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we are already in a position to construct artificial machines of almost any degree of elaborateness of performance.
By the mid 1970s, new privacy laws and computer crime laws had been enacted in America and in Europe, and organizations of computer professionals were adopting codes of conduct for their members.
At the same time, MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum created a computer program called ELIZA, intended to crudely simulate “a Rogerian psychotherapist engaged in an initial interview with a patient.” Weizenbaum was appalled by the reaction that people had to his simple computer program.
Some psychiatrists, for example, viewed his results as evidence that computers will soon provide automated psychotherapy; and certain students and staff at MIT even became emotionally involved with the computer and shared their intimate thoughts with it!
Concerned by the ethical implications of such a response, Weizenbaum wrote the book Computer Power and Human Reason (1976), which is now considered a classic in computer ethics.
He perceptively foresaw revolutionary social and ethical consequences.
In 1948, for example, in his book It has long been clear to me that the modern ultra-rapid computing machine was in principle an ideal central nervous system to an apparatus for automatic control; and that its input and output need not be in the form of numbers or diagrams but might very well be, respectively, the readings of artificial sense organs, such as photoelectric cells or thermometers, and the performance of motors or solenoids…The ACM appointed Parker to head a committee to create such a code, which was adopted by that professional organization in 1973.(The ACM Code was revised in the early 1980s and again in the early 1990s.) Also in the mid 1960s, computer-enabled invasions of privacy by “big-brother” government agencies became a public worry and led to books, articles, government studies, and proposed privacy legislation.The engineering challenge of this project caused Wiener and some colleagues to create a new branch of science, which Wiener called “cybernetics” – the science of information feedback systems.The concepts of cybernetics, when combined with the digital computers being created at that time, led Wiener to draw some remarkably insightful ethical conclusions.Of course, some ethical situations confront us as individuals and some as a society.Computer ethics includes consideration of both personal and social policies for the ethical use of computer technology. 266) In Moor’s view computer ethics includes, (1) identification of computer-generated policy vacuums, (2) clarification of conceptual muddles, (3) formulation of policies for the use of computer technology, and (4) ethical justification of such policies.The computer revolution will be a multi-faceted, on-going process that will take decades of effort and will radically change everything.Such a vast undertaking will necessarily include a wide diversity of tasks and challenges.Often, either no policies for conduct in these situations exist or existing policies seem inadequate.A central task of computer ethics is to determine what we should do in such cases, i.e., to formulate policies to guide our actions.