Passages from the Life of a Philosopher

Charles Babbage

In his autobiography "Passages from the Life of a Philosopher", Charles Babbage wrote a whole chapter on the topic of religion, where he identified three sources of divine knowledge:

  • A priori or mystical experience
  • From Revelation
  • From the examination of the works of the Creator

Babbage also wrote a defense of the belief in divine miracles. Babbage advocated for the belief of divine agency, stating "we must not measure the credibility or incredibility of an event by the narrow sphere of our own experience, nor forget that there is a Divine energy which overrides what we familiarly call the laws of nature." He alluded to the limits of human experience, expressing: "all that we see in a miracle is an effect which is new to our observation, and whose cause is concealed. The cause may be beyond the sphere of our observation, and would be thus beyond the familiar sphere of nature; but this does not make the event a violation of any law of nature. The limits of man's observation lie within very narrow boundaries, and it would be arrogance to suppose that the reach of man's power is to form the limits of the natural world."

Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics

The Difference Engine No.2, built from Babbage's design

Charles Babbage began in 1822 with what he called the Steam powered Difference Engine, made to compute values of polynomial functions. This first difference engine would have been composed of around 25,000 parts, weighed fifteen tons (13,600 kg), and would have been 8 ft (2.4 m) tall. Although Babbage received ample funding for the project, it was never completed. He later (1847–1849) produced detailed drawings for an improved version, "Difference Engine No. 2", but did not receive funding from the British government. His design was finally constructed in 1989–1991, using his plans and 19th-century manufacturing tolerances. It performed its first calculation at the Science Museum, London, returning results to 31 digits.

Today we interact with computers and devices not just at our desks but in a variety of different contexts - while on a run, on the subway, or in a car, etc. and we could control our world with fingertips. In this context, we need to think about Computer Ethics.

Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics

Computer Ethics

The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics were created in 1992 by the Computer Ethics Institute. The Ten Commandments is "a set of standards to guide and instruct people in the ethical use of computers."

  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people’s computer work.
  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people’s computer files.
  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.
  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.
  6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.
  7. Thou shalt not use other people’s computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.
  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people’s intellectual output.
  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.
  10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.