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Converging Technologies and Pervasive Computing


Converging Technologies and Pervasive Computing Cybertechnology is converging with non-cybertechnologies, including biotechnology and nanotechnology. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Converging Technologies and Pervasive Computing

Converging Technologies and Pervasive Computing
  • Cybertechnology is converging with
    non-cybertechnologies, including biotechnology
    and nanotechnology.
  • Cybertechnology is also becoming pervasive as
    computing devices now pervade our public and
    private spaces.
  • Pervasive computing and technological convergence
    are both facilitated by the miniaturization of
    computing devices.

Converging Technologies (Continued)
  • Computers are becoming less visible as distinct
    entities, as they
  • (a) continue to be miniaturized and integrated
    into ordinary objects,
  • (b) blend unobtrusively into our surroundings.
  • Cybertechnology is also becoming less
    distinguishable from other technologies as
    boundaries that have previously separated them
    begin to blur because of convergence.

Technological Convergence
  • Howard Rheingold (1992) notes that technological
    convergence occurs when
  • unrelated technologies or technological paths
    intersect or converge unexpectedly to create an
    entirely new field.
  • Convergence re cybertechnology is not new.
  • Rheingold notes that virtual-reality (VR)
    technology resulted from the convergence of video
    technology and computer hardware in the 1980s.

Technological Convergence (Continued)
  • Cybertechnologies are converging with
    non-cybertechnologies at an unprecedented pace.
  • Two areas involving convergence are
  • biotechnology and information technology
    (resulting in the field of bioinformatics)
  • nanotechnology and computing (giving rise to the
    field of nanocomputing).

Enabling Technologies
  • Rheingold notes that convergence often depends on
    enabling technologies, which he defines as
  • technologies that make other technologies
  • He points out that for VR, converging elements
    had to wait for the enabling technologies of
    electronic miniaturization, computer simulation,
    and computer graphics to mature in the 1980s.

Miniaturization and Embedded/ Integrated
Computing Devices
  • Technological convergence has been enabled by two
    key factors
  • (1) the miniaturization of computers and
    computing devices
  • (2) the embedding/integrating of computing
    devices into objects and environments.

Three Areas of Technological Convergence
Affecting Ethics
  • Three converging technologies that raise ethical
    concerns are
  • ambient intelligence (AmI)
  • the convergence of (a) pervasive computing,
    (b) ubiquitous communication, and (c) intelligent
    user interfaces
  • bioinformatics
  • nanocomputing.

Ambient Intelligence (AmI)
  • Ambient intelligence (or AmI) is defined as a
    technology that
  • enables people to live and work in environments
    that respond to them in intelligent ways (Aarts
    and Marzano, 2003 Brey, 2005 and Weber et al.,
  • Consider the example of the intelligent home
    (Raisinghani, et al., 2004) described in the text.

AmI (Continued)
  • Three key technological components make AmI
  • pervasive computing
  • ubiquitous communication
  • intelligent user interfaces (IUIs).

Pervasive Computing
  • According to the Centre for Pervasive Computing,
    pervasive computing is defined as
  • a computing environment where information and
    communication technology are everywhere, for
    everyone, at all times.
  • Computer technology is integrated in our
    environments i.e., from toys, milk cartons and
    desktops, to cars, factories, and whole city

Pervasive Computing (Continued)
  • Pervasive computing is made possible because of
    the increasing ease with which circuits can be
    embedded into objects, including wearable, even
    disposable items.
  • Bütschi, Courant, and Hilty (2005) note that
    computing has already begun to pervade many
    dimensions of our lives.
  • For example, it pervades the work sphere, cars,
    public transportation systems, the health sector,
    the market, and our homes.

Pervasive Computing (Continued)
  • Pervasive computing is sometimes also referred to
    as ubiquitous computing (or ubicomp).
  • Ubiquitous computing was coined by Mark Weiser
    (1991), who envisioned omnipresent computers
    that serve people in their everyday lives, both
    at home and at work.

