Towards a Computer Science That Addresses its Negative Impacts on Society

The ACM Future of Computing Academy (FCA) recently published a proposal that made some waves among computer science researchers. Put simply, the proposal argued that we computer scientists need to do a much better job at confronting and addressing the negative impacts of our innovations (e.g. erosion of privacy, threats to democracy, automation’s effect on unemployment). To achieve this goal, the proposal outlined a specific set of recommendations. These include:

  1. Incentivizing computer scientists to confront the negative impacts of their research by using the ‘publish or perish‘ power of the peer review process. Research papers that do not discuss the potential negative impacts of their scientific contributions will not be accepted into prominent publications until they do.
  2. In addition to disclosing potential negative impacts, researchers will be encouraged to discuss ways to reduce these impacts. This might include follow-up research or suggestions for improved government regulations.

The proposal was designed to start a discussion and it definitely accomplished that objective! The team behind the proposal is now working to advance the conversation and move towards action. Our goal: To bend the arc of computer science towards innovation with clearer and more broadly-shared benefits.

If you would like to stay on top of the developments in this area – or would like to get involved yourself! – please add your information below.

 

 

Posted by Brent Hecht

About the ACM Future of Computing Academy: The Future of Computing Academy (FCA) is a global professional society for early-career researchers and practitioners in computing. We’re a competitively-selected organization within ACM, the world’s largest computing professional society (and the facilitator of the Turing Award, the “Nobel Prize” of computer science). ACM has given the FCA a mandate that is both high-stakes and open-ended: the FCA has “the privilege and responsibility to become the voice of the future of the computing field at large and of ACM specifically.” To action this mandate, the FCA has developed the mission of “improving (1) computing, (2) the computing community, and (3) computing’s role in society.”