients greatly enhanced their work productivity and saved them time and money. In Europe, a mobile health application was designed for aging patients to undertake their self-diagnosis (Ahmad et al., 2008). The US army has started to design and implement mobile patient care systems for their soldiers using smart phones (Poropatich et al., 2010). Therefore, it is clear that the trend to adopt mHealth is rising, but there are still many technical barriers (www.ama-assn.org ), e.g. integration with the existing healthcare infrastructure or the capability to communicate with patients through a variety of mobile devices etc.

This paper reports a recent mobile patient education project conducted in the United States. We employed a user-centered design approach to develop and implement cross platform mobile patient education software, which is projected to greatly benefit patient care through cutting-edge mobile technologies. The mobile device technologies will enable expanded patient interaction with their doctors. All patient records and their privacy are protected according to the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (i.e., HIPAA), using cryptographic technologies through point-to-point encryption, secure protocols and secure Web servers in a private cloud.

Two focus groups with real patients were conducted in determining the design and content for this mobile patient education system. The first focus group included six patients who helped us identify the key design features, such as the interface design layout, color scheme, possible interactive content delivered through multimedia elements, such as text, images and videos, and the patient preferred navigation patterns. The second focus group, consisting of eight pregnant mothers in a local OB doctor’s office, was invited to attend a video lesson which was in line with the current stage of pregnancy. The educational videos instructed the mothers on the development of the baby/fetus and changes that occur in the mother’s body. The videos also highlighted specific weeks of baby/fetus development and what pregnant women could expect during that time frame. The mothers especially enjoyed the personalized educational content delivered in the videos, expressing that it helped them learn and better manage their own and their babies’ health during the pregnancy period.

Currently, the initial prototype developed for the iPad is working. We plan to complete the implementation of this mobile patient education system in the next six months. We will also conduct further usability studies to test and evaluate this system. In the meantime, a theoretical research framework is being developed to measure the system effectiveness, perceived patient learning outcomes, perceived patient control in terms of the users’ interface, security and privacy concerns, perceived enjoyment using the system, and potential patient behavior changes which improve their health. Research methodologies we propose to use in order to evaluate this mobile patient education system include a few longitudinal field studies in selected local physicians’ offices utilizing real patients, field observations in the doctors’ exam rooms, and a large survey in the doctors’ offices and hospitals which have adopted our system. We speculate that the mobile patient education system will greatly enhance the healthcare field, and empower patients to be more knowledgeable and capable in making better decisions to manage their personal health.

REFERENCES

Ahmad, D., Komninos, A. and Baillie, L. (2008) Future mobile health systems: Designing personal mobile applications to assist self diagnosis, Proceedings of the 22nd British HCI Group Annual Conference on People and Computers: Culture, Creativity, Interaction, Vol. 2, published by the British Computer Society.

Charles, C., Gafni, A. and Whelna, t. (1999) Decision-making in the physician-patient encounter: Revisiting the shared treatment decision-making model, Soc. Sci. Med. 49 (Sept, 1999), 651-661.

Martin, S. (2003) More than half of MDs under age 35 now using PDAs, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Oct. 28.

McNutt, R. A. (2004) Shared medical decision making: problems, process, progress, J. Am. Med. Assoc. 292, Nov., 2516-2518.

Poropatich, R., Pavliscsak, H. H., Rasche, J., Barrigan, C., Vigersky, R., and Fonda, S. J. (2010) Mobile healthcare in the US Army, Proceedings of ACM Wireless Health Conference, Oct. 5-7, 2010, San Diego, CA, USA.

www.ama-assn.org (Accessed on Jan. 30, 2011)

http://www.pwc.com/ (Accessed on Feb. 2, 2011)

The usefulness of the stakeholder theory in an analysis of the Internet-impacted business environment of contemporary organizations.

AUTHOR
Janusz Wielki, Ph.D.

ABSTRACT

The business environment in which every organization operates and the changes taking place in it are extremely important elements of an organization’s success. It is a collection of numerous entities, factors and forces which are more or less predictable in their behavior and which give an organization a chance to establish a competitive advantage and to develop further development. Conversely, these entities can also threaten the existence of an organization. As a result, the ability of an organization to analyze, understand and assess its business environment and the associated dynamics is essential.

As the contemporary business and economic reality becomes more and more complicated and decreasingly unambiguous, as compared to before the wide scale use of the Internet, an analysis of the business environment as conducted in the traditional way and also operating in this context in typical categories such as suppliers, customers or competitors, decreasingly fits in with the emerging new reality. The dynamics of the changes taking place are so big and the state of belonging to the above mentioned groups is so fluid and imprecise that it has become necessary to look at the forces influencing organizations through their business environment in a far wider and unconventional way. Additionally the whole “picture” is complicated by various entities which have either emerged with the development of the electronic space or have grown in power in the new reality.

