Skip to content

News detailed view

Computer scientist at the University of Bremen proposes to identify and eliminate negative "side effects" of computer science

Every field of science faces serious questions at some point about the positive and negative effects of its further development.

Every field of science faces serious questions at some point about the positive and negative effects of its further development. Chemistry has faced difficult questions related to advances in dynamite or toxic gases. Physics developed atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ushered in an era of uncertainty about the future use of such weapons.

Recent developments in computer science show how they can also be manipulated for ethically dubious purposes, and often place computer science directly in the crosshairs of public criticism. In fact, questions about autonomous vehicles and privacy of personal data in social media are often the focus of public discussion.

At the first meeting of the ACM "Future of Computing Academy" (FCA), an association of young computer scientists from all over the world, in June 2017, many participants agreed that it was time for computer science to do more.

As a result, the FCA has highlighted the issue in a blog post entitled "It's Time to Do Something: Mitigating the Negative Impacts of Computing Through a Change to the Peer Review Process". Johannes Schöning, Professor of Human-Machine Interaction at our department, is a founding member of FCA and co-author of the article.

https://acm-fca.org/2018/03/29/negativeimpacts/

During the discussion, which lasted several months, the idea arose that considerable progress could be made by using the peer review process to "bridge the gap between the real impact of computer research and the positivity with which we see our work in the computer community. The magnitude of this error is truly enormous: it is analogous to the medical community that only writes about the benefits of a particular treatment and completely ignores the side effects, no matter how serious they are," said Schöning.

The article was also discussed in the online presence of the journal Nature:

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05791-w?error=cookies_not_supported&code=6329b78b-73f5-4a13-b7b3-13e0806d1dcb