Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector

Abstract:

The military sector has been investing in nanotechnology solutions since their inception. Internal assessment committees in defense programmatically determine to what degree complex technologies will be diffused into the Armed Forces. The broad term nanotechnology is used in this Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine to encompass a variety of innovations, from special paint markers that can determine unique identity, to RFID implants in humans. With the purported demand for these new materials, we have seen the development of a fabrication process that has catapulted a suite of advanced technologies in the military marketplace. These technologies were once the stuff of science fiction. Now we have everything from exoskeletons, to wearable headsets with accelerated night vision, to armaments that have increased in durability in rugged conditions along with the ability for central command without human intervention. Is this the emergence of the so-called supersoldier, a type of Iron Man?

Nanotechnology in the Military Sector

The military sector has been investing in nanotechnology solutions since their inception. Internal assessment committees in defense programmatically determine to what degree complex technologies will be diffused into the Armed Forces. The broad term nanotechnology is used in this Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine to encompass a variety of innovations, from special paint markers that can determine unique Identity, to RFID implants in humans. With the purported demand for these new materials, we have seen the development of a fabrication process that has catapulted a suite of advanced technologies in the military marketplace. These technologies were once the stuff of science fiction. Now we have everything from exoskeletons, to wearable headsets with accelerated night vision, to armaments that have increased in durability in rugged conditions along with the ability for central command without human intervention. Is this the emergence of the so-called super-soldier, a type of Iron Man?

Social Implications: Key Questions

This special issue is predominantly based on proceedings coming from the 9th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security, co-convened by the authors of this guest editorial. The workshop focused specifically on human-centric implantable technologies in the military sector. Key questions the workshop sought to address with respect to implants included:

  • What are the social implications of new proposed security technologies?
  • What are the rights of soldiers who are contracted to the defense forces in relation to the adoption of the new technologies?
  • Does local military law override rights provided under the rule of law in a given jurisdiction, and 1 what are the legal implications?
  • What might be some of the side effects experienced by personnel in using nanotechnology devices that have not yet been tested under conditions of war and conflict?
  • How pervasive are nanotechnologies and microelectronics (e.g., implantable technologies) in society at large?


Recommended Reading

More broadly the workshop sought to examine socio-ethical implications with respect to citizenry, the social contract formed with the individual soldier, and other stakeholders such as industry suppliers to government, government agencies, and the Armed Forces [1].

  • F. Allhoff, P. Lin, D. Moore, What is Nanotechnology and why does it matter? From Science to Ethics, West Sussex, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • S.J. Florczyk and S. Saha, “Ethical issues in nanotechnology,” J. Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 107-113,2007.
  • A. Krishnan, Military Neuroscience and the Coming of Neurowarfare, London, Routledge, 2017.
  • K. Michael, “Socio-ethical Implications of the Bionic Era”, Academy of Science in Australia, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOOgep8ery8, Shine Dome, Canberra, 25/05/17.
  • R.A. Miranda, W.D. Casebeer, A.M. Hein, J.W. Judy, E.P. Krotkov, T.L. Laabs, J.E. Manzo, K.G. Pankratz, G.A. Pratt, J.C. Sanchez, D.J. Weber, T.L. Wheeler, G.S.F. Ling, “DARPA-funded efforts in the development of novel brain-computer interface technologies,” Journal of Neuroscience Methods, vol. 244, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165027014002702, 2015.
  • M. Murphy, “The US Military Is Developing Brain Implants to Boost Memory and Heal PTSD,” Defense One, 2015; http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2015/11/us-military-developing-brain-implants-boost-memory-and-heal-ptsd/123784/, 17/11/15.
  • M. Orcutt, “DARPA's New Neural Implant Has a Sneaky Way of Getting Inside Heads,” M.I.T. Tech. Rev., 2016; https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600761/darpas-new-neural-implant-has-a-sneaky-way-of-getting-inside-heads/, 09/02/16.
  • D. Ratner, M. Ratner, New Weapons for New Wars: Nanotechnology and Homeland Security, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2004.
  • P.S. Saha and S. Saha, “Clinical trials of medical devices and implants: Ethical concerns,” IEEE Eng. Med. & Biol. Mag., vol. 7, pp. 86–87, 1988.
  • S. Saha and P. Saha, “Biomedical ethics and the biomedical engineer: A review,” Critical Reviews in Biomedical Eng., vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 163–201, 1988.
  • P. Tucker, “The Military Is Building Brain Chips to Treat PTSD,” The Atlantic, 2014; http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/the-military-is-building-brain-chips-to-treat-ptsd/371855/, 29/05/2014.