Pervasive Computing (Continued)
  • Adam Greenfield (2005) believes that ubiquitous
    or pervasive computing will insinuate itself much
    more thoroughly into our day-to-day activities
    than current Internet- and Web-based
  • For pervasive computing to operate at its full
    potential, however, continuous and ubiquitous
    communication between devices is also needed.

Ubiquitous Communication
  • Ubiquitous communication aims at ensuring
    flexible and omnipresent communication between
    interlinked computer devices (Raisinghani et al.,
    2004) via
  • wireless local area networks (W-LANs),
  • wireless personal area networks (W-PANs),
  • wireless body area networks (W-BANs),
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

Intelligent User Interfaces (IUIs)
  • Intelligent User Interfaces (or IUIs) have been
    made possible by developments in the field of
    artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Philip Brey (2005) notes that IUIs go beyond
    traditional interfaces such as a keyboard, mouse,
    and monitor.

IUIs (Continued)
  • IUIs improve human interaction with technology by
    making it more intuitive and more efficient than
    was previously possible with traditional
  • With IUIs, computers can know and sense far
    more about a person than was possible with
    traditional interfaces, including information
    about that persons situation, context, or

IUIs (Continued)
  • With IUIs, AmI remains in the background and is
    virtually invisible to the user.
  • Brey notes that with IUIs, people can be
    surrounded with hundreds of intelligent networked
    computers that are aware of their presence,
    personality, and needs.
  • But users may not be aware of the existence of
    IUIs in their environments.

Ethical and Social Issues Affecting AmI
  • Three ethical and social issues affecting AmI
  • freedom and autonomy
  • technological dependency
  • privacy, surveillance, and the Panopticon.

Autonomy and Freedom Involving AmI
  • Will human autonomy and freedom be enhanced or
    diminished as a result of AmI technology?
  • AmIs supporters suggest humans will gain more
    control over the environments with which they
    interact because technology will be more
    responsive to their needs.
  • Brey notes a paradoxical aspect of this claim,
    pointing out that greater control is presumed
    to be gained through a delegation of control to

Autonomy and Freedom (Continued)
  • Brey considers three ways in which AmI may make
    the human environment more controllable, because
    it can
  • (1) become more responsive to the voluntary
    actions, intentions, and needs of users
  • (2) supply humans with detailed and personal
    information about their environment
  • (3) do what people want without having to engage
    in any cognitive or physical effort.

Autonomy and Freedom (Continued)
  • Brey also considers three ways that AmI can
    diminish the amount of control that humans have
    over their environments, where users may lose
    control because a smart object can
  • (1) make incorrect inferences about the user, the
    users actions, or the situation
  • (2) require corrective actions on the part of the
  • (3) represent the needs and interests of parties
    other than the user.

Technological Dependency
  • We have come to depend a great deal on
    cybertechnology in conducting many activities in
    our day-to-day lives.
  • In the future, will humans depend on the kind of
    smart objects and smart environments made
    possible by AmI technology in ways that exceed
    our current dependency on cybertechnology?

Technological Dependency (Continued)
  • IUIs could relieve us of
  • (a) having to worry about performing many of our
    routine day-to-day tasks, which can be considered
    tedious and boring, and
  • (b) much of the cognitive effort that has, in the
    past, enabled us to be fulfilled and to flourish
    as humans.

Technological Dependency (Continued)
  • What would happen to us if we were to lose some
    of our cognitive capacities because of an
    increased dependency on cybertechnology?
  • Review the futuristic scenario (in the textbook)
    described by E. M. Forster about what happens to
    a society when it becomes too dependent on

Privacy, Surveillance, and the Panopticon
  • Marc Langheinrich (2001) argues that with respect
    to privacy and surveillance, four features
    differentiate AmI from other kinds of computing
  • ubiquity,
  • invisibility,
  • sensing,
  • memory application.

Privacy, Surveillance, and the Panopticon
  • Langheinrich notes that because
  • (1) computing devices are ubiquitous or
    omnipresent in AmI environments, privacy threats
    are more pervasive in scope.
  • (2) computers are virtually invisible in AmI
    environments, it is likely that users will not
    always realize that computing devices are present
    and are being used to collect and disseminate
    personal data.

