Thesis 69

It is ethically incumbent on the designers of ubiquitous systems and environments to afford the human user some protection.

We owe to the poet Delmore Schwartz the observation that "in dreams begin responsibilities." These words were never truer than they are in the context of everyware.

Those of us who have participated in this conversation for the last several years have dreamed a world of limitless interconnection, where any given fact or circumstance can be associated with an immensely large number of others. And despite what we can see of the drawbacks and even dangers implied, we have chosen to build the dream.

If the only people affected by this decision were those making it, that would be one thing. Then it wouldn't really matter what kind of everyware we chose to build for ourselves, any more than I'm affected right now by Steve Mann's cyborg life, or by the existence of someone who's wired every light and speaker in their home to a wood-grained controller they leave on the nightstand. However strange or tacky or pointless such gestures might seem, they harm no one. They're ultimately a matter of individual taste on the part of the person making them and therefore off-limits to regulation in a free society.

But that's not, at all, what is at stake here, is it? By involving other people by the hundreds of millions in our schemes of ubiquity, those of us designing everyware take onto our own shoulders the heaviest possible burden of responsibility for their well-being and safety. We owe it to them to anticipate, wherever possible, the specific circumstances in which our inventions might threaten the free exercise of their interests, andagain, wherever possibleto design such provisions into the things we build that would protect those interests.

This is not paternalism; in fact, it's just the opposite. Where paternalism is the limitation of choice, all I am arguing for is that people be informed just what it is that they are being offered in everyware, at every step of the way, so they can make meaningful decisions about the place they wish it to have in their lives.

The remainder of this book will articulate some general principles we should observe in the development of ubiquitous computing to secure the interests of those people most affected by it.

Everyware. The dawning age of ubiquitous computing
Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing
ISBN: 0321384016
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 124
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