DARPA's RAM Project

In 2012, the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) confirmed plans to create nanosensors to monitor the health of soldiers on battlefields [2]. In 2014, ExtremeTech [3] reported on a 2013 DARPA project titled the “Restoring Active Memory (RAM) Project.” Ultimately the aim of RAM was:

“to develop a prototype implantable neural device that enables recovery of memory in a human clinical population. Additionally, the program encompasses the development of quantitative models of complex, hierarchical memories and exploration of neurobiological and behavioral distinctions between memory function using the implantable device versus natural learning and training” [4].

Several months later, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) published on their web site an article on how DARPA was developing wireless implantable brain prostheses for service members and veterans who had suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) memory loss [5]. Quoting here from the article:

“Called neuroprotheses, the implant would help declarative memory, which consciously recalls basic knowledge such as events, times and places…”
“these neuroprosthetics will be designed to bridge the gaps in the injured brain to help restore that memory function… Our vision is to develop neuroprosthetics for memory recovery in patients living with brain injury and dysfunction.”
“The neuroprosthetics developed and tested over the next four years would be as a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use.”

The U.S. DOD also noted that traumatic brain injury has affected about 270 000 U.S. service members since 2000, and another 1.7 million civilians. The DOD said that they would begin to focus their attention on service members first [6]. Essentially the program is meant to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders, using electronic devices implanted in the brain. Treated disorders range from depression, to anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder [7]. The bulk of the15 million) and the University of Pennsylvania ($22.5 million), in collaboration with the Minneapolis-based biomedical device company Medtronic [8].

More Information

Visual proceedings of the 9th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security, including powerpoint presentations, are available [9]. The workshop was held during the 2016 IEEE Norbert Wiener Conference, at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Several DARPA-funded neurologists from the Vascular Bionics Laboratory at the University of Melbourne were invited to present at the workshop, including a team led by Thomas Oxley, M.D. [10]. (Oxley did not personally appear as he was in the U.S. on a training course related to intensive neurosurgical training.)

The military implantable technologies field at large is fraught with bioethical implications. Many of these issues were raised at the Workshop, and remain unanswered. If there is going to be a significant investment in advancing new technologies for soldiers suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the military, there needs to be commensurate funding invested to address unforeseen challenges. In fact, it is still unclear whether U.S. service members must accept participation in experimental brain research if asked, or if they can decline in place of other nonintrusive medical help.

References

1. K. Michael, "Mental Health Implantables and Side Effects", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 5-17.

2. B. Unruh, "U.S. Military Developing Spychips for Soldiers", WND, [online] Available: http://www.wnd.com/2012/05/u-s-military-developing-spychlps-for-soldiers/.

3. S. Anthony, "US military begins work on brain implants that can restore lost memories experiences", ExtremeTech, [online] Available: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/176337-us-military-begins-work-on-brain-implants-that-can-restore-Iost-memories-experience.

4. "Restoring Active Memory (RAM)", [online] Available: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=925a0e2faf1c2e3c3782e1788fcc660d&tab=core&_cview=0.

5. T. M. Cronk, DARPA Developing Implants to Help with TBI Memory Loss, US Department of Defense.

6. T. M. Cronk, DARPA Developing Implants to Help with TBI Memory Loss, US Department of Defense.

7. John Hamilton, "Military Plans To Test Brain Implants To Fight Mental Disorders", Npr.org, [online] Available: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/05/27/316129491/military-plans-to-test-brain-implants-to-fight-mental-disorders.

8. Tanya Lewis, "US Military Developing Brain Implants to Restore Memory", LiveScience, [online] Available: http://www.livescience.com/46710-military-memory-brain-implants.html.

9. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, J.C. Galliot, R. Nicholls, "The Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector", The Ninth Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security (SINS16).

 10. "Minimally Invasive “Stentrode” Shows Potential as Neural Interface for Brain: Implantable device repurposes stent technology to enable direct recording from neurons", Darpa.mil, [online] Available: http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-02-08.

