Media Technology MSc

Computed Obedience


"It wasn’t me, the computer did it!” Lack of technological knowledge and insight often results in this frequently heard moral objection expressed towards computers, and it is a very inspiring one. The computer has marched in, invaded, influenced and taken over our daily lives faster then anyone could have imagined. People have adapted their way of living to the presence of computers to such an extend, that it is now considered completely normal to use computer generated data as a foundation to base important decisions upon. In fact, the behavioural pattern that people display much resembles indications of obedience. It is plausible that people put blind-trust in this computed data overruling rational thinking and/or common sense. In the 60's when electronics were introduced, it was assumed that electronic appliances would never be regarded as a legitimate authority for human beings. Nowadays electronics are wide spread, be it driving a car, using the telephone, making dinner with a microwave oven. We think that technological devices, the computer in specific, have evolved beyond the earlier mentioned assumption and can be regarded as a legitimate authority. To test if this hypothesis is correct we have developed an application to see if obedience can be obtained through implementation of Human Computer Interaction Methods. We investigated if a computer can be observed as a legitimate, or even malevolent, authority, and to what extend people obey computer generated data. To be more precise we want to know which elements of human computer interaction, interfacing and usability are of influence when making decisions based on computer generated data. Moreover we determined what influence fake data has on the actions and conducts being taken.


Roy Bijster and Xander Witteveen, Computed Obedience. Poster presented at the HCI-methods: Way To Go? Conference, June 2007, Eindhoven