1. Dealing with users
  2. Ethical dilemma
  3. Impact on the greater society

People are generally fearful and distrustful of change. Change that involve new and complex technologies are especially stressful, particularly to older and less educated workers. They are fearful of losing their jobs, of losing control to machines, and of becoming useless. Systems analysts, software engineers, and system designers need to be aware of these fears and need to directly address these fears in an honest and forthright manner, both to enhance the probability that the new system will contain the accumulated knowledge of these workers and will be used and to acknowledge their individual worth.

In addition, a major reason that management support the use of technology is to improve productivity, which in many instances mean the elimination (or radical redesign) of jobs. In such a project, the designer of the new system can feel torn between their obligation to their employer to meet the specifications of the project and their obligations to fellow co-workers (and possibly friends) and to the needs of society. Problems can arise from projects that either will result in reduced employment or will result in the need for workers with vastly different skill sets than that possessed by the present work force.

Lastly, there is the broader issue of the impact that technology (and computers in particular) will have on the work place and on the greater society. Questions to be addressed here include:

  1. Has the use of computers reduced the need for employees?
  2. Has the use of computer created new jobs?
  3. What are the new skills that these new jobs require and how are the workers displaced to acquire these skills?
  4. What impact has the use of computers had on the work environment? (Has the computer made the job more interesting and easier to do, or has the computer made the job more repetitive and less interesting?)
  5. What are the legal and ethical obligations of an employer to workers displaced by technology?
  6. What impact has the use of computers had on the service provided to the public?

The following case studies and readings can be used to inform students and to promote discussion on these issues. The above five questions can be used to evaluate the impact of both a particular project and the accumulative effect of the use of computers.

Here is a list of activities that can be used with students to raise their awareness of these issues:

The above activities accompany the following chapters in these computer and ethics texts. One can also find additional information on these topics in these chapters.