Some thoughts about the social implications of accessible computing

In this report, I examine the article, ‘Some thoughts about social implications of accessible computing’, (David and Fano 1965) to see whether the technology has evolved as they predicted.

I will be looking at
The ‘complexity’ of handling expert systems such as MYCIN and the tax
system in the United states of America.The role of the Internet in information management The threat to our privacy occasioned by the utilization of social networks and other databases, and how we should conduct transactions on line.
Computing in the next 50 years.

A handle on complexity

David and Fano saw that application of a computer program, to assist the laborious American tax system as desirable. . “One can conceive also of having the program approved by the Inland Revenue Service so that no question would exist about its correct interpretation of the law” (David and Fano circa 1965) What they were suggesting was an ‘expert system’. According to the website,, an expert system is “A system [that] helps the user make decisions by asking questions and then, based on the user’s answers and the knowledge that it holds, offering advice.” Another website, Webopedia qualifies an expert system as “part of a general category of computer applications known as artificial intelligence. Adding, “To design an expert system, one needs a knowledge engineer, an individual who studies how human experts make decisions and translates the rules into terms that a computer can understand.

MYCIN was one of the earliest expert systems to be developed in the 1970s at Stanford University used to “identify bacteria causing infections, such as bacteraemia and meningitis, and to recommend antibiotics, with dosage adjusted for patients’ body weight….The Mycin system was also used for diagnosis of blood clotting diseases” Modern day expert systems differ from Mycin in that they are no only used in the medical profession but are also in agriculture, education, environmental management, geographic information systems “They are also used in engineering and manufacture in the control of robots where they inter-relate with vision systems.

The tax system described in David and Fano’s article, if it were a reality, would be described as an expert system.


The authors at the time of writing remarked, “Information has the unfortunate habit of most often being outdated, hard to locate, and recorded in a form poorly suited to one’s needs.” Fast-forward to 2011, and the emergence of the information super highway or the worldwide web the reverse is true with an information over load. To some extent, information found on the internet is outdated, as not all sites regularly update their content. Site such as Wikipedia, are of a dubious nature, because it is edited by its users. Generally, information found on the web is well presented. with the introduction of web 2.0 in 2004 much more interactivity with the website afforded much more functionality and graphic displays. Web 2.0 has made it possible for social networking, blogs, video sharing, and web applications etc where information is shared and exchanged. However, plagiarism is rife on the internet as some authors simply cut and paste indiscriminately when writing copy for the web.


Three organisations in this country that, in my opinion being used as, “…the equivalent of safe deposit boxes for private information.” according to the vision of David and Fano are:

Driver and Vehicle Licensing agency (DVLA).

This organisation hold records of the year of manufacture; date of first registration; engine capacity; colour; expiry date of the current tax disc or SORN declaration; vehicle excise duty rate. ( The site also keeps a record of the start and expiry date of licence holders and their addresses and contact details of every vehicle in the UK among other data.

Office for National Statistics

This organisations holds data on a wide range of categories including how much we earn,; economic indicators and other social indicators; employment, gross domestic product and population figures; retail sales, education and census results.

The Police

The police hold large databases on citizens in order to carry out law enforcement activities. Crimint is one such database that is run by the Metropolitan Police Service of Greater London, which holds information on criminals and suspected criminals and other intelligence. “As of 2005 it contained seven million information reports and 250,000 intelligence records in its database.” (wikipedia)

The collection of personal information, however, is a matter of concern in regards to the privacy for the individual. For instance, sensitive information falling into criminal hands. There is also the problem of identity theft and the loss of information due to mechanical or human error. All three concerns above are problems associated with data collection in the modern world.

The Cult of Impersonality

Some of the modern day security concerns are using your credit card to make transactions online. Three of the precautions that you should take when doing so are according to M150, Unit 14 are;

1.Ensure that the site uses secure technology such as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Verisign.
Do not send your credit card details by email
Keep a record of all transactions either as a print out or on your hard disk and keep in a secure location.

Computing in the future

Technology will be at the centre of education and communication between teacher, parent and student. In the next 50 years the use of paper books will be a thing of a bye-gone age. In its place will be the Ipad or tablet. The learning of Information Technology and computing will be integrated into every subject. It will be commonplace for assignments to be requests for students to create computer solutions, create software, apps and other hard ware gizmos.

Parents will know where their children are by the insemination of RFID tags …“planted under the skin” Making all this possible will be the advancement in radio frequency identification (RFID) and intel chip technology.

(996 words)

David .E. E and Fano RM (1965) Some thoughts about social implication of accessible computing’, [online] (Accessed April 24, 2011) (Accessed April 24, 2011) (Accessed April 24, 2011) (Accessed April 24, 2011)

Wai Kiong Siew , Abd. Latif B. Abdul Rahman, Mohd Fairuz Zaiyadi, Azwan Abd Aziz Expert System in Real World Applications [online] (Accessed April 24, 2011 (Accessed April 24, 2011) (Accessed April 24, 2011) (Accessed April 27, 2011)

Wikipedia (2013) (Accessed April 27, 2011)

The Open University(2005) M150 Data, Computing and Information, Unit 14, Hiding Data: an introduction to security, Milton Keynes, The Open University

RFID and Healthcare: is tagging good for health? (Accessed April 28, 2011)


Web 2.0 Summit 2011: The Data Frame (Accessed, April 26 2011)

What is Web 2.0, KyrninJ,(Accessed april 26, 2011) (Accessed April 27, 2011) (Accessed April 27, 2011) (Accessed April 27, 2011) (Accessed April 28, 2011)

The iPad is like holding the future. But only because I graduated from iPhone school, sieglar MG, Anuary 27, 2010, (Accessed April 28, 2011)

The device that does it all now does even more (Accessed April 28, 2011)