Privacy, Surveillance, and the Panopticon
  • Langheinrich also believes that AmI poses a more
    significant threat to privacy than earlier
    computing technologies because
  • Sensing devices associated with IUIs may become
    so sophisticated that they will be able to sense
    (private) human emotions like fear, stress, and
  • AmI has the unique potential to create a memory
    or life-log i.e., a complete record of
    someones past.

Surveillance and the Panopticon
  • Johann Cas (2004) notes that in AmI environments,
    no one can be sure that he or she is not being
  • An individual cannot be sure whether information
    about his or her presence at any location is
    being recorded.

Surveillance and the Panopticon (Continued)
  • Cas believes that the only realistic attitude is
    to assume that any activity (or inactivity) is
    being monitored and that this information may be
    used in any context in the future.
  • So, people in AmI environments are subject to a
    virtual panopticon.
  • Review the example of Benthams Inspection
    House (described in the textbook). Does it
    anticipate any threats posed by AmI?

Table 12-1 Ambient Intelligence
  • Bioinformatics is a branch of informatics.
  • Informatics involves the acquisition, storage,
    manipulation, analyses, transmission, sharing,
    visualization, and simulation of information on a
  • Bioinformatics is the application of the
    informatics model to the management of biological

Ethical Aspects of Bioinformatics
  • Three kinds of social and ethical concerns arise
    in bioinformatics research and development
  • Privacy and Confidentiality
  • Autonomy and Informed Consent
  • Information Ownership and Property Rights.

Privacy, Confidentiality, and the Role of Data
  • Review the deCODE Genetics case (described in the
  • Many individuals who donated DNA samples to
    deCODE had the expectation that their personal
    genetic data was
  • confidential information,
  • protected by the companys privacy policies and
    by privacy laws.

Privacy, Confidentiality, and the Role of Data
Mining (Continued)
  • Anton Vedder (2004) notes that privacy protection
    that applies to personal information about
    individuals does not necessarily apply to that
    information once it is
  • aggregated, and
  • crossed referenced with other information (via
    data mining).

Privacy, Confidentiality, and Data Mining
  • Research subjects could be denied employment,
    health insurance, or life insurance based on the
    results of data-mining technology used in genetic
  • For example, a person could end up in a risky
    category based on arbitrary associations and
    correlations that link trivial non-genetic
    information with sensitive information about
    ones genetic data.

Privacy, Confidentiality, and Data Mining
  • Individuals who eventually become identified or
    associated with newly-created groups may have no
    knowledge that the groups to which they have been
    assigned actually exist.
  • These people may also have no chance to correct
    any inaccuracies or errors that could result from
    their association with that group.

Autonomy and Informed Consent
  • The process of informed consent used in getting
    permissions from human research subjects who
    participate in genetic studies that use data
    mining is controversial.
  • In the deCODE case, did the genetic information
    acquired from informed volunteers meet the
    required conditions for valid informed consent?

Autonomy and Informed Consent (Continued)
  • According to the Office of Technology Assessment
    (OTA) Report, entitled Protecting Privacy in
    Computerized Medical Information, individuals
  • (i) have adequate disclosure of information about
    the data dissemination process
  • (ii) be able to fully comprehend what they are
    being told about the procedure or treatment.

Autonomy and Informed Consent (Continued)
  • Because of the way data-mining technology can
    manipulate personal information that is
    authorized for use in one context only, the
    process of informed consent is opaque.
  • The conditions required for valid informed
    consent are difficult, if not impossible, to
    achieve in cases that involve secondary uses of
    personal genetic information.
  • So, it is not clear that these research subjects
    have full autonomy.

Intellectual Property Rights and Ownership Issues
  • Consider that deCODE Genetics was given exclusive
    rights (for 12 years) to the information included
    in the Icelandic health-records database.
  • This raises property-rights issues that also
    affect who should (and should not) have access to
    the information in that database.

