The Impact of Computing

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Computing enhances communication, interaction, and cognition. Email, texting (called the short message service (SMS)), and chat have fostered new ways to communicate and collaborate. Video conferencing and video chat have fostered new ways to communicate and collaborate. Social media continues to evolve and foster new ways to communicate. Cloud computing fosters new ways to communicate and collaborate.

Widespread access to information facilitates the identification of problems, development of solutions, and dissemination of results. Public data, such as databases of temperature readings or databases of court cases, provides widespread access and enables solutions to identified problems. Trends of what people search for in the Internet are predictors of behavior. Social media, including blogs and twitter, have enabled dissemination. Global Positioning System (GPS) and related technologies have changed how humans travel, navigate, and find information related to geo-location. Sensor networks facilitate new ways of interacting with the environment and with physical systems. Smart grids, smart buildings, and smart transportation are changing and facilitating human capabilities.


Computing contributes to many assistive technologies that enhance human capabilities, such as artificial legs controlled by microprocessors and automated reading applications for the blind.

The Internet and the Web have enhanced methods of and opportunities for communication and collaboration. The Internet and the Web have changed many areas, including e-commerce, health care, access to information and entertainment, and online learning. The Internet and the Web have impacted productivity, positively through things like communication and access to data, and negatively through things like distractions to workers and setbacks due to cyber crime, in many areas.

Distributed solutions must scale to solve some problems. Science has been impacted by using scale and “citizen science” to solve scientific problems using home computers in scientific research, such as folding@home and Galaxy Zoo. Human computation, such as Games with a Purpose, harnesses contributions from many humans to solve problems related to digital data and the Web. Human capabilities are enhanced by digitally enabled collaboration. Some online services use the contributions of many people to benefit both individuals and society. Crowdsourcing, such as reCAPTCHA and the ESP Game, offers new models for collaboration such as connecting people with jobs and businesses with funding.

The move from desktop computers to a proliferation of always-on mobile computers is leading to new applications, such as snapchat, airline boarding passes on phones, and blue tooth vending.

Computing enables innovation in nearly every field. Machine learning and data mining have enabled innovation in medicine, business, and science. Scientific computing has enabled innovation in science and business. Computing enables innovation by providing access to and sharing of information. Open access and Creative Commons have enabled broad access to digital information. Open and curated scientific databases have benefited scientific researchers.

Moore’s law, which predicts more and more increases in computing capability (like speed of computation and ability to store data), has encouraged industries that use computers to effectively plan future research and development based on anticipated increases in computing power.

Global Effects

Computing has global effects – both beneficial and harmful – on people and society. Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns. Commercial access to music and movie downloads and streaming raises legal and ethical concerns. Access to digital content via peer-to-peer networks, such as kaza and bit torrent, raises legal and ethical concerns. Both authenticated and anonymous access to digital information raises legal and ethical concerns. Commercial and governmental censorship of digital information raise legal and ethical concerns. Open source and licensing of software and content raise legal and ethical concerns.

Privacy and security concerns arise in the development and use of computational systems and artifacts. Aggregation of information including geo-location, cookies, and browsing history raises privacy and security concerns. Anonymity in online interactions can be enabled through the use of online anonymity software and proxy servers. Technology enables collection, use, and exploitation of information about, by, and for individuals, groups, and institutions. People can have instant access to vast amounts of information online; accessing this information can enable collection of both individual and aggregate data that can be used and collected. Commercial and governmental curation of information may be exploited if privacy and other protections are ignored. Targeted advertising is used to help individuals, but it can be misused at both individual and aggregate levels.

Widespread access to digitized information raises questions about intellectual property. Creation of digital audio, video, and textual content by combining existing content has been impacted by copyright concerns. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been a benefit and a challenge in making copyrighted digital material widely available. Open source and free software have practical, business, and ethical impacts on widespread access to programs, libraries, and code. Computing innovations influence and are influenced by the economic, social, and cultural contexts in which they are designed and used.

The innovation and impact of social media and online access is different in different countries and in different socioeconomic groups. Mobile, wireless, and networked computing have an impact on innovation throughout the world. The global distribution of computing resources raises issues of equity, access, and power. Groups and individuals are affected by the “digital divide” — differing access to computing and the Internet based on socioeconomic or geographic characteristics. Networks and infrastructure are supported by both commercial and governmental initiatives.


Parts of this page are based on information from: Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia