3.177 values of computers? (37)

Mon, 26 Jun 89 19:38:06 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 177. Monday, 26 Jun 1989.

Date: Mon, 26 Jun 89 09:35 EST
Subject: Embedded values in computer systems

I'd very much like to hear from anyone else who has been considering
the question of what sort of implicit values and value system "we" are building
into our computer systems.
My primary reason for being in "computing" at a business school is to get a
better perspective on the types of analyses and values and metrics that are
slowly being given electronic life in the corporate wide filters that MBA's are
building for each other to use.
If your Procrustean model can fit the savings in dollars from closing the
Louisville assembly plant into the spreadsheet, but can't fit the human costs
associated with the layoffs, then you have just committed a major error that is
the computer equivalent of "iatrogenic" (new word needed here for
computer-induced error ; can someone tell me what that word would be?)
Reading such books as "Command and Control of Nuclear Forces" by Paul Bracken
makes one realize how multiple levels of filters throw out all the ambiguity,
all the human clues, all the human values, till, by the time the decision
reaches the white house, there's nothing left for a human to do but push the
button. Observing huge multinationals also leads one to believe that the guys
in the cockpit are effectively blind. There seems to be a huge need for
humanists to study, understand, and figure out where to intervene in this
process. Loss of values in the "decision-support" systems being built today,
now, around us is as critical a problems as loss of values in universities.
Computer code is _not_ value-neutral.
Wade Schuette, Cornell University