Intellectual Property Rights and Ownership Issues
  • Who should own the personal genetic information
    in deCODEs database?
  • Should deCODE have exclusive ownership rights to
    all of the personal genetic information that
    resides in its databases?
  • Should individuals retain (at least) some rights
    over their personal genetic data when it is
    stored in a privately owned database?

Intellectual Property Rights and Ownership Issues
  • Have individuals that donated their DNA samples
    to deCODE necessarily lost all rights to their
    personal genetic data, once it was stored in that
    companys databases?
  • Should deCODE hold rights to this data in
    perpetuity, and should deCODE be permitted to do
    whatever it wishes with that data?

Intellectual Property Rights and Ownership Issues
  • Why are questions involving the ownership of
    personal genetic information stored in commercial
    databases so controversial from an ethical point
    of view?
  • Recall our discussion in Chapter 5 of a
    commercial database containing personal
    information about customers that was owned by, a now defunct on-line business.

Table 12-2 Ethical Issues Associated with
Ethical Guidelines and Legislation for Genetic
  • ELSI (Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications)
    Guidelines have been established for
    federally-funded genomics research.
  • ELSI requirements do not apply to genomics
    research in the commercial sector.

Ethical Guidelines and Legislation (Continued)
  • Some genetic-specific privacy laws and policies
    have been passed in response to concerns about
    potential misuses of personal genetic data.
  • In the U.S., laws affecting genetics have been
    enacted primarily at the state level.

Ethical Guidelines and Legislation (Continued)
  • No U.S. federal laws protect personal genetic
    data per se.
  • The Health Insurance Portability and
    Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides broad
    protection for personal medical information.
  • HIPAA protects the privacy of individually
    identifiable health information from
    inappropriate use and disclosure.

Ethical Guidelines and Legislation (Continued)
  • Critics worry that HIPAA does not provide any
    special privacy protection for personal genetic
  • It is not clear that HIPAA adequately addresses
    concerns affecting nonconsensual secondary uses
    of personal medical and genetic information
    (Baumer, Earp, and Payton, 2006).

  • Rosalyn Berne (2005) defines nanotechnology as
  • the study, design, and manipulation of
    natural phenomena, artificial phenomena, and
    technological phenomena at the nanometer level.
  • K. Eric Drexler, who coined the term
    nanotechnology in the 1980s, describes the field
  • a branch of engineering dedicated to the
    development of extremely small electronic
    circuits and mechanical devices built at the
    molecular level of matter.

Nanotechnology and Nanocomputing
  • Drexler (1991) predicted that developments in
    nanotechnology will result in computers at the
    nano-scale, no bigger in size than bacteria,
    called nanocomputers.
  • Nanocomputers can be designed using various types
    of architectures.
  • An electronic nanocomputer would operate in a
    manner similar to present-day computers,
    differing primarily in terms of size and scale.

Nanotechnology and Nanocomputers (continued)
  • To appreciate the scale of future nanocomputers,
    imagine a mechanical or electronic device whose
    dimensions are measured in nanometers (billionths
    of a meter, or units of 10-9 meter).
  • Ralph Merkle (2001) predicts that nano-scale
    computers will be able to deliver a billion
    billion instructions per second i.e., a billion
    times faster than todays desktop computers.

Nanotechnology and Nanocomputing (continued)
  • Although still in its early stages of
    development, some primitive nanocomputing devices
    have already been tested.
  • At Hewlett Packard, computer memory devices with
    eight platinum wires that are 40 nanometers wide
    on a silicon wafer have been developed.
  • James Moor and John Weckert (2004) note that it
    would take more than one thousand of these chips
    to be the width of a human hair.

Optimistic View of Nanotechnology
  • Bert Gordijn (2003) considers a utopian dream,
    where nanotechnology would
  • be self-sufficient and dirt free
  • create unprecedented objects and materials
  • enable the production of inexpensive high quality
  • be used to fabricate food rather than having to
    grow it
  • provide low priced and superior equipment for
  • enable us to enhance our human capabilities and

Pros of Nanotechnology
  • Nanites could be used to clean up toxic spills
    and to eliminate other kinds of environmental
  • Nanites could also dismantle or "disassemble"
    garbage at the molecular level and recycle it
    again as food.

