6th IFIP-WG9.2 Namur Award Lecture

Montréal, August 2002

Challenging Humanity


Deborah Hurley,

This Namur Award Lecture is delivered as part of the IFIP World Computer Congress 2002, in the stream, 'Human Choice and Computers.' This year's theme is Issues of Choice and Quality of Life in the Information Society. The Lecture will focus on each of the words, 'human,' 'choice,' and 'computer.' It will further present challenges to humanity, in three senses:
1. Challenge in the sense of threat or obstacle
2. Challenge in the sense of necessary task
3. Challenge in the sense of questioning and pushing limits of our humanity as well as the definition of our humanity.
Any discussion of humanity moves quickly to consideration of identity and community and the interplay of these concepts. Identity will be considered in the following two senses:
1. Identity as human identity, individuality, selfhood, autonomy, integrity, personality, the self-conception of who one is, one's communities (family, religion, ethnicity,…), and one's relationship to those communities
2. Identity in the sense of being identified, the extent of identification, the manner of identification (external token, such as card, password, intrinsic token, such as biometric or behavioral characteristics, including fingerprint,...), the purpose of identification, when and under what circumstances, including the choice not to be identified or to be non-identifiable.
Two grand themes recur in assessing these issues:
1. Proportionality
2. Locus of control and ownership of information.
In considering these matters, special attention must be given to vulnerable populations, populations in custodial settings, or populations with diminished rights. Invasive proposals are often made first or early for these populations, often under the guise of 'protecting' them.
Privacy, security, and safety all involve setting boundaries. Furthermore, they are human rights, with recognized universal qualities.
The ubiquitous information environment experiences the following trends:
1. Rapid technological development cycles
2. Convergence of information and communication technologies (ICT) with biological sciences and materials science
3. Ubiquity of ICT, so that there's less and less distinction between the physical and the 'online' worlds
4. Multiplication of stakeholders
The ubiquitous information environment is further characterized by the following four features:
1. Embeddedness
2. Ubiquity
3. Unboundedness
4. Decentralisation
The challenges of the Information Society include the multiplication of stakeholders, the demands of civil society, and the fact that the ubiquitous information environment presents global issues that can only be truly understood and adequately addressed in international context.
The challenges of privacy include both protection of personally identifiable information and freedom from bodily intrusion. The challenges of safety and security consist of providing for the confidentiality, integrity, availability, and authentication of information and communication systems, including the data and information in them. Information and communication systems, including the global network of networks, are not static. Rather, they are dynamic and change over time. Similarly, the state of protection of critical infrastructures is never achieved. It is an ongoing, dynamic process. Moreover, critical infra protection involves a learning adversary, other human beings. It is essential to consider privacy and security as compatible and mutually reinforcing and, under all circumstances, to avoid creating a false sense of security.
The challenge of equity, as reflected in the digital divide, consists of three issues:
1. Infrastructure
2. Education and critical thinking skills
3. The information commons
The foregoing challenges lead to the challenges of democracy and preservation of human dignity and human rights, including care, foresight, and planning, so as not to vitiate our rights, whether in the name of security or anything else.

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Insitut d'Informatique - 19/10/2000