ITM 407 Study Guide - Radiation Therapy

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Read Huff's article on Unintentional Power in the Design of Computing Systems. He
describes the extra responsibility that comes with increased knowledge and the concept of
unintentional power. Read the story on the Therac-25 both in his article and then follow
the link to the historical background.
How does increased knowledge bring increased responsibility to designers of hardware and
software, especially in the case of the Therac-25?
Because the increased knowledge helps create softwares & hardwares that requires extra
precaution & also has lots of side effects such as dangers that the designers must take into
account for
Therac-25 is used in hospitals for radiation therapy purposes
o As this software was created by increased knowledgeable designers, they have to
take extra responsibility ensuring that their designed product runs smoothly &
avoids any harm to any patient
o The designers knew the radiation Therac-25 generated could be harmful but still
they were negligent in the initial design of the system & also when following up
on reports of malfunction
o System like Therac-25 deals with people & used in a hospital system, one silly
mistake can injure or even kill a patient, therefore it does take extensive
knowledge to build such a system but with that those designers must also ensure
that their increased knowledge is put forth towards a good cause by designing a
system which has no malfunctioning
Even if there is malfunctioning, they should at least take the responsibility
to check on the system so that it further doesn’t continue with the
malfunctioning
Because failing to do that has serious consequences such as death
What does Huff mean by unintentional power and why should we be aware of it as ICT
solution providers?
By unintentional power Huff means that designers design systems in a way in which its
main intention is to do good for the users but unintentionally harms the users
We should be aware of it because our design of a program could have negative impacts
because of a negligent mistake we made as ICT solution providers
o As a result we must always look into conditions our products will be used (for
instance in the case of Therac-25, designers failed to comply with that part as a
result several people died)
o Also as designers of safety-critical systems, we must take more limitations into
account before letting users use the system
As said earlier, one little mistake cause have a greater negative effect
o We can follow 3 steps in addressing issues
Recognize the problem & attempt to limit its domain
Find the problem & try to limit the domain where it can cause a problem
& then address the problem within those limited domains
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