LAS 432 January 2016
Write essays of about one to one and a half pages (300-400 words) to each of the four following questions. Each question is based on an assigned chapter from our textbook. Write the response in your own words. You may use short quotes of a sentence or less from the textbook to support your ideas, and you may also refer to the videos we watched in class, but don’t use any web sites.
If your essay shows significant matching to external web sites, your grade will be adversely affected. Work independently. If a classmate asks to “just look for a second” at what you wrote, say NO! Most likely the student will copy you, turn their work in before you, and cause it to look like you plagiarized their work rather than the other way around.
In your own words, analyze and discuss the strengths and limitations of two of the following ethical theories: Kant’s categorical imperative, Mill’s utilitarianism, or Rawls’ positive and negative rights.
Next, take a controversial issue in technology, such as illegal downloading of music/movies/software (TED talk on copyright math), GM’s ignition system failure and cover-up (from Failure to Recall), or free software vs. proprietary software (interview with Richard Stallman), and discuss it from the point of view of Kant, Mill, or Rawls.
Ray Kurzweil believes that we aren’t far from a time when our thinking will be hybrid. Our human minds will be connected through the cloud to vast amounts of computing technology, making us exponentially smarter than we are today. Review his TED talk, as well as the section of chapter 7 on artificial intelligence and the “technological singularity” for more details on this topic.
Kurzweil welcomes this new era. On the other hand, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking fear it will have catastrophic consequences. What is your opinion? What should we be doing now to maximize the benefits and minimize the potential harm that might arise from this new technology?
Discuss one of the technological failures mentioned in Chapter 8 in greater detail, such as the Therac-25, Space Shuttle Challenger, Denver International Airport baggage system, or American Airlines crash in Cali, Columbia. Behind each failure of technology is a human failure. What was the human failure, and why did it happen? What can we learn from the failure so that we have fewer of them in the future?
Carefully re-read the sections of chapter 4 on digital rights management and anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (p. 200-203). Some people believe that the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions put unfair limits on fair use.
Your friend, a CIS major, has devised a program that allows users to get around DRM features, so that they can give away a purchased copy of a copyrighted digital work, such as a book, song, or movie. For example, if you were to buy a digital copy of a book, this program would allow you to transfer ownership of the copy of this book to your friend. You would be giving the book away electronically. After giving it away, you would no longer have it on your device or be able to read it.
Based on your understanding of DMCA, do you think your friend’s program is illegal? Why or why not? Would it be unethical? Why or why not?
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