 

Citation: Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, Jai C. Galliot, Rob Nicholls, "Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector", 15 March 2017, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 7-9, 10.1109/MTS.2017.2670219.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Military communication, Military technology, Implantable biomedical devices, Nanotechnology

INSPEC: ethical aspects, nanofabrication, night vision, radiofrequency identification, social sciences, implantable technologies socio-ethical implication, military sector, nanotechnology, internal assessment committee, RFID implant, fabrication process, military marketplace, night vision,durability, super-soldier

Beyond Human: Lifelogging and Life Extension

I have often wondered what it would be like to rid myself of a keyboard for data entry, and a computer screen for display. Some of my greatest moments of reflection are when I am in the car driving long distances, cooking in my kitchen, watching the kids play at the park, waiting for a doctor's appointment, or on a plane thousands of meters above sea level. I have always been great at multitasking, but at these times it is often not practical or convenient to be head down typing on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

It would be much easier if I could just make a mental note to record an idea and have it recorded, there and then. And who wouldn't want the ability to “jack into” all the world's knowledge sources in an instant via a network [1]? Who wouldn't want instant access to their life-pages filled with all those memorable occasions? Or even the ability to slow down the process of aging [2], as long as living longer equated to living with mind and body fully intact.

Transhumanists would have us believe that these things are not only possible but inevitable.

In short: we Homo sapiens may dictate the next stage of our evolution through our use of technology.

Transhumanism

Shortly after starting my Ph.D., I came across a newly established organization known as the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), now known as Humanity+ (H+), which was founded by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce.

Point 8 of the Transhumanist Declaration states [3]:

“We favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies.”

First let us consider briefly the traditional notion of a cyborg, part man/part machine, where technology can act to replace the need for human parts.

Steve Mann: “Here's a picture I took of my neckworn camera in 1998, along with other similar more recent devices. The 1998 camera was a “wearable wireless webcam” that had various other sensors in it as well. The microsoft sensecam picture I took in a similar style, and over the years various other products became available. The most recent picture I actually took in exactly the same location as my original camera necklace dome 15 years earlier: 2nd floor of university of toronto bookstore, St. george street entrance.

Steve Mann: “Here's a picture I took of my neckworn camera in 1998, along with other similar more recent devices. The 1998 camera was a “wearable wireless webcam” that had various other sensors in it as well. The microsoft sensecam picture I took in a similar style, and over the years various other products became available. The most recent picture I actually took in exactly the same location as my original camera necklace dome 15 years earlier: 2nd floor of university of toronto bookstore, St. george street entrance.

In this instance, some might willingly undergo surgical amputations for reasons of enhancement and longevity which have naught to do with imminent medical prosthesis.

This might include the ability to get around the “wetware” of the brain, enabling our minds to be downloaded onto supercomputers.

Homo Electricus

Perhaps those who love the look and feel of their human body more than machinery would much rather contemplate a world dominated by a Homo Electricus – a human that will use electro-magnetic techniques for ambient communication with networks [4].

An Electrophorus is thus one who becomes a bearer of technology, inviting nano-and micro-scale devices into his or her body.

An Electrophorus might also use brain-wave techniques, such as the electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the electrical activity of the brain in order to perform actions by thinking about them [5].

This might be the best approach to retaining our inner thoughts for recollection though there are myriad vital issues related to security, access control, and privacy that must be addressed first.

Lifelogging

Twenty years ago, when I was still in high school, I would observe my headmaster, who was not all that fond of computers, walking around the playground carrying a tiny Dictaphone in his hands recording things for himself so that he could recollect them afterwards.

When I once asked him why he was engaging in this act, he said:

“Ah … there are so many things to remember! Unless I record them I forget them.”

He was surely onto something. His job required him to remember minute details that necessitated recollection.

Enter Steve Mann in the early 1990s, enrolled in a Ph.D. program at M.I.T. Media Labs and embarking on a project to record his whole life – himself, everyone else, and mostly everything in his field of view, 24/7 [6].

At the time it would have sounded ludicrous to want to record your “whole life,” as Professor Mann puts it. With Mann's wearcam devices (such as Eyetap), one can walk around recording, exactly like a mobile CCTV. The wearer becomes the photoborg.

It is an act Mann has called “sousveillance,” which equates to “watching from below” [7].

This is as opposed to watching from above, like when we are surveilled by CCTV stuck on a building wall such as in George Orwell's dystopic Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Since Mann's endeavor there have been many who have chosen this kind of blackbox recorder lifestyle, and more recently even Google has thrown in their Glass Project equivalent [8].

My guess is that we are about to walk into an era of Person View systems that will show things on ground level through the eyes of our social network, beyond just Street View fly-throughs [9].

Other notable lifeloggers include Gordon Bell of Microsoft [10] and Cathal Gurrin from Dublin City University [11].

