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TagKarl D. Stephan

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Social media concept.

Should Kids Under 16 Be Banned From Social Media?

An internal study by Instagram found that using the platform made fully one-third of teenage girls feel worse — but they couldn’t stop

(This article by Texas State University engineering prof Karl D. Stephan originally appeared at Engineering Ethics Blog (June 20, 2022) under the title “Social Media: For adults only?” and is reprinted with permission.) Writing in National Review, cultural critic Christine Rosen recently proposed a total ban on social media for everyone under the age of 16.  One can imagine all sorts of problems with this idea, ranging from enforcement issues to what it would be like living in a country where nearly all the teenagers start screaming at the same time.  But let’s step back from the immediate issues and effects, and ask what the ethics of such a ban would be.  Rosen cites a number of other things that we don’t let…

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new life, 2d echo

How a Theory of the Soul Drives Abortion Activism

Descartes’ theory that the soul and the body are utterly distinct, while mostly rejected in philosophy, is still part of popular culture

Every now and then, it’s useful to look at the philosophical underpinnings of current thought and what implications they have for engineering ethics. In a recent post on the website of the journal First Things, professor of biblical and religious studies Carl Trueman noted that Cartesian dualism — a way of looking at the human person promulgated by René Descartes (1596-1650) — is enjoying a comeback in the popular mind, although modern philosophy has long since discarded it as an inadequate model. (This article by Karl D. Stephan originally appeared at Engineering Ethics Blog (October 11, 2021) under the title “Against Cartesian Dualism,” and is reprinted with permission.) If you know anything about Descartes, you will probably recall his most famous saying: “I think,…

block users
Hand adding a new team member to a group. Business management concept

Can Texas Win Its Fight With Big Social Media Censorship?

Engineering prof Karl D. Stephan notes that, currently, if a user is de-platformed from a large site such as Facebook, there are, famously, not a lot of alternatives

(This article by Karl D. Stephan originally appeared at Engineering Ethics Blog September 27, 2021, and is reprinted with permission.) On September 9, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 20, a law designed to keep social media companies with more than 50 million subscribers from blocking users whose viewpoints the company disapproves of. Scheduled to take effect in December, the law has already attracted controversy and threats of lawsuits to keep it from going into effect. Currently, if a user is de-platformed from a large site such as Facebook, there are not a lot of alternatives. The overarching law in the US pertaining to such situations is Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which prevails if there is a conflict between…

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Frozen British traditional post office mailbox

Who Will Your Boss Believe? You or That Glitzy New Computer?

In the largest miscarriage of justice in decades, the British Post Office chose to believe the computer, resulting in bankruptcies, jail, and suicide. At last the truth emerged…

Texas State professor of electrical engineering Karl Stephan (pictured) has the story, reprinted with permission from his blog Engineering Ethics. Dr. Stephan is the author of Ethical and Otherwise: Engineering in the Headlines, a collection of his writings on ethics and technology: Suppose you enjoy a secure government job at which you work diligently, and you have advanced to the managerial position of a sub-postmaster in Post Office Ltd, the quasi-public organisation that provides postal services in most of the UK.  Then your organisation installs a new computerised system called Horizon that promises to eliminate a lot of paperwork accounting and make things easier for everybody.  But soon after it is installed, you find that your accounts are not matching up with…

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Social media concept.

Fallout From Facebook’s Huge Privacy Hack: A Serious Unfriending

The Big Hack in April, in which even Mark Zuckerberg’s data got scraped, was hardly the first one Facebook faced

We’ll let engineering prof Karl Stephan start the story, comparing Facebook to God: For purposes of discussion, we will compare Facebook to the traditional Judeo-Christian God of the Old and New Testaments. And we will restrict the comparison primarily to two matters: communication and trust (or faith). Users of Facebook communicate with that entity by entering personal information into Facebook’s system. That act of communication is accompanied by a certain level of trust, or faith. Facebook promises to safeguard one’s information and not to reveal it to anyone else without your permission… Karl D. Stephan, “In Facebook we trust” at MercatorNet Safeguard the information? As recent news reports revealed, a month ago today, a hacker released roughly 533 million users’…

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Cell phone addiction.

Getting Used to Liquid Modernity

The only constant of liquid modernity is change, chiefly of the self, but also of the self's surroundings

(Reprinted with permission from the Engineering Ethics Blog of Karl Stephan (pictured) of the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University) I do not own a conventional smart phone.  Instead, I intentionally use a style of flip phone whose rugged case and physical numeric keypad buttons won’t be injured by a drop of three or four feet to a concrete surface.  It can receive some texts on its small screen, and I can even send texts after a fashion with the twelve numeric keys, tapping them rapidly one to four times to select the correct letter or punctuation mark.  It won’t do capitals, but you can read texts from me without capitals and still get the message.  It took me a while to…

Three managers in city, social network

Should Engineers Think Like Computers?

To limit ourselves to the symbolic logic that computers can do is to leave our humanity behind
Symbolic logic says nothing about the truth or reality of what you give it. To understand what things really are, you have to get outside the pristine mathematical structure of symbolic logic and embrace what Prof. Kreeft calls Socratic logic. Read More ›
Biometric facial recognition on smartphone. Unlock smartphone as it scans his face.

Will AI Liberate or Enslave Developing Countries?

Perhaps that depends on who gets there first with the technology
Karl D. Stephan: Zimbabwe, an African country well-known for its human-rights abuses, has received advanced Chinese AI technology from a startup company in exchange for letting the firm have access to the country’s facial-recognition database. So China is helping the government of Zimbabwe to keep tabs on its citizens as well. Read More ›