This new marker situation provides an opportunity for analysis using the stakeholder theory, with considerations in its scope, beyond “traditional” stakeholders, entities and forces operating in developing around the Internet electronic space (understood as a global computer network based on the TCP/IP protocols). There are numerous important aspects which determine its usefulness and accuracy with reference to the contemporary economic and business reality. They include such issues as utilization, in the context of entities influencing functioning of organizations; a very broad-ranging and flexible notion of “stakeholders”, and a holistic view of an organization and its business environment connected with conducting an analysis from the systems theory point of view.

The paper is composed of four parts. In the first part an overview of the situation connected with the changes taking place in the business environment of organizations as a result of the Internet’s arrival within the contemporary economy is provided. The next part is focused on a review of the most common approaches used to analyze an organization’s business environment and the reasons for a particular usefulness of the stakeholder theory in this context. The following part is the core of this paper. It is devoted to the utilization of the stakeholder approach in the analysis of the Internet-impacted business environment of contemporary enterprises. First, a brief overview of its development and areas of utilization in management are provided. Also, a definition of stakeholders is proposed, in the context of the analysis conducted in the paper. Next, a review is made of the most important groups of stakeholders from the organization’s point of view. In this context, particular attention is focused on SIGs (special interest groups) as the influence of these groups has been rapidly growing in the new business reality. Their revised definition is also proposed.

Further analysis is conducted from the three-layered approach proposed by Donaldson and Preston including descriptive, instrumental, and normative aspects. Referring to the first layer, a division of stakeholders from the point of view of organizations using the Internet in their business activities is proposed. Next, referring to the instrumental layer and based on practical examples, various aspects connected with stakeholder management, including both real and potential ones, operating in electronic space in the context of organization’s performance and accomplishment of its goals are analyzed. Finally the focus of the attention moves to the normative point of view and an analysis of the potential social and ethical challenges emerging in the Internet-impacted business environment of contemporary enterprises. Particularly careful analysis is given to this in the context of this paper.

This three-layered analysis is conducted taking into consideration the changes taking place in an organization’s business environment with the evolution of the Internet and development of the Web 2.0 phase. In this context, the consequences of the access of stakeholders to new types of internet technology-based tools and the development of social computing are included in the analysis.

In the final part of the paper, the most significant conclusions and suggestions are offered.

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Australia and the question of Internet Control

AUTHOR
Matthew J. Warren and Shona Leitch

ABSTRACT

Introduction

Australia as a part of the Global Information Society will have to deal with a number of ethical issues in relation to the Internet; particularly, the distribution of illegal material and the impact of Web 2.0 on Australian society. In the Oceania region of the world there are 20.8 million Internet users, which represents 60% of the regions population (InternetWorld, 2009), this identifies the strong impact of the Internet in Australia.

Historically the initial focus of the Internet was the distribution of information in a static manner, but over time and through the development of technology the Internet has now developed into Web 2.0. The Web is no longer a collection of static pages of HTML that describe something in the world; increasingly, the Web is the world. Everything and everyone in the world casts an “information shadow,” an aura of data which, when captured and processed intelligently, offers extraordinary opportunity and mindbending implications (O’Reiley and Battelle, 2009).

In recent years the emergence of Web 2.0 and related internet sites such as Facebook have had a major impact upon the Internet in recent years. One of the interesting aspects of Facebook is the use of third party applications and the interactions that this allows. This means that individual Facebook pages now act as a web page, blog, instant messenger, email system and the use of third party applications allows for real time functionality (DiMicco and Millen, 2007; Shuen, 2008).

Australia Government Strategies

One of the proposals put forward by the Australian Federal Government to deal with the concerns of the Internet is the introduction of mandatory Internet filtering. The aim is that Internet service providers will run the mandatory Internet filtering system on behalf of the Federal Government. The overall aim being to remove access to Australians to information that is considered illegal in an Australian content.

As part of the process, in 2010 the Australian Federal Government via the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy sought public views regarding dealing with illegal content via the Internet. This paper will analyse the public feedback that was obtained and determine current trends that exist within that data.

Structure of the paper

The structure of the paper will be:

1) A discussion of how Australia is dealing with the issues posed by the Internet and the associated new technologies;

2) The paper will discuss the strategies developed by the Australian Federal Government and in particular discuss the proposed mandatory Internet filtering;

3) An analysis of the public findings submitted to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy will be presented. The submission will be analysed and data trends will be discussed within the paper in particular the issues raised (for and against) in regards to mandatory Internet filtering.

4) An assessment of the next stage of the Federal Government proposals and the impact that it could have on Australia.

5) The paper will conclude by comparing Australian Government initiatives with initiatives from other countries around the world.

REFERENCES

DiMicco, J. M. and Millen, D. R. (2007) Identity management: Multiple presentations of self in Facebook. Proceedings of the 2007 International ACM conference on Supporting group work, Florida, USA.

InternetWorld (2009) Global Internet Statistics, URL: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm, Accessed 25th September, 2009.

Shuen, A. (2008) Web 2.0: a strategy guide. O’Reilly Media, Inc.

O’Reiley and Battelle (2009) Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On, Proceedings of Web 2.0 Summit, San Francisco, USA.