Session 13

Eliza and the Three Bears


Environment, Technology, and Society

Exercise: Eliza and the Three Bears


  1. To consider more the kinds of problems to which technology can be applied.
  2. To explore ethical issues that can arise when we apply technology.


Work in teams of three or four people based on the number in the upper right hand corner of this page.

When we develop a new technology, we typically try to use it to solve problems at the fringe of our technical knowledge. As a result, thorny ethical questions can arise. Striking a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of a technology is a task that faces humans nearly every day.

  1. As an individual, choose one of the following "themes" and write a realistic scenario that involves a (new?) technology with one of these themes:

    Do not tell your teammates which theme you have chosen. Write your scenario in one paragraph or so. Make your scenarios as simple and as realistic as possible--don't be absurd.

  2. As a group, tell each other your scenarios. See if your teammates can guess what your theme was. What is it about each scenario that makes it "obviously ethical", "obviously unethical", or neither?

  3. As a group, select three of your scenarios so that you have one example of each of the themes listed above. If you have a choice between two scenarios with the same theme, select the one that you think is most likely to stump your classmates. If no one in the group wrote a scenario for one of the themes, then write one now as a group.

  4. As a group, predict my running time at the Chicago Marathon last Sunday. The group with the closest guess that doesn't go over will receive a a few points bonus for today. :-) [Don't spend much time on this!!]


  1. You will present your group's scenarios to the class.
  2. We may have a bit more fun with the scenarios.
  3. You will submit your group's written answers.

Summary of Exercise

What is the significance of the title?

What is the value in this sort of exercise?

Is obviousness always obvious? What does that mean for how we practice our profession?

On Task 4, you can check me out at I finished 11,471st out of 40,000... with a time of 4:03:51.

Students Summaries

Eugene Wallingford ==== ==== October 14, 2003