Unintended consequences - Center for Ethics of Science and
Unintended Consequences The 3rd Asia-Pacific Computing and Philosophy Conference 2007 Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand Joan H. Kim California State University Los Angeles Advisor: Dr. Russ Abbott Overview Introduction ► Background ► Literature Review ► Computational Thinking ► Proposed Characterization ► Gaming the System ► Historical Contingency ► Legal Process & Procedure vs. Common Sense ► Conclusion ► Resources ► Introduction ► ► Available literature shows, “unintended consequence” lacks a clear, distinctive characterization. A general notion of unintended consequence could be an unplanned outcome. A virus infects your computer due to vulnerabilities in the operating system design. Developing tax evasion strategies as a result of implementing income tax laws. Discarding a banana peel, which causes someone to slip and fall. Philip K. Howard in The Death of Common Sense discloses a case where the Missionaries of Charity, led by Mother Teresa, attempt to construct a housing facility for homeless men, but are thwarted by building code requiring an elevator in every new and renovated building. Sociological Term University of Canterbury’s Glossary of Sociological Terms defines unintended consequence as: Repercussions or outcomes which result from actions initiated for other purposes. This is thought to be a key dimension of social activity, though these social effects cannot be explained by actors' intentions. ► The Background ► Sociologist Robert K. Merton is credited with coining the phrase in his article, "The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action" published in 1936. “The problem of the unanticipated consequences of purposive action has been treated by virtually every substantial contributor to the long history of social thought.” “The fact remains that though the process has been widely recognized and its importance equally appreciated, it still awaits a systematic treatment.” “We must examine and classify the types of social action and organization with reference to the elements here discussed and then refer our generalizations to these essentially different types.” Possible Causes of Unanticipated Consequences ► Ignorance – not having “enough” knowledge. ► Error – incorrect assessment based on assumptions or past history. ► A nation might ban abortion on moral grounds even though children born as a result of the policy may be unwanted and likely to be more dependent on the state. Basic values – fundamental values preventing the consideration of consequences. ► Since you have received a payroll deposit every Friday for the last 2 years, you foresee no reason your payroll will not deposit this coming Friday. In anticipation, you write a check, which does not clear due to a payroll error that prevents your payroll from depositing as you assumed. Immediacy of interests – when the desire of immediate consequence overshadows consideration of future consequences. ► Not having a road map or the correct directions causes you to be late and miss an event. Hard work and active asceticism paradoxically leads to its own decline through the accumulation of wealth and possessions. Self-defeating prediction – when prediction becomes an influencing aspect on the very process it predicts. Marx’s prediction of the progressive concentration of wealth and increasing misery of the masses, leads to the spread of the organization of labor eliminating predicted developments. Post-Merton Literature ► Sociological Raymond Boudon: Perverse Effects Richard Vernon: 3 General Categories Patrick Baert: Typology ► Economic and Political Rob Norton: Heeding Its Power Adam Smith: Invisible Hand Steven J. Levitt: Freakonomics ► Techonology Edward Tenner: Revenge Effects Perverse Effects ► ► ► ► Raymond Boudon restates, “the case that Merton in 1936 made for what could be called the paradigm of the perverse effect.” This "paradigm” links social change to the unintended consequences of individual actions, and to efforts to address these consequences. One major theme unifies the collection–the contention that at a societal level the sum of individual actions brings about paradoxical outcomes and results contrary to individual expectations and intentions. The main illustration, throughout the book, concerns the demand for education in industrial societies. For example, each individual reasons that "more is better," but this serves to decrease the worth of any given level of education for everyone. 