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A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and the Internet (3rd Edition) 3rd Edition

4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0136008484
ISBN-10: 0136008488
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and the Internet

Third Edition   SARA BAASE

 

A Gift of Fire, Third Edition is the most comprehensive and up-to-date text on the social and ethical issues associated with computing, networking, and the Internet. Thoroughly updated to reflect the latest trends and technologies, this book will help readers understand and evaluate the crucial issues they will face as technology professionals, users, and citizens.

 

Baase offers thoughtful, in-depth coverage - and diverse viewpoints - on issues ranging from privacy to hacking, censorship to piracy of music and movies, social networking to computer crime. She helps readers consider difficult and provocative questions such as: In what form will copyright survive the revolutionin technologies for sharing? Which technology decisions should be left to the marketplace, and which require government regulation? Who's in charge when digital actions cross borders? What are the ethical responsibilities of a computer professional?

 

This book's far-reaching coverage includes:

  • Impact and quality of user-supplied Web content
  • Privacy and computer technology: Records of online activity, video surveillance, GPS location tracking, consumer dossiers, national ID systems, and more
  • Internet censorship laws and alternatives, spam, political campaign regulation, anonymity, and Net neutrality
  • Intellectual property: Copyright law, fair use, the DMCA, video sharing, software patents, free software, piracy, and new business models
  • Computer crime: Identity theft, hacking, credit card fraud, online scams, auction fraud, click fraud, stock fraud, digital forgery, and more
  • Computers and work: Job destruction and creation, global outsourcing, telecommuting, and employee monitoring
  • Errors, failures, and risk: System failures, safety-critical applications, software design problems, and techniques for improving reliability and safety
  • How societies make decisions about new technologies

About the Author

Sara Baase, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at San Diego State University, has won three Outstanding Faculty awards. Her computer science textbooks have been translated into Sapnish, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, and Korean. Dr. Baase served on the College Board's committee to develop the Advanced Placement program in Computer Science. She holds a doctorate from UC Berkeley.

About the Author

Sara Baase is Professor Emeritus with the Department of Computer Science, San Diego State University, where she won awards for outstanding teaching. Her textbooks in computer science have been translated into several languages. Dr. Baase received her doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 3 edition (January 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0136008488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0136008484
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Arens on November 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
The new edition of "A Gift of Fire" is a welcome update to a good textbook. My opinion of the second edition is that it's a solid three star book, but the restructuring and inclusion of new material puts the latest edition into four star territory.

The textbook itself is an excellent introduction to the material, with an emphasis on "introduction"; it is by no means a deep and encompassing work, but its accessibility is quite welcome in a field of supposed introductory works that are absolutely impenetrable to those actually in need of an introduction. I've given the book to a few non-experts - or, as one of them referred to himself, a "computard" - and they've enjoyed the book quite a bit. The mix of historical, philosophical, and light theoretical content manages to inform without overwhelming. I find the writing a bit preachy at times, especially considering the fact that the book is supposed to be an ethical primer as opposed to commentary, but those sections are few and far between.

I've taught out of this book, and I have to say that one of the book's greatest assets is the supplementary material on its associated website. Type the title into Google, it should be the first hit. Updates to the source material are posted every few months to keep up with changes in case law, the news, etc. The website also includes sample lecture schedules, assignments, discussion topics, and just about everything else you would need to develop a course.

So to sum up: welcome update on a good textbook, definitely for neophytes as opposed to experts, excellent value added by the website.
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I wish every author of college textbooks pushed forth this kind of effort!

The book is very well written, seems well researched with exhaustive notes citing references, additional material and end of chapter questions. And fortunately, you don't need a student solutions manual to find the answer; if you missed it in the reading you simply need to browse back and find it.

Sara Baase covers all the areas of ethics in computing, from the issues since the emergence of computers, social media and the integration of computers into the workplace to the risks and responsibilities of users, programmers and managers in the creation of software, its debugging and its use. These topics also have relevance in studies outside of computer science and computer engineering; MBA students might be required to read chapter 5 (Crime), chapter 8 (Risk) and chapter 9 (Ethics and Responsibilities).

Yes, this book is about ethics, but without the deep philosophy. There's not a lot of Kant in there, you'll see him in an introduction as to the philosophical views and a few areas talking about labor. Otherwise, if you're looking to tussle with your instructor or get into deep philosophical discussion over $1 Pabst Night, you'll need to take the class that deals with such things. Actually, if that's your thing (the philosophy, not the $1 Pabst), you'll enjoy this book more *after* taking that class.

However, I do agree with other reviewers in their assessment that a few areas of the book are needlessly long and perhaps, rambling. It is not a pervasive problem through the entire book, but rather in the author's attempt to give plenty of examples, the reader is left thinking "okay, okay, I get it".
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This is an ethics book of course, so I will keep the writing short: This book is written very well, and is suitable for someone whose never taken an ethics course before--which wasn't me, but I changed majors and info-tech ethics was required.

The exercises are the most valuable part of the book but it will take a good teacher to make the most out of them: I got lucky there.

Baase does a very good job of hitting all the high-notes and gray-area cases that have popped up in the last 20 or so years as a result of new technologies. But at the end of the course I didn't feel I ended up taking anything away that I couldn't have learned by myself.

The book is really very wordy in my opinion--even for an ethics book--and doesn't hit enough ethical theory for my taste. It's great for its target market though, but don't think it'll work magic if you've already had some 'traditional' ethics courses.
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Bought this for a college course on Technology and Ethics. There is a lot of good information in it, but the writing is so densely packed that it is a painfully slow and dry read. This is coming from someone who loves to read. I've learned to just skim for the most important highlights, because reading it all would take every moment I have, with nothing left over to do any actual coursework. Could really use some lightening up.
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If you are even remotely tied to the business of computer science, you must own this book. It is truly an eye opener. Tons of good examples on why we must be aware of the technology we are developing and the consequences that could occur. Lots of good details on the legal side of things too.
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Being that this edition is a little outdated, it is still a good textbook. After looking far and wide for a good textbook for teaching my Information Assurance Policy course, I decided to pair this with Greene's Policies and Procedures. The two encompass the problems faced socially, legally and ethically in the IT world, and how to create a good policy around those issues.
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