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The error of futurism: prediction and computer ethics
Horner D. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society32 (7):42004.Type:Article
Date Reviewed: Apr 30 2004

Computer ethics seeks to reduce the unintended or undesirable consequences of technology through accurate prediction. In this paper, Horner argues that predictive modeling does not provide any protection against future risk. Rather, he argues that the current belief in our ability to predict the future is unfounded and based on poor logic. Horner argues that society has developed an unacceptable belief that prediction can solve future problems. He believes that there are epistemological and logical limits to our ability to know the future.

According to Horner, our society has progressed from being an industrial society to one concerned with risk mitigation. We are now a “risk society,” and we seek to limit and mitigate the level of risk or exposure through predictive models and the development of statistical risk determination. Horner argues that this is epistemologically impossible. He supports his arguments with three illustrations: information effects, Oedipus effects, and revenge effects. Information effects are based on chaos theory, discontinuity, and unpredictable change. Oedipus effects are based on the concept of self-fulfilling prophecies. Revenge effects are the unintended and unpredictable side effects of technological innovation.

The author presents his argument in a scholarly fashion, and supports his thesis with solid references from an academic body of knowledge that encompasses modeling, futurism theory, economics, chaos theory, and information security. Drawing from a broad base of disciplines lends additional support for his arguments.

The length of the paper is appropriate for the material presented. The references cited for this research are generally current, and reflect a wide range of inquiry.

Overall, this work represents good scholarship, and presents some leading-edge thinking into the value of modeling and simulation. Horner’s arguments are credible, and certainly will stimulate further investigation.

Reviewer:  Dr. Roxanne B. Everetts Review #: CR129528 (0410-1261)
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  Reviewer Selected
Ethics (K.4.1 ... )
Sociology (J.4 ... )
Model Development (I.6.5 )
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