3 General Categories ► Over forty years after Merton’s introduction, Richard Vernon, a Professor of Political Science at University of Western Ontario, in his Political Theory article offers three general categories of unintended consequence. Unintended consequences arise as the cumulative outcome of similar actions performed simultaneously or consecutively by a number of actors. ► Karl Popper’s Poverty of Historicism describes many people all wanting to enjoy solitude in the mountains who converge at the same time and consequently cannot enjoy solitude there. Unintended consequences arise also from the simultaneous or consecutive performance of dissimilar actions by individuals or groups. ► Friedrich Hayek believes in a market system, when pricing increases from scarcity of goods members of society following simple, self-interest use goods more efficiently or replace them with less expensive equivalents resulting in unplanned efficiency and regulation of the market. “Contextual change” – As context shifts, the use of various elements take on unforeseen uses and meanings. ► In Buster Keaton's The General, Keaton plays the hero who is swept towards some fearful rapids along with his heroine. A rope tied around his waist from an earlier sequence is used to lash onto a log on the bank—it comes loose and he’s swept more perilously than before. Upon arriving at the rapids, the log is jammed between two rocks and Keaton is suspended over the torrent. As the heroine arrives, Keaton swings sideways to catch her and on the reverse swing the rope breaks and deposits them both safely on the bank. As the context shifts, “projects” (intermediary events that lead to an ending event) and “instruments” (log and rope) acquire unforeseen uses and meanings. Typology and Examples Baert’s Dimensions and Modes of Unintended Consequences Dimension A: what the effect refers to ► A1: individual effects, type 1 Example: If someone breaks his or her arm while skiing. ► A2: individual effects, type 2 Example: If parental divorce leaves children emotionally disturbed. ► A3: social effects Example: Having a meal with friends leading to intensified feelings of solidarity between us. Example: Recession causes reduction of wages resulting in less consumption which worsens the recession. A31: systematic effects A32: aggregate effects C31: action has at least one other effect by which the initial intention is fulfilled C32: action has no other effect by which the initial intention is fulfilled Dimension B: value attached to the effect from the initial perspective ► B1: effects are desirable for the actor ► B2: undesirable ► B3: neutral Dimension C: relationship with the initial intention ► C1: effects fulfill the initial intention ► C2: effects frustrate the initial intention ► C3: effects neither fulfill, nor frustrate the initial intention Dimension D: modes of knowledgeability and awareness ► D1: unanticipated effects ► D2: anticipated-but-unexpected effects ► D3: expected effects Dimension E: temporal aspects ► E1: synchronic effects ► E2: diachronic effects Heeding Its Power Economist Rob Norton asserts, “Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it.” ► “The concept of unintended consequences is one of the building blocks of economics.” ► He credits Adam Smith's "invisible hand," as the most famous metaphor in social science and an example of a “positive unintended consequence.” ► The Invisible Hand ► ► ► "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own selfinterest... [Every individual] intends only his own security, only his own gain. And he is in this led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it." The "invisible hand" represents all the social good incidentally caused by individuals pursuing their own self-interest. For example, a businessman wanting to become a millionaire must first come up with a product that is beneficial, pleasing and desired by potential customers. By pursuing his own greed, the millionaire undoubtedly benefits society. Freakonomics ► Steven J. Levitt refers to an “unintended benefit” in his chapter, “Where Have all the Criminals Gone?” “To discover that abortion was one of the greatest crime-lowering factors in American history is, needless to say, jarring.” “The crime drop was, in the language of economists, an ‘unintended benefit’ of legalized abortion. “But one need not oppose abortion on moral or religious grounds to feel shaken by the notion of a private sadness being converted into a public good.” Revenge Affects ► Even when used to better the world, technology fosters unforeseen, often unpleasant consequences that Edward Tenner calls “revenge effects” in his book, Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. For example: Air-conditioned subways raise platform temperatures by as much as 10°F. Some computer users get painful, wrist-numbing carpal tunnel syndrome. Flood control systems encourage settlement of flood-prone areas, inviting disaster. 6% of all hospital patients become infected with microbes they encounter during their stay. Computational Thinking ► ► ► ► Coined in 2006 by Jeanette Wing, the National Science Foundation’s newly appointed Assistant Director for Computer & Information Science and Engineering and President's Professor and Head of the CS Department at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science. A fundamental skill that will be used by everyone in the world by the middle of the 21st Century representing a universally applicable attitude and skill set everyone, not just computer scientists, would be eager to learn and use. A way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science. Conceptualizing, not programming Fundamental, not rote skill A way that humans, not computers think Gives us the power to scale beyond our imagination. