The SSIT newsletter hits member inboxes on the 15th of each month.
Please contact the SSIT Newsletter Editor, Heather Love (Heather.Love@uwaterloo.ca) if you have a news item, SSIT-related update, volunteer opportunity, Call for Papers, award notice, or “Feature Article” idea for a future issue.
Submissions are due by approximately the 25th of the month prior to the newsletter’s distribution (see the most recent newsletter for the exact date of the next deadline).
From our most recent issue:
Why is SSIT involved in Standards Making?
Submitted by Dr. Beth-Anne Schuelke-Leech and Dr. Sara Jordan
SSIT Standards Committee
Discussions of the societal implications of technology fill the pages of important magazines and blogs like Fast Company and Wired. Widely-read and highly-cited pieces point to the needs that engineers, developers, designers, and programmers have for practical advice on how to think through and measure the social implications of the technologies that they are creating and managing.
In developing and manufacturing any technology, engineers, technical developers, and managers use technical codes and standards. Standards are everywhere. They are frequently created by international organizations or professional industry associations. For example, the International Standards Organization (ISO) publishes quality management system standards (ISO 9001) and environmental management standards (ISO 14001). The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) develops codes and standards on mechanical systems from elevators, escalators, boilers and pressures vessels, to piping and plumbing systems. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) create codes and standards on model building codes. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) creates many of the standards used in designing and manufacturing automobiles and other transportation vehicles. Compliance to standards indicates conformance to recommended industrial practices. It allows customers and other interested parties to trust the quality and technical performance of the product, service, or process that they are using.
IEEE has been involved in standards making since 1890 when standards were first recommended for self-induction. IEEE now has almost 1300 active standards and another 600 currently under development. While IEEE has been a significant player in the development of technical standards for over a century, they have only recently begun to bring together experts necessary to draft standards that are socially mindful and ethically informed. Since 2016, the Society for the Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) has collaborated with IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) to create projects and working groups designed to develop standards which are as rigorously designed as those from IEEE’s purely technical sides but that are conscious of the broader implications of emerging technologies. Following the same procedures as required of all standards making in IEEE, the SSIT-Standards Committee (SSIT-SC) has formed four standards working groups to develop standards within the P7000 series. Closely associated with the Global Initiative for Ethically Aligned Design of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, the P7000 series brings the process of standards development to bear on issues pressing for consideration by experts in technology and its social implications.
The term “standard” holds many connotations, and it is often used haphazardly in general discussions of technology. For IEEE, a standard is a consensus-based document that outlines the expectations for performance of a product or process. For the SSIT-SC specifically, the consensus-based standards development process includes dealing with ethically contentious technologies (such as emulated empathy or facial recognition), as well as assisting in the recognition and incorporation of the ethical or social implications that may reasonably emerge from the processes of design, development, demonstration, deployment, or decommissioning of a product. There may be many issues to consider, but the goal of the standards development process is to provide practical recommendations and guidelines for engineers, technical developers, designers, and manufacturers throughout the world.
Note: See https://standards.ieee.org/develop/index.html for more details about the standards making process at IEEE.
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