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Ethical and social issues in the information age
Kizza J., Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., Secaucus, NJ, 2002. 232 pp. Type: Book (9780387954219)
Date Reviewed: May 6 2003

This is a most unusual book on computer ethics. An example from the very first page serves to explain why this book is so unusual: did you know that the first prime numbers were recorded between 20,000 BC and 30,000 BC? This fascinating, but highly dubious, piece of information is provided by the author when discussing the history of technology leading up to the modern computer. I do not know exactly when prime numbers were invented or discovered, but it seems to me that prerequisite to the discovery of prime numbers would be the use of numbers, the use of integer division, and some rudimentary number theory. I am pretty sure that these advances did not exist ten to 20 millennia before the first cities. So I checked the source of this information, and found a reference to a Web site, which I then attempted to access. The page was not found, but through some diligence I managed to get on the parent Web site. The site belonged to a multimedia design company, and eventually I did find the dubious claim about prime numbers. But the experience set the tone for the entire book.

The author covers a great deal of territory in this book. There is historical information, a survey of ethical theories, treatment of some of the standard topics in computer ethics, and some fairly current information on laws, policies, and codes of ethics. As you read the book, however, you cannot help but think of the professor you once had, who came into class to talk about a specific topic, and digressed across the entire territory of human knowledge without ever making a single point. But, this may not be such a bad thing. Some of the competing books on computer ethics are a little too preachy. They make their points very clearly, but in doing so leave little room for challenges on the part of the reader or the student. This book is far more vulnerable to challenges and attacks. While I doubt that this was the intention of the author, it does make it attractive to someone who is looking for food for thought, rather than well-honed and well-supported arguments.

So, despite my initial encounter with that dubious claim regarding prime numbers in the ice age, I would still have to consider this book for use in a course on computer ethics. Even the casual reader might find this text thought provoking and entertaining.

Reviewer:  J. M. Artz Review #: CR127574 (0308-0764)
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