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The CPSR Wiener Award for Social and Professional Responsibility

In 1987, CPSR began a tradition to recognize outstanding contributions for social responsibility in computing technology. The organization wanted to cite people who recognize the importance of a science-educated public, who take a broader view of the social issues of computing. We aimed to share concerns that lead to action in arenas of the power, promise, and limitations of computer technology.

The award is named for Norbert Wiener - (1894-1964), who, in addition to a long and active scientific career that brought the word "cybernetics" into the language and laid the foundation for many aspects of modern computing, was also a leader in assessing the social implications of that new and emerging technology. (You can find additional background on Norbert Wiener in the Winter 1988 issue of the CPSR Newsletter, which documents the first presentation of the Wiener award. It is not yet available digitally.)

The Norbert Wiener Award serves as a reminder of what Wiener stood for, and of what each individual can do to make this a better world. Each of the recipients, in his or her own way, have taken on what Wiener saw as the scientist's special and difficult responsibility:

...even when the individual believes that science contributes to the human ends which he has at heart, his belief needs a continual scanning and re-evaluation which is only partly possible. For the individual scientist, even the partial appraisal of the liaison between the man and the historical process requires an imaginative forward glance at history which is difficult, exacting, and only limitedly achievable...We must always exert the full strength of our imagination.

-Norbert Wiener, Some Moral and Technical Consequences of Automation, Science 131 (1960): 1358.

One of the best explanations of the intentions of the award is described in the first award to David Parnas - which was presented by Terry Winograd. See his speech.

Over the years CPSR has awarded many very prestigious winners. See the previous award winners.

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Last modified September 29, 2004 07:45 PM

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