M.I.T. researcher Deb Roy lifelogged his son's first year of life (with exceptions) by wiring up his home with video cameras [12].

When we talk about big data, you can't get any bigger than this [13] – chunky multimedia, chunky files of all types from a multitude of sensors, and chunky data ripe for analysis (by police, the government, your boss, and potentially anyone).

But I have often wondered where these individuals have drawn the line – at which occasions they choose to “switch off” the camera, and why [14].

This glogging still does not satisfy the possibility that I might be able to retain and indeed download all my thoughts for retrieval later [15].

A series of still photographs and continuous footage does help me to remember people I've met, things I've shared, knowledge I've gained, and feelings I've experienced. However, lifelogging is limited and cannot record the thoughts I have had at every moment in my life.

In addition, there is an innate problem with recording all my thoughts automatically with some kind of futuristic digital neural network: I would not want every thought I have ever had to be recorded [16].

Let's face it, no-one is perfect and sometimes we think silly things that we would never want stored, shared with others or replayed back to us [17].

These are thoughts which are apt to be misconstrued or misinterpreted, even perhaps in an e-court. We also do and say things at times which may not be criminal but are not the best practice for family, friends, colleagues, or even strangers to witness.

And there are those moments of heartbreak and horror alike that we would never wish to replay for reasons we might be overcome with grief and become chronically depressed.

The beginning and end of Ingmar Bergman's film Persona is reminiscent of a longitudinal glog [18]. See also “The Entire History of You” in the Black Mirror [16] available for download at https://archive.org/details/BlackMirror-Series. Directed by Brian Welsh and written by Jesse Armstrong and Charlie Brooker, the movie depicts the future, thanks to the “Grain,” a chip which can be implanted on a hard drive in the brain, with every single action that a person makes being recorded and played back at a later time.

Is More than Human Better?

Evolving in ways that could better our lives can only be a good thing. But evolving to a stage where we humans become something other than human could be less desirable.

Dangers could include:

  • electronic viruses,

  • virtual crimes (such as getting your e-life deleted, rewritten, rebooted, or stolen),

  • having your freedom and autonomy hijacked because you are at the mercy of so called smart grids.

Whatever the likelihood of these potentialities, they too, together with all of the positives, need to be interrogated.

Ultimately we need to be extremely careful that any artificial intelligence we invite into our bodies does not submerge the human consciousness and, in doing so, rule over it.

Remember, in Mary Shelley's 1816 novel Frankenstein, it is Victor Frankenstein, the mad scientist, who emerges as the true monster, not the giant who wreaks havoc when he is rejected.

References

1. W. Gibson, Neuromancer, Ace, 1984.
2. A. de Grey, "A roadmap to end aging", TED, 2007, [online] Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iYpxRXlboQ/.
3. "Transhumanist Declaration", humanity, 2012, [online] Available: http://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanist-declaration/.
4. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "Homo Electricus and the continued speciation of humans" in The Encyclopaedia of Information Ethics and Security, IGI Global, pp. 312-318, 2007.
5. K.D. Stephan, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, L. Jacob, E. Anesta, "Social Implications of Technology: Past Present and Future", Proc. IEEE, vol. 100, no. 13, pp. 1752-1781, 2012.
6. S. Mann, D. RikkeFriis, , "Wearable computing" in The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design Foundation, 2013.
7. S. Mann, "Through the glass lightly", IEEE Technology & Society Mag., vol. 2, pp. 10-14, 2012.
8. "Project Glass: One day…", Google, 2012, [online] Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4/.
9. Map My Tracks, 2010, [online] Available: http://www.mapmytracks.com/blog/entry/new-feature-street-view-and-google-earth-fly-through-bring-your-activities-to-life/.
10. G. Bell, Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, 2013, [online] Available: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/gbell/.
11. C. Gurrin, Lecturer at Dublin City University, 2013, [online] Available: http://www.computing.dcu.ie/~cgurrin/.
12. D. Roy, "The birth of a word", TED, [online] Available: http://www.ted.com/talks/deb_roy_the_birth_of_a_word.
13. K. Michael, K. Miller, "Big data: New opportunities and new challenges", IEEE Computer, vol. 46, no. 6, pp. 22-24, 2013.
14. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "No limits to watching?", Commun. ACM, vol. 56, no. 11, pp. 26-28, 2013.
15. S. Mann, "MetaSpaceglasses now available to CYBORGloggers interested in becoming AR developers", glogger.mobi, [online] Available: http://glogger.mobi/.
16. C. Brooker, "Episode 3 - The entire history of you", Black Mirror, 2011, [online] Available: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/black-mirror/4od#3327868.
17. M.G. Michael, K. Michael, "The fallout from emerging technologies: On matters of surveillance social networks and suicide", IEEE Technology and Society Mag., vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 13-17, 2011.
18. I. Bergman, Persona, 1966, [online] Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMfqSuRlerU.
19. Inside cover art Frankenstein, 1831, [online] Available: http://www.archive.org/details/ghostseer01schiuoft.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

“The author would like to thank her fellow collaborator Dr. MG Michael, an honorary associate professor at the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia, for his insights and valuable input on the initial draft of this article.

