12. Impacts of Computing

Computing has fundamentally reshaped society, particularly in recent decades as computing devices have become ubiquitous and the Internet has connected all of those devices.

These changes wrought by computing have had effects on society and individuals both positive and negative. This is the nature of tools—almost every invention can be put to use for good or evil. Even if we all agreed on which uses of a technology were positive and which were negative (which we often don’t), avoiding the negative consequences of a technology can be challenging. Sometimes trying to prevent misuse of technology is impossible without preventing any use of it. Sometimes the negative effects are side effects of the positive uses of a technology—a necessary cost of getting some benefit.

Given this, it is important for us to think critically about who benefits from a use of technology and who is harmed by it, and how. It is important to understand clearly understand the tradeoffs as we make use of or try to limit the use of a new tool.

This chapter expands on this idea and provides a framework for you to explore technologies we are learning about to consider their impacts.

Chapter Topics:

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