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/wing/www/publications/Wing06.pdf Proposed Characterization ► ► ► ► An unintended consequence occurs when an unexpected and unintended use is made of a mechanism or formalism—such as a law, a rule, a regulation, a computer program or even a custom or an accepted ethical or moral precept—that has been established in the world. Presumably the mechanism or formalism was established with the intent of achieving some particular positive result or reducing or eliminating something that is considered negative. The unintended consequence is almost always different from that end and in many cases may be contrary to it. Lastly, exploitation of the established mechanism undoubtedly creates a definite advantage or profit. “Gaming the System” ► One "games a system" when one acts in such a way that one gains an advantage by exploiting a mechanism or a rule that was intended for some other purpose. “Gaming the System” ► ► ► Advertising spam is an unintended consequence of the way the email system works. A new SAT test preparation market is an unintended consequence of instituting the College Board SAT subject tests. Creating a market for dead snakes is an unintended consequence of a reward program to lower the snake population. Evasion, Blackmail and Fraud ► ► Leo Katz characterizes these 3 “mysteries” in Ill-Gotten Gains: Evasion, Blackmail, Fraud, and Kindred Puzzles of the Law. These particular situations all strive to circumvent the law in some way to produce ill-gotten gains. Further, Katz supports that formalism has genuine moral costs—He examines the letter of the law vs. the spirit or purpose of the law offering the following examples: A woman from some Third World country is visiting in the United States and decides she would like to live there. One possible way of obtaining permanent residency is to get political asylum. So she quickly makes up some highly provocative statements that render her persona non grata at home. Then, she applies for political asylum. Law in many states seeks to prevent husbands from disinheriting their wives. Determined husbands have given away their money before they die. Gifts, after all, are not regulated by the “forced share” statutes. First amendment protection does not extend to obscene materials. Obscene materials being something that lacks a sufficient measure of “redeeming social value.” A publisher eager to distribute some “tantalizing” pictures, but concerned with the law makes them part of a book he titles, “Sex in Marriage.” U.S. Bankruptcy law provides that a debtor who has become overwhelmed with financial obligations, which he has no hope of being able to meet, can make a “fresh start” in life by declaring bankruptcy. The critical prerequisite to becoming free and clear of this debt is to give up one’s current possessions. However, you don’t literally give up everything you own; you don’t give up the shirt on your back. In many states, you don’t have to give up the house you live in, the furniture and various other stuff in it, or your life insurance and certain kinds of pensions because they are viewed as the figurative shirt on your back. Historical Contingency ► An unintended consequence does not include historical contingencies, the contingent sequence of events that occur, at least in part, of preceding events. Slipping on a discarded banana peel. Air-conditioned subways raise platform temperatures by ~10° F. A large factor in lowering crime is connected to legalization of abortion. Going to war incurs collateral damage. For want of a nail, a shoe was lost For want of a shoe, a horse was lost For want of a horse, a rider was lost For want of a rider, a message was lost For want of a message, a battle was lost For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost All for want of a nail - George Herbert Legal Process and Procedure vs. Common Sense ► ► Studies emerging on the topic have addressed the problem of process and procedure becoming a deterrent to the very goals they intend to accomplish. A law enacted with an express purpose of ensuring fairness and safety to individuals, is inevitably met with those who manage to evade or avoid them through loopholes. In the development and implementation of various types of systems, we see a common phenomena emerge. Loopholes—a bug in the law. Similarly, when we develop software systems we end up with bugs in our code. For example, an operating system release seldom goes without ensuing issues that are fixed through software patches. In the lifetime of a software release the patch history can become quite large. However, a succeeding new release is regularly made addressing previous bugs and vulnerabilities. Law is Suffocating America ► Philip K. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America emphasizes that responsibility, not process, is the key ingredient to action. “The characteristic complaint of our time seems to be not that government provides no reasons, but that its reasons often seem remote from human beings who must live with the consequences.” (former Justice William Brennan) The Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1970 promised to ensure safety to every worker. Since its inception, OSHA has yielded some 4,000 odd regulations dictating everything from the height of railings (42 inches) to how much a plank can stick out from a temporary scaffold (no more than 12 inches). There approximately 2,000 safety inspectors to some 6 million workplaces. Several hundred billion dollars have been spent by industry towards OSHA compliance. In spite of this, the American workplace is about the same as it was in 1970. