CS009: Computers and Human Values
Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Notes, October 20th -- Roger B. Blumberg

Digital Life

"Bits are not edible; in that sense they cannot stop hunger. Computers are not moral; they cannot resolve complex issues like the rights to life and to death. But being digital, nevertheless, does give much cause for optimism. Like a force of nature, the digital age cannot be denied or stopped. It has four very powerful qualities that will result in its ultimate triumph: decentralizing, globalizing, harmonizing, and empowering."
Being Digital, pp. 228-229

Introduction: "Text Rain" and the Reign of Text

In the lobby of the CIT there is an art installation called Text Rain, and thinking about it may provide a nice way to talk about the transition from atoms to bits and its consequences for culture and value. We'll look at Winograd's juxtaposition of "library culture" and "information-retrieval culture" and, yes, consider why we are still writing "traditional" essays in CS9.

Digital Optimism

We'll conclude our discussion of Negroponte's book with a focus on his predictions about the economy, and specifically the world of work. We'll critique the qualities in the epigraph above, and prepare to jump back 150 years to the time of Marx's manifesto.

For Next Time: Papers are due by the end of the day on Friday, unless we've negotiated an extension. Please read The Communist Manifesto for Tuesday, and come prepared to talk about differences between how members of your family lived and worked in 1848 and 1948 and 1998.

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