A quick chat with a computer to order the weekly shop, ethics expert predicts

A world-leading computer expert believes technology will soon enable personal computers to recognise people and hold full conversations with them but we may sacrifice our privacy as a result. Professor Simon Rogerson, based at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), is retiring from the university at the end of this month and believes the advances he has seen during his long and distinguished career point to technology leaping into the realms of science fiction sooner than we think. He says that the next step technology will take involves removing devices such as keyboards that act as intermediary devices between humans and computers. This would see a whole host of new developments which could include humans adopting technological enhancements, such as implants, and computers being able to track individuals at all times.

Professor Rogerson, a pioneer in the area of computer ethics who has worked at DMU for 27 years, said: "There is one thing that is certain: today's technology will be obsolete in a shorter time than any of us think. It is amazing how long the keyboard has remained the premier input device. Subsequently there may well be a blurring of the boundary between humankind and technology as we have more and more opportunity to enhance our personal performance through technology. Technology will become sufficiently advanced that we can simply communicate with it in the same way we communicate with another person. If all this happens, the potential benefits escalate but alongside this, so do the potential harms. For example, no longer will we need to be computer literate to access online services and products, we will be able to have a simple conversation with a computer and ask it to do what we want. Computers will need to recognise us in order to communicate efficiently and the downside is that they will know where we are and what we are doing at all times whoever or whatever has access to those systems has power over us."
Professor Rogerson has been a leading light in the field of the impact of computing on society and has spoken to audiences around the world about the way technology changes our world. In recognition of his exceptional achievements at DMU, Professor Rogerson will be made an Emeritus Professor, meaning he will still be involved in research and will give a number of special lectures each year. He joined the computing industry in 1972 and joined Leicester Polytechnic DMU's predecessor institution in 1983. He was Europe's first Professor of Computer Ethics and has received countless awards and commendations for his work, including the international ACM SIGCAS 2005 'Making a Difference' Award and he was named one of the world's top computer ethics experts at the World Technology Awards in 2003.
Professor Rogerson, who is also Director of DMU's Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, said: "When I joined the computer industry in 1972 it was the era of mainframe computers used for data processing and scientific computing. Air conditioned rooms the size of small sports halls housed state of the art computers which had far less processing power and storage capacity than today's latest iPhone! Storage was a major barrier to expanding computing. Today it is a non-issue thanks to flash memory. He added: "Social media has moved the emphasis from traditional technology applications to new areas. It is interesting how social media is being used to pass on information. In times gone by, information was passed by word of mouth across the population masses. Today we see a new form of information communication not word of mouth but word of technology. It is social media which enables us to quickly create and communicate information which can be consumed by anyone. Whether that information is reliable is of course another matter."
Professor Rogerson led the effort to revise the British Computer Society's Code of Practice as a member of their Ethics Panel of Experts. He was also instrumental in updating the Code of Ethics of the Institute for the Management of Information Systems. He conceived the highly successful ETHICOMP international conference series in 1995 along with Professor Terry Bynum of Southern Connecticut State University in the US which has allowed thousands of computing professionals to discuss the critical ethical issues of the day. The most recent ETHICOMP was held in April this year in Tarragona, Spain.
Professor Rogerson has published extensively in books and journals, consulting widely with governments and corporations. He has carried out research on subjects as diverse as computer ethics in China, risks of using computers and why some information sources are considered more trustworthy than others.

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