This article was first published under the title “People plus: Is transhumanism the next stage in our evolution?” in The Conversation, Oct. 29, 2012. The original article can be found at https://theconversation.com/people-plus-is-transhumanism-the-next-stage-in-our-evolution-9771.

IEEE Keywords: Transhuman, Social implications of technology, Electromagnetic devices, Human factors

Citation: Katina Michael, "Beyond Human: Lifelogging and Life Extension", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2014, pp. 4-6.

Social Implications of Pervasive Computing

SIPC'14: The Third IEEE International Workshop on Social Implications of Pervasive Computing, 2014 - Welcome and Committees

Welcome Message from the SIPC'14 Co-Chairs

Source: wix.com (opener art)

While many technologies have already been developed quite successfully from a technological perspective, their social impact and adoption are still understudied. A main reason being that the pace of technological development is often much faster than the exploration of the societal impact, which takes longer to manifest.

Pervasive computing is arguably one such field which is developing faster than its impact can be studied, particularly in the context of sustainability. Sustainability is a topic that has recently gained significant growing interest among researchers, and affects our everyday lives from healthcare and well being, to energy and architecture. Hence it lends itself particularly well to benefit from advancements in pervasive technologies.

The aim of the Third IEEE workshop on the Social Implications of Pervasive Computing for Sustainable Living (SIPC '14) is to explore the intersection of pervasive computing and sustainability. By examining this area, we aim to develop theories, methods and guidelines to encourage the technology to achieve maximum benefit, with minimal consequence. This will lead to guidance for the wider pervasive computing and sustainability communities, and provide sufficient time to consider the impact of the technology being designed and developed.

SIPC '14 brings together researchers interested in the societal implications of mobile, embedded and pervasive technologies applied in a wide range of contexts and environments. Each submission was reviewed by 3 members of the workshop's international programme committee, with an additional independent meta review, and were accepted based on their quality and relevance to the overall workshop theme. In total, this year's workshop program includes 7 high quality papers that were carefully selected out of 11 submissions (63%). We also accepted 1 redirected contribution from the main conference.

The workshop starts with an invited talk from Zsgfia Ruttkay, Creative Technology Lab, on Pervasive Computing for Sustaining Cultural Heritage. This is followed by our own World Café, which is an activity designed to create stimulating conversation that ends with a group wide coherent story. Following this ice breaker, the first session of presentations will explore ideas around community and choice. This is followed by sessions on adaptive spaces, social networks, collecting/sharing data and healthy living. All with a focus on the social implications of pervasive technologies across the wide variety of sustainable living related contexts.

We would like to thank all authors who submitted papers to the workshop, and express our appreciation for the time, effort and thoughtful reviews invested by the multi-disciplinary members of the programme committee. We would also like to thank the PerCom workshop co-chairs Franca Delmastro and Christine Julien for assisting us in the organization of the workshop.

Workshop Co-Chairs

Stuart Moran, Mixed Reality Lab, University of Nottingham, UK

Irene Lopez de Vallejo, IK4 Tekniker, Avenida Otaola, 20, Eibar, Gipuzkoa, Spain

Katina Michael, School of Information Systems and Technology, University of Wollongong, Australia

Citation: Moran, S.De Vallejo, I.L.Michael, K., "SIPC'14: The third IEEE international workshop on social implications of pervasive computing, 2014 - Welcome and committees", 2014 IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communication Workshops, PERCOM WORKSHOPS 2014, 24-28 March 2014.

Social Implications of Technology: "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo"

Late last year, IEEE SSIT was invited to put together a paper for the centennial edition of the Proceedings of the IEEE for publication in May 2012 [1]. The article, “Social Implications of Technology: Past, Present, and Future,” brought together five members of SSIT with varying backgrounds, and involved two intense months of collaboration and exchange of ideas. I personally felt privileged to be working with Karl D. Stephan, Emily Anesta, Laura Jacobs, and M.G. Michael on this project.