Pros of Nanotechnology (continued)
  • Nano-particles inserted into bodies could
    diagnose diseases and directly treat diseased
  • Doctors could use nanites to make microscopic
    repairs on areas of the body that are difficult
    to operate on with conventional surgical tools.
  • With nanotechnology tools, the life signs of a
    patient could be better monitored.

Pessimistic View of Nanotechnology
  • Gordign also considers the pessimistic view,
    where nanotechnology developments could result
  • severe economic disruption
  • premeditated misuse in warfare and terrorism
  • surveillance with nano-level tracking devices
  • extensive environmental damage
  • uncontrolled self replication (sometimes referred
    to as the grey goo scenario)
  • misuse by criminals and terrorists (sometimes
    referred to as the black goo scenario).

Cons of Nanotechnology
  • All matter (objects and organisms) could
    theoretically be disassembled and reassembled by
    nanite assemblers and disassemblers.
  • Since nanites could be created to be
    self-replicating, what would happen if strict
    "limiting mechanisms" were not built into them?
  • Theoretically, they could multiply endlessly like

Cons of Nanotechnology (Continued)
  • Our movements could be tracked so easily by
    others via nanoscopic devices such as molecular
    sized microphones, cameras, and homing beacons.
  • Our privacy and freedom could be further eroded
    because governments, businesses, and ordinary
    people could use these devices to monitor us.

Cons of Nanotechnology (continued)
  • Nanite assemblers and disassemblers could be used
    to create weapons.
  • Nanites themselves could be used as weapons.
  • Andrew Chen (2002) notes that guns, explosives,
    and electronic components of weapons could all be

Nanoethics Identifying and Analyzing Ethical
Issues in Nanotechnology
  • Moor and Weckert (2004) believe that assessing
    ethical issues that arise at the nano-scale is
    important because of the kinds of policy
    vacuums that are raised.
  • They do not argue that a separate field of
    applied ethics called nanoethics is necessary.
  • But they make a strong case for why an analysis
    of ethical issues at the nano-level is now

Nanoethics (Continued)
  • Moor and Weckert identify three distinct kinds of
    ethical concerns at the nano-level that warrant
  • privacy and control
  • longevity
  • runaway nanobots.

Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology Privacy Issues
  • We will be able to construct nano-scale
    information gathering systems.
  • It will become extremely easy to put a nano-scale
    transmitter in a room, or onto someones
  • Individuals may have no idea that these devices
    are present or that they are being monitored and
    tracked by them.

Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology Longevity
  • Moor and Weckert note that while many see
    longevity as a good thing, there could also be
    negative consequences.
  • There could be a population problem if the life
    expectancy of individuals were to change

Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology Longevity
Issues (Continued)
  • If fewer children are born relative to adults,
    there could be a concern about the lack of new
    ideas and new blood.
  • Also, questions could arise with regard to how
    many family sets couples, whose lives could be
    extended significantly, would be allowed to have
    during their expanded lifetime.

Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology Runaway
  • Moor and Weckert note that when nanobots work to
    our benefit, they build what we desire.
  • But when nanobots work incorrectly, they can
    build what we dont want.
  • The replication of these bots could get out of

Should Computer Scientists Participate in
Nanocomputing Research/Development?
  • Joseph Weizenbaum (1984) argues that computer
    science research that can have irreversible and
    not entirely unforeseeable side effects should
    not be undertaken.
  • Bill Joy (2000) argues that because developments
    in nanocomputing are threatening to make us an
    endangered species, the only realistic
    alternative is to limit its development.

Future Nanotechnology Research (Continued)
  • Ralph Merkle (2001) argues that if research in
    nanotechnology is prohibited, or even restricted,
    it will be done underground.
  • If this happens, nano research would not be
    regulated by governments and by professional
    agencies concerned with social responsibility.

