CS 349 Contemporary Issues in Computer Science
Alan Cline

Elaine Rich

Norbert Wiener’s Paper, “The Machine Age”

 

Noel Sharkey’s Paper, “The Ethical Frontiers of Robotics”

 

Part I: Norbert Wiener’s Paper

 

Read this short paper by Norbert Wiener:

 

http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/ear/cs349/slides/FutureofTechnologyandEconomy.pptx 

 

Then the following article that discusses it:

 

            http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/21/science/mit-scholars-1949-essay-on-machine-age-is-found.html?src=recg 

 

 

Write one paragraph that addresses one of the following questions:

 

1.      Describe something where it has turned out that Wiener was wrong.  What happened instead?  Can you say anything about why things didn’t turn out as Wiener predicted?

 

2.      Describe one of Wiener’s predictions or observations that you think is most important.  Why did you pick this one?

 

           

 

Part II: Noel Sharkey’s Paper

 

Read the following paper, which you should be able to find at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/322/5909/1800 :

 

Sharkey, Noel, “The Ethical Frontiers of Robotics”, Science 19 December 2008: Vol. 322. no. 5909, pp. 1800 – 1801.

 

1)      Sharkey first discusses the use of robots as people tenders.

a)      What do you see as the main benefits to be obtained by using robots in this way?

b)      What do you see as the main risks?

c)      Describe briefly what you see as a reasonable balance between reward and risk for this use of robots.

2)      Next Sharkey talks about the use of robots on the battlefield.

a)      What do you see as the main benefits to be obtained by using robots in this way?

b)      What do you see as the main risks?

c)      Describe briefly what you see as a reasonable balance between reward and risk for this use of robots.

 

For parts a) and b), it is fine to write bulletized lists.  For part c, we want a paragraph or two.  Short responses are fine.  We are looking for insight and clarity.  Particularly in part c) we are expecting to get widely divergent views.  There is no right answer.  We just want careful thinking about the issues.