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) passed a rule authorizing a “head tax” on departing passengers to help fund mass transit to airports. The writer of the rule, trying to clarify every eventuality, wanted to make sure no city used this airport tax subsidy and explicitly requires an “exclusive” system and prohibits any “facility shared with other mass transit.” As a result, New York City, a prime candidate, can’t link its airport transport into the tracks to Penn Station and Grand Central Station where it makes most sense, because those tracks would not be “exclusive” per the rule. Economic Logic ► ► Steven E. Landsberg in More Sex is Safer uses the, “logic of economics” to explore common sense issues and show that individual rational decisions can combine into surprising and unintended collective results. Communal-stream principle – “Feel free to pollute your own swimming pool, but if your sludge spills over into the stream we all share, you should pay for the damage.” For example: A person dropping a banana peel is rarely the same person who slips on that same banana peel. A wayward piece of newspaper that wraps itself around your ankles is most likely not a newspaper you just tossed away. At dinner ordering a $10 dessert when you are splitting dinner 10 ways between friends seems like a bargain, but you would never get it if you were by yourself. This is an example of what Landsberg calls a “poor outcome.” You get a dessert you normally would not value enough to get, and the group loses collectively as a result. Landsberg asserts there is a, “sin of self-restraint.” He poses Martin, a sexually responsible and prudent individual who decides not to go to a party after seeing a CDC sponsored ad touting the virtues of chastity. In his absence, a woman with a mutual interest ends up hooking up with Maxwell, a considerably less prudent and responsible sexual partner and she contracts AIDS. The point that Landsberg makes is that the advertisement does a good job of reinforcing the already prudent Martin, but fails to make an impression on Maxwell. Conclusion There is a wealth and breadth of references to unintended consequence by social, economic and political theorists. ► Examination of unintended consequence does not allow us to predict outcomes, but we can still observe and analyze occurrences and patterns which emerge. ► Computational methods provide a good way to study and analyze social phenomena, allowing us to propose a clearer, more well-defined characterization in spite of the large variation of its application. ► Resources ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► ► Abbott, Russell J. “Museum of Unintended Consequences." California State University Computer Science Wiki. 17 Dec. 2005. 17 Oct. 2004. <http://cs.calstatela.edu/wiki/index.php/Courses/CS_461/Museum_of_unintended_consequence/> Howard, Philip K. The Death of Common Sense. New York: Random House. 1994. “Unintended Consequence.” Glossary of Sociological Terms. 7 Sep. 2007. <http://www.soci.canterbury.ac.nz/resources/glossary/unintend.shtml>. Taken from Tony Bilton’s Introductory Sociology, 3rd edition. London: Macmillan. 1996:672. Merton, Robert K. “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action.” American Sociological Review, 1.6 (1936): 894-904. Jon Clark, Celia Modgil and Sohan Modgil. Robert K. Merton: Consensus and Controversy. Bristol: The Falmer Press. 1990. Cox, James M. “The Educational Theory of David Hume 1711 – 1776.” New Foundations. Sep 7. 2007. http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Hume.html. Boudon, Raymond. The Unintended Consequnces of Social Action. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 1977. Leifer, Eric M. “Review: The Unintended Consequences of Social Action by Raymond Boudon.” Social Forces, 63.2 (December 1984), pp. 613-614. Vromen, Suzanne. Review of Unintended Consequences-Boudon – insert citation Vernon, Richard. “Unintended Consequences.” Political Theory, 7.1 (1979): 57-73 Baert, Patrick. “Unintended Consequences: A Typology And Examples.” International Sociology , 6.2 (June 1991) pp. 201-210. Katz, Leo. Ill Gotten Gains. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. 1996. Gladwell, Malcom. "Loopholes for Living". The New Yorker. 15 Apr 1996. “Unintended Consequence." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 1 Oct 2002, 16:17 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Feb. 2007. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unintended_consequence>. Norton, Rob. “Unintended Consequences,” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc.), ed. David R. Henderson. 05 Aug. 2002. 26 Feb. 2007. <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/UnintendedConsequences.html>. Wing, Jeannette. “Computational Thinking.” Communications of the ACM, 49.3 (2006): 33-35. Landsburg, Steven E. More Sex is Safer Sex. New York: Free Press. 2007. Levitt, Steven and Dubner, Stephen J. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. New York: William Morrow. 2005.