posted Aug 01, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for Smart messages. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

And now the flip side of the patent debate: While software may be expression, it is undeniable that it can still perform real work, both in the digital domain and even in the physical domain, with the help of robots. In fact, any manipulation of information, and theoretically any manipulation of matter, can be described as a program running on the right hardware. Yet this software is still just communication, no matter what actions it can take. Along with the enumeration of all the differences between static and dynamic expressions I just took you through, dynamic expressions can do anything you can imagine.

Dynamic expressions (software) can and have directly killed people before; for example, see this list of injuries caused by software. For an example of several actual deaths, see entry 32, which was the focus of the now-classic paper (at least in software engineering circles) "An Investigation of the Therac-25 Accidents". (It reads more like a 60 Minutes special than a software engineering paper.) I daresay no novel has ever killed anyone directly, though the book it was contained in might have harmed someone.

How can the old framework hope to keep up with such a different beast?

 

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