CS 492/692 - Spring 2022 - Let's Solve a Pandemic

For this class (May 27), I am going to ask you think on the spot about how to solve some current problems that are affecting society due to the introduction of computers, with the rise of the pandemic. I may decide to form small groups for discussion before responses and reactions are provided to the rest of the class. I will aim to have two distinct subtopics covered at first, for breadth. If it is possible, I will invite more general comments from students towards the end of class as well: allowing you to reflect further on ways in which computers have led to greater challenges for society, during this pandemic.

Note that this class is being held online. This will reinforce some of the emotions about the pandemic and what it has caused us to experience, in upheaval. This will also make it possible for everyone, regardless of circumstance (barring severe illness of course), to express an opinion on this important topic.

Topic 1: The current pandemic and the emerging burden on existing computer infrastructure.

Problem: While society as a whole is largely used to employing computer technology for personal and professional tasks, with everyone operating at home without accompnaying face to face options, there is an increased demand on the use of the Internet, on various networking solutions such as Google docs or Zoom. The functioning of all of these systems is at times challenged, beyond their earlier functioning.

Origins of problems: perhaps systems designed with a smaller number of concurrent users in mind.

Topic 2: The current pandemic and the abandonment of the digitally divided.

Problem: A certain percentage of the population, especially in developed countries, has become used to relying on computerized solutions for much of their day to day functioning (banking, entertainment, connection to friends and family). Some of the most fraglie segments of society (the elderly, those with disabilities) may be especially challenged because they operate with alternate options outside the computerized solutions (using cash and visiting tellers, seeing family in person rather than through online channels).

Origins of problems: Governments and industry expecting computerized expertise from the more challenged segments of society. Rapid demand for an online presence from those who cannot easily acquire that presence. Especially during the pandemic where some of the most disadvantaged are asked to be out of direct contact with younger family members or with public organiztions such as libraries that could have assisted, this group is made to feel even more stressed and abandoned.

Topic 3: Open discussion of other issues at the intersection of the pandemic and compuiterization

Problem: You have likely had further challenges or have seen others in society who are experiencing problems, with the arrival of the pandemic. Try to restrict your comments to an issue that concerns computerization and its use or its expected use within society, during these times.