40th Anniversary Blog Introduction

John DiMarco, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto

In 1973, Kelly Gotlieb and Allan Borodin’s seminal book, Social Issues in Computing, was published by Academic Press.  It tackled a wide array of topics: Information Systems and Privacy;  Systems, Models and Simulations; Computers and Planning; Computer System Security; Computers and Employment; Power shifts in Computing; Professionalization and Responsibility; Computers in Developing Countries; Computers in the Political Process; Antitrust actions and Computers; and Values in Technology and Computing, to name a few.  The book was among the very first to deal with these topics in a coherent and consistent fashion, helping to form the then-nascent field of Computing and Society. In the ensuing decades, as computers proliferated dramatically and their importance skyrocketed, the issues raised in the book have only become more important.  The year 2013, the 40th anniversary of the book, provides an opportunity to reflect on the many aspects of Computing and Society touched on by the book, as they have developed over the four decades since it was published. After soliciting input from the book’s authors and from distinguished members of the Computers and Society intellectual community, we decided that this blog, with insightful articles from a variety of sources, was a fitting and suitable way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the book.

John DiMarco has maintained an avid interest in Computing and Society while pursuing a technical career at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, where he presently serves as IT Director. He is a regular guest-lecturer for the department’s “Computers and Society” course, and is the editor of this blog.


  1. Scott Ambler

    While I was a undergrad student at U of T in Computer Science, the same years JD was there (JD, we should go for a coffee sometime soon!), I had the privilege of taking classes with both Dr. Gotlieb and Dr. Bordin. Dr. Gotlieb’s social issues class really did get me thinking outside of the computer science box as it were. I still think back to it from time to time. I look forward to reading this blog.

  2. Michael Brodie

    Kelly and his Social Issues in Computing class had a significant impact on me in the early 1970’s (I was in the first class) and on my career. Kelly expanded my Computer Science education with the broader vision that computing has and will have social and other impacts beyond mere computing. This led to my involvement in the 1970s with the Ontario Computer Ombudsman through more recent activities with the Web working with Tim Berners-Lee and the Web Science Trust that states in part “If we are to ensure the Web benefits the human race we must first do our best to understand it. The Web is the largest human information construct in history. The Web is transforming society. In order to understand what the Web is, engineer its future and ensure its social benefit we need a new interdisciplinary field that we call Web Science”. – This seems to be a modern restatement of the premises of Social Issues in Computing. Lessons from Kelly and the class contributed to my participation in US Academy of Sciences commissions on Privacy impacts of Counter-Terrorism and on US Healthcare Reform. In hindsight I see Kelly and the class behind my Personal Statement that includes “Whatever you are doing with computers, you are changing our world. Is it for the better?”

    Thank you Kelly and Al for your wisdom and your foresight.
    Michael Brodie

  3. Lennon Ruggier

    Information systems and privacy have, perhaps, never been more relevant. I can’t believe this book had the foresight to tackle this topic so long ago.