Should Research Continue in Nanotechnology?
  • John Weckert (2006) argues that potential
    disadvantages that can result from research in a
    particular field are not in themselves sufficient
    grounds for halting research.
  • He suggests that there should be a presumption in
    favor of freedom in research.
  • But Weckert also argues that it should be
    permissible to restrict or even forbid research
    where it can be clearly shown that harm is more
    likely than not to result from that research.

Assessing Nanotechnology Risks Applying the
Precautionary Principle
  • Questions about how best to proceed in scientific
    research when there are concerns about harm to
    the public good are often examined via the
    precautionary principle.
  • Weckert and Moor (2004) define the precautionary
    principle in the following way
  • If some action has a possibility of causing
    harm, then that action should not be undertaken
    or some measure should be put in its place to
    minimize or eliminate the potential harms.

The Precautionary Principle (Continued)
  • Weckert offers the following strategy
  • If a prima facie case can be made that some
    research will likely cause harm...then the burden
    of proof should be on those who want the research
    carried out to show that it is safe.
  • He also says that there should be
  • ...a presumption in favour of freedom until
    such time a prima facie case is made that the
    research is dangerous. The burden of proof then
    shifts from those opposing the research to those
    supporting it. At that stage the research should
    not begin or be continued until a good case can
    be made that it is safe.

Nanotechnology and the Precautionary Principle
  • Weckert and Moor believe that when the
    precautionary principle is applied to questions
    about nanotechnology research and development, it
    needs to be analyzed in terms of three different
    categories of harm
  • direct harm,
  • harm by misuse,
  • harm by mistake or accident.
  • The kinds of risks involved in each differs.

The Need for Clear Ethical Guidelines for
Nanocomputing and Nanotechnology
  • Ray Kurzweill (2005) has suggested that an
    ELSI-like model should be developed and used to
    guide researchers working in nanotechnology.
  • Many consider the ELSI framework to be an ideal
    model because it is a proactive ethics

The Need for Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • In most scientific research areas, ethics has had
    to play catch up, because guidelines were
    developed in response to cases where serious harm
    had already resulted.
  • Prior to the ELSI Program, ethics was typically
    reactive in the sense that it has followed
    scientific developments rather than informing
    scientific research.

Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • Moor and Weckert (2004) are critical of the ELSI
    model because it employs a scheme that they call
    an ethics-first framework.
  • This kind of framework has problems because it
    depends on a factual determination of the
    specific harms and benefits of a technology
    before an ethical assessment can be done.
  • In the case of nanotechnology, it is very
    difficult to know what the future will be.

Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • If we developed an ELSI-like ethics model, it
    might seem appropriate to put a moratorium on
    nanotechnology research until we get all of the
  • Moor and Weckert argue that while a moratorium
    would halt technology developments, it will not
    advance ethics in the area of nanotechnology.

Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • Moor and Weckert also argue that turning back to
    an ethics-last model is not desirable either.
  • They note that once a technology is in place,
    much unnecessary harm may already have occurred.
  • So, for Moor and Weckert, neither an ethics-first
    nor an ethics-last model is satisfactory for

Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • Moor and Weckert argue that ethics is something
    that needs to be done continually as
  • technology develops, and
  • its potential consequences become better
  • They also point out that ethics is dynamic in
    that the factual component on which it relies has
    to be continually updated.

Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • Thus far, nanotechnology guidelines in the
    private sector have been implemented by the
    Foresight Institute.
  • The U.S. Government has created the National
    Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) to monitor and
    guide federally-funded research in

Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • Some worry that conflicts of interest involving
    the military and national defense initiatives can
    easily arise.
  • Much of the funding for nanotechnology research
    has come from government agencies, including the
  • National Science Foundation (NSF),
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • Andrew Chen (2002) believes that in addition to
    NSF and DARPA, other stakeholders include
  • researchers (independent and privately-funded),
  • nanotechnology users,
  • potentially everyone (since all of us will
    eventually be affected by developments in

Ethical Guidelines (Continued)
  • Chen proposes that a non-government advisory
    council be formed to
  • monitor the research, and
  • help formulate a broader set of ethical
    guidelines and policies.
  • The ethical guidelines would need to be
    continually updated in light of ongoing
    developments in nanotechnology.