17-290 / 19-211 Computers and Society

Homework 1 - due January 25, 2007

Reading assignment:
Quinn 1, 2, Appendix A
Why Are You Stealing That Software

1. Keep a diary of all the different kinds of interactions you have this week that involve computers. (For example, class registration system, cash machine, supermarket checkout, instant messaging, etc.)

A. Provide a list of the different kinds of interactions you noted in your diary. Annotate each interaction to indicate whether it primarily involved business (or educational) computers or home (or other personal) computers.
B. Imagine that the interactions you listed in parts A took place without computers. Describe a few of the most significant changes to the way these interactions would take place without computers. Be sure to describe any interactions that would be unlikely to take place at all without computers.

2. In his essay "Why Are You Stealing That Software: Piracy in South East Asia" (Ubiquity, Volume 5, Issue 20, July 14 - 20, 2004), Louis Jezsik explains why South East Asian governments are not making a serious effort to stop software piracy:

Suppose a third world nation was able to totally eliminate counterfeit software. The only people able to afford [to pay for legal software] would be the upper class and businesses. If you want to work in an office, you need to know how to use software. If you are lucky enough to own a computer, you probably can't afford to load it with software. Companies looking for new talent will have to contend with candidates with little or know software experience, thus reducing their effectiveness and their competitiveness in a global market.

Under which ethical theory might this explanation be used to argue that software piracy is ethical in third world countries? Briefly explain the argument.

3. What criticisms might be raised about the argument you made in question 2? Use a different ethical theory to argue that software piracy is not ethical, even in third world countries. (Be sure to identify which ethical theory you are using.)

4. Jezsik writes, "Singaporeans can well afford to pay the full price for software. They have a standard of living on par with the USA and Europe. Interestingly many of the tourists buying CD's [sic] in Malaysia and Thailand come from Singapore." Is it ethical for Singaporean tourists to buy pirated software or CDs in Malaysia? Argue your position using one of the ethical theories discussed in Quinn Chapter 2. (Be sure to identify which ethical theory you are using.)

Questions 2, 3, and 4 will be the topic of our class debate #1 on January 25. Students will be assigned to argue for and against the statement: Software piracy is ethical in third world countries. Debate assignments will be made in class on January 18.

Do not use unworkable ethical theories in your answers to any of these homework questions!