Nancy Leveson

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Computers and Trust
​Abstract: "We seem not to trust one another as much as would be desirable. In lieu of trusting each other, are we putting too much trust in our technology?" — T.B. Sheridan.

Computers are being introduced into the control of virtually every dangerous system, including nuclear weapons, transportation systems (aircraft, automobiles, trains), medical devices, and chemical and nuclear power plants. Few engineering techniques exist to provide assurance that safety is not being degraded by the substitution of digital systems for the electromechanical designs that have been perfected through decades and sometimes centuries of experience. At the same time, nothing is absolutely safe, and computers provide important advantages over the human operators, social systems, and engineered devices that they are replacing.

This talk will attempt to examine whether concern is justified. Are we putting too much trust in computers? Will introducing computers to assist or replace human operators eliminate or reduce the problem of human error? Are there limits to the reasonable uses of computer technology? If so, what do we need to do to stretch those limits?

Biography: Nancy Leveson is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and also Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Professor Leveson conducts research on the topics of system safety, software safety, software and system engineering, and human-computer interaction. In 1999, she received the ACM Allen Newell Award for outstanding computer science research and in 1995 the AIAA Information Systems Award for "developing the field of software safety and for promoting responsible software and system engineering practices where life and property are at stake." In 2005 she received the ACM   Outstanding Research Award. She has published over 200 research papers and is author of a book, "Safeware: System Safety and Computers" published by Addison-Wesley. She consults extensively in many industries on the ways to prevent accidents.

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