While it is important to go on record as saying that while there was harmony in the final paper delivered to The Proceedings, there was certainly some tug-of-war related to themes and perspectives addressed in the paper. We carefully critiqued each other's writing and some twenty-three drafts later came out with the final product, some thirty pages in length. The paper included 29 telling photographs and about 180 references, many sourced from IEEE T&S Magazine.

Controversy, conflict, disagreement, discord, disharmony makes for a good plot joining together once disparate ideas. Without this cross-disciplinary dialogue and dichotomy there cannot be a holistic analysis of the observable facts. In the the Proceedings paper, we attempted to write a balanced article, at times oscillating between positive and negative social implications of technology, externalities and advances as a result of technology, and the risks versus rewards of technology's trajectory.

IEEE-SSIT is clearly not just about the adverse effects of technical change but indeed concerned with how technology can be harnessed toward optimistic ends. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine especially has a duty to its community of engineers and practitioners to publish at both ends of the spectrum, the successes and failures of technology in terms of social implications.

But more than that, T&S Magazine has a responsibility to capture what is happening, has happened, will happen. Our publication needs to move away from the mentality that says “this paper” or “this author” is for technology or against technology. This is to oversimplify many of the cases that have been published thus far in T&S. In some of the strongest articles I have read, what emerges after my reading is a depiction of a phenomenon that just “is what it is.” What makes good research is usually a good story that can capture the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As editor in chief, I will make it my goal to attract papers of all kinds — on the use and misuse of technology. You simply cannot have one without the other because the human factor is prevalent in design and deployment. I would be doing the Magazine a disservice if suddenly I were to put blinkers on to claim that technique can do no wrong, independent of whose hands it is in. This is simply not the case. If the number of papers about the negative social implications of technology seem to dominate over those on positive social implications, it has only to do with the types of papers the Magazine receives as submissions.

We cannot print articles that demonstrate benefits of technology if they have not been written and submitted for consideration. I urge you to think about writing something we can publish that reflect positive impacts of technology. I am thinking of topics such as: how affective computing can help autistic kids, the use of high frequency data streams to improve outcomes for premature infants, the advantages of using wearable technologies to do remote vocational training and assessment, the benefits to the global community of data visualization techniques for online museums, electronic methods for reducing an individual's carbon emissions footprint, historical articles that show how indigenous communities have attempted to preserve aspects of their culture through technology, using assistive social robots to care for the elderly and the young, and so forth.

As editor, however, I will not ignore articles that demonstrate that technology can be misused. I welcome papers on technology-related addictions and health risks, on consumer resistance to new technologies, on citizen rights to use technologies for counter-surveillance, on the complications of data custodianship and cloud computing, on the increasing pervasiveness of geomatics engineering, and on the rise of cyberbullying and offenses against the person committed online.

What I am most concerned with is that T&S Magazine - at least in mindspace - keep pace with the times. Let us see more papers on how engineering will advance humanity but let us also question whether or not technology will always advance humanity.

In this case, the problem was with the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), and with two U.S. federal agencies that are supposed to protect the public against hazardous substances and processes: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Much of the problem (which is quite complex) was due to a change in the chemicals used by WASA for protection against bacterial contamination. An important consequence of this was a great increase in the leaching into the water of lead from brass pipes.

WASA and the EPA rejected the analysis by Edwards, despite its being supported by substantial real world data. The CDC issued a report that downgraded the importance to health of lead in drinking water. Both WASA and the EPA withdrew financial backing for Edwards' work, putting him in a difficult position. But he persisted, at one point, paying his student assistants out of his own pocket. Ultimately all three agencies conceded that his position was valid, and steps to alleviate the problem were initiated.

Over the past three decades, somewhat more attention has been paid to ethics in engineering curricula, but no meaningful progress has been made to provide real support for engineers, such as Edwards and DeKort, who take such teaching seriously. While, several decades ago, the IEEE took some steps toward helping ethical engineers, it later backed out of this area completely. The IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee and its members are now not allowed to give advice to engineers on ethical matters.

References

1. K. D. Stephan, K. Michael, M. G. Michael, L. Jacob, E. Anesta, "Social implications of technology: Past present and future", Proc. IEEE, vol. 100, no. 13, pp. 1752-1781, 2012.

Citation: Katina Michael, Social Implications of Technology: "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 31, Issue: 3, Fall 2012, pp. 4 - 5, Date of Publication: 26 September 2012, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2012.221139