Nature of Computer Science
The Impact of Computers on Society
1. The Information Revolution
- The Third Wave - published
1980 by Alvin
Toffler - futurist - described major revolutions in human history
- First Wave - Agricultural economy (thousands of
"In the first wave, wealth was land, and it was exclusive; if I
grew rice on my acres, you could not."
Wave - Industrial economy
"In the second wave,
wealth diversified into three
factors of production: land, labor, and capital. However, production drained
a company of resources."
"A central theme of the industrial regime was
centralization and standardization."
Wave - Information economy
"In the third wave, wealth is knowledge. Microsoft is not drained
of its resources when
it ships a package of Windows 95. The land, muscle, and money in
Redmond, Washington, are not the source of the company's wealth; the
knowledge of its software
"Technology took a sharp turn away from
standardization and toward individuation
"In a not-always-pleasant way, the third wave
began decentralizing the machine heart. Today is a time of transition,
in which we witness the curious spectacle of massive second-wave-type
enterprises adapting to the third-wave appetite for differentiation."
predicament is Overchoice."
"The regime of the smokestacks has been
forever. What remains is still frothing and changing its shape. It is a
whole new era, with dangers and opportunities uniquely its own."
"We are not currently in Toffler's third
are still in transition between the second and third waves, and that is
why the implications of the transformation are not immediately obvious."
Wave vs Third Wave Example
- centralized control, mass-market, commoditization of software (one
size fits all - you have to take what Microsoft offers)
- Linux &
Open Software Movement - decentralized control, no one owns
software, individual can modify software to their needs.
- Which will win out in the end?
2. Benefits of the Information Revolution
Convergence -- the computer
as an active, intelligent information device, used throughout daily
- Embedded CPU's in everything - microwave, cell phone, cash
register, car, atm, TV's, CAT scan, DNA and human genome, etc
- Smarter use of resources, greater connectivity, ready access to
-- Internet and WWW
enabling new modes of commerce
- Democritization of access to
- Greater individuation of
- Some have succeeded -
- Many have flared out -
Internet Crash of 2000-2001
- Liberation of Data -- Web allows
universal access to data
- Poor contries are put on a
level playing field, IF they
have internet connections
- Blogs -- anyone's ideas can
be sent to millions
3. Possible Dangers of an Information Society
- Runaway Complexity -- Systems are
becoming so complex, we cannot grasp them anymore.
- Example: Microsoft's
new operating system is called "Longhorn." Its ship date was originally
2004, but slipped to 2005 and then to 2006 and now possibly to 2007.
It is estimated that Longhorn will inolve about 75 million lines of computer code.
- Privacy and Security --
danger of loss of ownership of personal data
- Levels of Control of Data By an
Institution (store) --
No Use - Information is
destroyed once a store is done with it (when check has cleared)
Approval - Store can
further use data, but only if you approve
Objection - Store can
use data, will be blocked only
if you object
No Limits - Store can
use data any way it wants
is US? (Close to 4!)
New Zealand, Australia, Canada? (Close to 1!)
- Cookies -- When a
browser accesses a Web page, the Web server can request that your
browser store a small piece of information, called a cookie, on
machine. When you go to this Web page again, the Web
server can ask for this cookie and can use that cookie in processing.
- Example: Browser -
review cookies of instructor, many of these are set by web sites
instructor never visited!
- The information about your web visits can be legally shared
other web sites, without your knowledge.
- 2000 - Intuit was sued by users of its Quicken mortgage
software. Through cookies, private financial data was being disclosed
to mass advertiser Double-Click, data which included email
addresses, home value, etc.
- Government Access --
FBI "Carnivore" -- a software
program that monitors packets of data passing through an Internet
service provider's network. It can record information such as what Web
sites a user has visited,
cookies, time of searches, and log-on/log-off information.
- Carnivore was dropped by FBI in Jan 2005, switch to
commercial "sniffing" software.
- Digital Divide -- Access
to technology is not equal
- USA - Minorities and
the poor are much less likely to be connected to Internet
- WorldWide - wide
disparity in infrastructure, which creates imbalance, North vs South
- Trends? - Those
countries that make infrasturcture investment will succeed in new
- Intellectual Laziness or
Ignorance -- danger of losing base knowledge. If I can look it
up on the Internet, why learn it?
- Example: Calculators
(good or evil?) Do we see the calculator as a tool or as an authority
we trust without question? How do we know what it is telling us is
- The indiscriminate
use of new technology can have very negative side effects
4. Conclusion - Is IT Revolution Good or Bad?
- Optimist -- IT Revolution
will liberate humans from dull and boring work. We will have more time
creative activity and spiritual renewal. Broad access to information
will help bring about participatory democracy and a perfect economic
system. Technology will improve quality of life, e.g.,
through new medical uses of computer systems.
- Pessimist -- There really
is no fundamental change in society, only incremental difference.
Competition and the profit motive will only become more fierce.
There will be increasing intrusion into our private lives by
bureaucracy. This is the beginning of a new dark age for societies.