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Automation and accountability in decision support system interface design

Reference Type: 

Journal Article

Cummings, Mary L. 2006. “Automation and accountability in decision support system interface design.” The Journal of Technology Studies 32 (1).

When the human element is introduced into decision support system design, entirely new layers of social and ethical issues emerge but are not always recognized as such. This paper discusses those ethical and social impact issues specific to decision support systems and highlights areas that interface designers should consider during design with an emphasis on military applications. Because of the inherent complexity of socio-technical systems, decision support systems are particularly vulnerable to certain potential ethical pitfalls that encompass automation and accountability issues. If computer systems diminish a user’s sense of moral agency and responsibility, an erosion of accountability could result. In addition, these problems are exacerbated when an interface is perceived as a legitimate authority. I argue that when developing human computer interfaces for decision support systems that have the ability to harm people, the possibility exists that a moral buffer, a form of psychological distancing, is created which allows people to ethically distance themselves from their actions.

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