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Ethical Decision Making: Computer Demonstration on Nuclear Weapons Launching

People who teach in areas related to politics, ethics and defence policy may be interested to know of a computer program that is available for public domain use from a VAX mainframe. This interactive program is a simulation of nuclear missile (ICBM) launch procedures. It is written in Pascal, and includes a timer program to measure the decision times of participants acting as missile launch operators under different instructional conditions. The …program _runs from a single account, but it is set up for joint operation by partners working at two different terminals. Numerous users can access the program simultaneously, so whole classes can run it working in groups of two.

Some content on intercontinental ballistic missiles is included, and an explanation of MIRVed missiles (Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles). The program allows role playing of nuclear command and control procedures, giving students ,first-hand experience with issues related to nuclear defence. Small experiments can be carried out on the effects of different types of decision information (ethical, rational, superior orders) in political and military applications.

The program was written as a demonstration for a course titled Political Psychology: Explorations in Militarism and Applied Ethics. Through the telnet system for bitnetiinternet sites, the program should be accessible internationally, and as close as the nearest computer terminal. It also works very well as a participatory demonstration after viewing the short National Film Board documentary Push Button Weapons. For further information or to obtain the telnet address and account number to access the program, contact Dr. Craig Summers, Department of Psychology, Laurentian University, Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario P3E 2C6 Canada. E-mail: csummers@nickel.laurentian.c Fax: (705) 675-4823.a

Professor Summers has also prepared a more advanced simulation based on environmental problems and the dilemmas we face related to sustainable development. It is an interactive, multimedia simulation, including animated graphics, colour movies cm-screen, voiced instructions, and interactive data-collection. This program is available on two disks, along with installation instructions, in the Science for Peace office.

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