nternet access is no longer a luxury. Technologists must consider the ethical implications of what they create. I Those were the theses advanced by the keynote speakers at Methodist College’s sixth annual Tally Leadership Conference Feb. 19. The overall theme for this year’s event was “Leaders, Ethics, and the Technology Revolution.”
Jane Smith Patterson, director of the NC Rural Internet Access Authorit , was the first to speak at the conference’s opening convocation. She said the goal of her non- profit organization is to bring Internet technology to rural areas in North Carolina.
Jane Smith Patterson
“Two-thirds of the growth in our economy today is in new technology,” she said. “Broadband or high-speed technology allows huge amounts of data to be transmitted. The right tools and information make it possible to keep up. But if you’re not connected, you’re not in the game. Toda , farmers check the Internet for weather and planting information. We can now download books on the Internet.”
Patterson told her audience that about
Rev. Bruce Stanley
half of all American homes now have personal computers. She said two-thirds of American households have access to cable TV, but only one-third have access to high-speed Internet service. “Cable systems were designed for one-way communication,” she added. “E-learning and e-help and e-commerce and e-government will change our way of life in North Carolina. Privacy, security and intellectual property issues will require the enactment of new laws. ”
The former senior advisor to the governor for science and technology urged those present to help create an on-line North Carolina connected to the rest of the world. “Please ask yourself these questions,” she concluded. “If not now, when? If not me, who?”
The second keynote speaker was the Rev. Bruce Stanley of Duke Divinity School. “All technology has an ethical component,” he said. “We believe all creative capacity is a gift from God.”
He decried the creation of cultural stereotypes in the entertainment industry, citing Disney Studios’ animated character Pocahontas as one example. Noting that 80 percent of computer games involve masculine contests like racing or combat, Stanley said these games do not promote gender equity. “Only one-fifth of the engineers today are women,” he said, “and there’s a clear correlation between academic achievement and computer skills.
“No technology is value-neutral,” he concluded, “Everything we shape will afterward shape us.” He asked the students he was addressing and others in the audience to demand: 1) that science
and technology admit the presence of ethical values at the time of creation, 2) that technologists create in the image of God (instead
of their own ideal) and recognize that their creations will shape the users; and 3) monitor outcomes and applications” to ensure that we are being reformed, not deformed, in both our outward and inward selves.”
At a luncheon following the opening convocation, Dr. Suzan Cheek, director of the Lura S. Tally Center for Leadership Development, presented the fourth annual 100% Award (for outstanding leadership) to Gary Cooper and Billy Davidson of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. Cooper is the immediate past chairman of the chamber (for 2000) and Davidson is its full-time president.
The second day of the conference—Feb. 20—was devoted to roundtable discussions at the Berns Student Center, where more than 200 students explored technological and ethical problems and possible solutions. Each group was presented with a specific scenario related to health and science, business and computers, or science and government.
Dr. Cheek, Dr. Drew Ziegler, and students enrolled in the Tally Center’s leadership courses began working on the organization and promotion of the 2001 leadership conference months in advance. Major corporate sponsors this year included The Fayetteville Observe , SYSTEL Office Automation, and Time Warner Cable. The proceedings of the conference have been published and forwarded to selected leaders for their consideration.
Members of a student roundtable discussion group get ready to tackle an ethical problem.
Methodist College Today