Posted by Nicole Tedesco on October 12, 2011
Your ethics are that set of abstract principles and measurable standards you use to enable you to think and act as rationally as possible. To purposely thwart your ability to think and act rationally, or to allow allow that through neglect, is unethical.
One can derive an ethic by first understanding what beliefs, behaviors and other factors thwart rational thinking in yourself, and then second determine, by experiment, the principles and standards which allow one to manage one’s roadblocks to rationality. Ethics has nothing to say about the content of your rational thought, for that is the realm of morality.
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Posted by Nicole Tedesco on July 18, 2011
There are no such things as technology problems, only people problems.
No technology can build itself, nor use itself, nor correct its own problems. Even self-replicating machines, built using any technology in use (or even in conception) today, would merely execute the delayed choice of their builders. Consider the case of a man, eager to protect his home against theft, who installs an anti-theft device which would kill any unwanted intruder, perhaps with a bullet to the head. The homeowners’s device is commonly called a booby trap. One day, while the home owner is away, an intruder enters the home and is killed. Is the home owner responsible? You betcha! The home owner may claim they are not responsible because they did not pull the trigger directly, but in the end they made a choice to apply extreme prejudice to any intruder and they developed a device to execute that delayed choice. The homeowner’s booby trap did not kill the intruder, the home owner did. Every action of any technology, including any act of construction, any act of repair, or any act of use, is ultimately the extended action of human beings.
No technology is a perfect fit for any problem and all technologies come with trade-offs associated with their use. Even survival comes with its own set of trade-offs. It is the responsibility of human beings to understand their problems to the best of their abilities, to understand the trade-offs associated with the technology options before them, and to choose appropriate technologies wisely. Trade-off balancing does not happen on its own. Humans are the ultimate arbiters of which technology problems they choose to live with.
If all humans were to vanish from this Universe tomorrow, there would be no human problems of any kind. Human technologies would instantly cease being human technologies and would merely exist as artifacts of matter like any other. At the same instance of Universal human extinction, all “problems” would also similarly vanish.
This is not merely an academic exercise in ethics. The implications of failing to understand this point can be tremendous. If the home owner in my delayed choice example would have understood his culpability ahead of time, would he have been so eager to create his intruder-killing device? The lack of understanding of the concept of delayed choice leads, in business, law and in politics, to a class of problem called moral hazards. Failure to understand this critical point about technology, in particular computing technology, can cause some people to impart “magical” qualities to technologies which the technologies do not have, which can skew expectation, and can lead to project and business failure.
No, no, no. The only kinds of problems which exist in this world are people problems, by definition. If you doubt that, then find a way to kill all of humanity right now and watch all problems simply vanish away the moment before you and I cease to be.
Posted in Ethics | Tagged: architecture, ethics, information technology, law, philosophy, process, technology | 2 Comments »
Posted by Nicole Tedesco on May 23, 2011
To Wikipedia, a decent definition of “technology” has been posted,
Technology is the making, usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or serve some purpose.
Yes, the concept of “technology” is as general as that. With patents in mind, can a “technology” be a pure product of the mind? As an example, is an epistemological framework a technology? What is a “tool”?
Regardless of the assumption or rejection of metaphysical dualism, is the mind itself not a tool? Is the mind not a collection of matter and states which can be manipulated by human agency to achieve a goal of that agency? If self-reference is where we draw the line at “abstract idea” versus technology, where does self-reference end and the “world” begin? Are arms and legs tools, or merely “self”?
If I could take a pill which would transform one of my eyes into a Steve Austin, bionic “super eye”, is that eye merely “me” or is it a technology? If I were to integrate nano-scale technology into my physiology, does that nano-scale technology cease to be a technology and become “me”? What if the DNA of a future child were to be manipulated so that, once that child was born, their body would be impregnated with a technology produced by the programming of that child’s DNA? Would the programming itself be a considered a technology?
