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Lecture 20

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Natural Science
NATS 1700
Robert Levine

SUMMARY OF LECTURE 20 Part 2: DISADVANTAGES OF NEW TECHNOLOGY (CONTINUED) LECTURE 20 THE CONCEPT OF “TECHNOLOGY ABSOLUTION” Over the years that I have been teaching, on a few occasions, I have been given excuses for late work, or poor performance and requests have been made for extensions or deferred examinations. In many cases the reasons given have centred around new technology itself and its performance. Examples of these excuses/reasons are: (a) I couldn't get access to the site; (b) I couldn't get access to my internet server to get to the site; (c) I went to save my essay to disk, lost it and can't retrieve it; (d) I e-mailed it to you; (e) I didn't receive your e-mail; (f) my computer froze just as I was saving the material; (g) didn't you receive my fax? (h) I didn't receive your fax. Notwithstanding that you are showing me the facsimile transmission journal that shows the fax got through to me, I really didn't receive it; (i) No. I don't have a copy of my essay. After the course, I deleted all the material off my hard drive. (j) Oh! I know I should have written printed it out, but my printer wasn't working; Having done some research into the basis of these excuses/reasons, I have found that they are used as often in business and other real life situations as they are in a course such as this. Now, sometimes these excuses/reasons are true. I think, by now, we all understand that new technology is full of problems that give rise to situations beyond our control. As a result, when the excuse/reason first encountered, we are more apt to accept it and believe the truth of it. The problem is that whereas, at first, such excuses/reasons were somewhat isolated events, (which made us give the benefit of doubt to the person offering the excuse/reason) their frequency of use is on the rise. Due to the fact that we acknowledge that problems with new technology happen, again, we tend to accept them at face value. Technology Absolution in its most simple form can be defined as the use of the flaws of new technology as the basis for an excuse or reason for not doing or completing a task on time. It is a "street-smart" approach of individuals who, for whatever reason, do not want to complete a task or cannot complete a task on schedule. It now appears to happen in education, in government, and in all facets of business. It has become the ultimate excuse/reason for not performing as expected. The reason that I use the word "absolution" as part of the concept is that, in effect, the individual who uses this excuse/reason is asking to be absolved of the failure to complete something as scheduled based on a reality which stems from real and factual problems of new technology, but which reality is turned into a falsehood. Thus, another way of looking at Technology Absolution is to consider that the maker/user of the excuse/reason is really suggesting that he or she must be absolved from failing to do the act or thing, because the new technology did not work properly. Technology Absolution works, because, knowing that new technology has flaws and does not always work properly, we are inclined to give the maker of the excuse/reason the benefit of the doubt. In a sense and at first, our reason - our common sense - forces us to give the benefit of the doubt to the maker. The question that arises from the foregoing is: "Is there any way to protect ourselves from technology absolution?" Unfortunately, at least today, I believe the answer to this question is that we cannot. As long as an individual uses the excuse/reason selectively and very infrequently, the more likely it is that that person will get away with it. However, the more often the excuse/reason is used, the more likely is the person to be found out or discovered. DISADVANTAGES OF NEW TECHNOLOGY (CONTINUED) PRIVACY AND SECURITY NOTE: We have not yet covered this topic in class, however, it is expected that we will do so before the end of the term. Privacy can be considered in a number of ways. In his The Social Impact of Computers, Rosenberg provides Alan F. Westin's definition of Privacy. For Westin, "Privacy is the claim of individuals, groups or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others." Rosenberg then provides a counter-definition by Kent Greenwald wherein privacy..."is a situation or freedom about which claims may be made". Rosenberg goes on to describe three kinds of Privacy: "Territorial Privacy" (the notion that "the physical area surrounding a person may not be violated"); "Privacy of the Person" (whereby a person is protected from what Rosenberg calls "undue interferences such as physical searches and information that violates his moral sense"); and "Privacy in the Information Context" (that is: "dealing with the gathering, compilation and selective dissemination of information). I do not intend to get into these three different areas. Suffice it to say that for our purposes, you may consider that "Privacy", whether it be Territorial, Personal or relating to Information Gathering or Dissemination, relates, in one manner or another, to the person. Thus, for the purposes of our course, "Privacy" may be defined as follows: "Privacy" is the control that each person has over the dissemination or release of information about himself or herself. This is simple enough. However, the concept of Privacy becomes less than simple when we try to categorize it. That is what is "Privacy". Is it as Westin asserts, a "claim" (i.e. something that each of us claims to be entitled to)? Is it a "right" (something that, by our constitution or by law, we are guaranteed and that cannot be taken away from us), or is it a "privilege" (something that
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