Edmund Berkeley and the Social Responsibility of Computer Professionals

Edmund Berkeley and the Social Responsibility of Computer Professionals

Bernadette Longo
ISBN: 9781970001365 | PDF ISBN: 9781970001372
Hardcover ISBN:9781970001396
Copyright © 2015 | 221 Pages | Publication Date: September, 2015

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Published by the Association for Computing Machinery and Morgan & Claypool.

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This book is the first full-length biography of Edmund Berkeley, a computer pioneer and social activist who has been called "the conscience of the computer industry." Through his work with other early computer developers, he became aware of the potential dangers of these machines to society at large. He believed that computer developers had an obligation to address the complex social problems facing a Cold War world; the threat of suicidal nuclear war and the ethics of computer professionals using their expertise to build self-guided weapons systems.

This is an historical narrative of a man ultimately in favor of engineering peace, instead of war, and how his career was ultimately damaged by politicians determined to portray him as a Communist sympathizer. Berkeley's life work provides a lens to understand social and political issues surrounding the early development of electronic computers which ties directly to current debates about the use of autonomous intelligent systems.

This entertaining biography offers a humanistic approach to understanding technology and society via the successes and trials of Edmund Berkeley, a founding member of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). Telling Berkeley's story provides a more nuanced and dimensional picture of how the computers we use today came into being and why we ask the questions we do about our relationships with them. It explores ways in which Berkeley's life illuminates issues we still deal with regarding the social responsibilities of computer developers and human-computer relationships.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Struggle of Ideas
Modern Methods of Thinking, 1927-1941
Navy Assignment at the Harvard Computational Lab, 1944-1946
Establishing Open Communication Channels for Technology Development, 1945-1948
Robots and Giant Brains, 1942-1961
National Security Investigations, 1948-1955
Engineering Peace, 1948-1970
A Denunciation of Killing Devices, 1952-1972
The Remaking of Man, 1973-1987

About the Author(s)

Bernadette Longo, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Bernadette Longo is an Associate Dean in the College of Science and Liberal Arts and an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Before joining the NJIT faculty in 2012, Dr. Longo taught for 11 years at the University of Minnesota. She earned her Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1996. Dr. Longo uses a cultural studies approach to investigate communication practices situated within particular contexts and mediated by technological devices. This cultural studies approach was exemplified in her first book Spurious Coin: A History of Science, Management, and Technical Writing. Her efforts were recognized in two 2006 co-edited collections, one of which won the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Best Edited Collection in Scientific and Technical Communication (Critical Power Tools: Technical Communication and Cultural Studies). Dr. Longo received a History Committee Fellowship from the Association for Computing Machinery in 2012 and is the 2014 recipient of the Emily Schlesinger Award in recognition of her service to the IEEE Professional Communication Society.

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