I reject metaphysical dualism. The biological “brain”, the epistemological mind and the non-nervous aspects of the human body are one. No separation exists. I am tempted to say that any goal-suiting change we might make to any state of matter, even the memories of our minds actively created, are technologies. This line of reasoning points the way to a future state of absurdity with regard to United States patent law. Either, one day, the prohibition against patenting “abstract ideas” will be lifted, or the entire patent regime will crumble. I am not sure which.
Posted in Ethics | Tagged: cognition, epistemology, ethics, law, technology | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Nicole Tedesco on May 19, 2011
Designers determine how structures are to be constructed. Architects determine what ought to be designed.
Given David Hume’s analysis, decisions of “ought” are the realm of ethics. Architecture is a normative role—to determine what ought to be designed is to think ethically.
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Posted by Nicole Tedesco on May 13, 2011
A fascinating discussion with regard to Bilski v. Kappos, here:
I have heard other opinion close to this: we seem to be getting closer to allowing the patenting of abstract ideas. That is, the Supreme Court is hesitant about categorically ruling out any kind patent, including “pure” business methods, in fear that to do so would preclude future technologies which we haven’t even dreamed about yet.
The Bilski decision strengthened the patentability of software.
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Posted by Nicole Tedesco on May 13, 2011
Thomas Jefferson, making a case for the “embarrassment” of patents,
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.
-Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Isaac McPherson, 13 August 1813
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Posted by Nicole Tedesco on May 13, 2011
My cousin Rebecca Littman is correct: too many topics in my book! My colleague Bill Barr also has the same great criticism. Indeed, there are several books I need to generate from this.
I am converging on many concrete theses, and of course, multiple books and articles which to focus on over time. I will have to start at the philosophical level first however since there is where all of my axioms and other assumptions will be defined and described.
Perhaps my first book will be to satisfy the thesis of,
The case for the ethical context in I/T architecture
Ultimately, the “ethical context” is the source of the most valuable quality attributes which must be balanced in any architecture. These qualities, amongst others, are the difference between profit and loss, legal and illegal, even life or death:
- Epistemology, semantics and standards of proof
- Contract and charter trees/privilege and responsibility
- Profit and cost responsibility
- Value in ex ante versus ex post consideration (short term versus long term thinking)
- Information quality in principle-agent relationships
- Transaction costs (in the generalized sense, borrowing from both economic and legal theory)
- Game theory (prisoner’s dilemma, chicken, information cascades)
- Cognitive illusion and fallacy (responsibility for truth)
- Rules versus standards (responsibility to protect)
- Statute, regulation and law
- Collaboration, property, markets, efficiency, rent-seeking, regulatory capture: the industry context
- Market suppression: the business context
- Architectural governance as a set of ethical virtues
Posted in Current Activities, Ethics | Tagged: ethics, the book | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Nicole Tedesco on May 11, 2011
You hire someone to perform a complex and risky service, a service you know nothing about. Perhaps you hire a surgeon or a lawyer and you know nothing about modern medicine or law. How do you know the person you hired is performing, or has performed their job ethically, effectively and efficiently? Can you tell by the results? How can you judge their work prior to their work being complete?
Many of the dilemmas associated with this kind of relationship are referred to by the moniker, “the principal-agent problem”.
Professionalism is a collaborative form which solves certain aspects of the principal-agent problem. How?
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Posted by Nicole Tedesco on May 9, 2011
Now reading, Ward Farnsworth’s “The Legal Analyst“,
If you want a good description of how software is and is not like law, read Chapter 17, “Rules and Standards”.
This is an excellent book for law students and normal folks alike. Farnsworth’s introduces the reader to the conceptual trade-offs of the modern legal system (mostly U.S.), then discusses how these trade-offs affect judicial decision making. These trade-offs include:
- ex ante versus ex post
- economic efficiencies
- trust (principle-agent problem, the Prisoner’s Dilemma, “chicken”)
- rules versus standards
- hindsight bias, slippery slope and other cognitive errors
The bibliography is awesome!
Posted in Current Activities, Ethics | Tagged: ethics, law, software | Leave a Comment »