Gary Chapman: the right and wrong of life online. Chapman, 58, died of a heart attack on a kayaking trip to Guatemala. He served as the first executive director of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. Chapman also served on the faculty of the Lydon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, the associate director of its Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute and other roles at the school. For six years he wrote a column on digital issues for the Los Angeles Times.
He was a leader in thinking critically about the opportunities and liabilities of our accelerating technical culture. He spoke out against the use of computers in military decision-making and against the "Star Wars" missile defense system. Concerned in later years with the digital divide between technological haves and have-nots, he started the 21st Century Project, which provided computing technology to low income households.
Chapman was not a computer scientist. He disavowed any default position on technology, instead preferring to assess each situation as it came along. Exactly the kind of man we could ill-afford to lose.
David Noble: critic of technological automation. Noble, 65, died of unspecified causes in Toronto, surrounded by friends and family. A professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then Canada's York University, Noble, an historian of technology, believed that tech was being used by corporations to deprive workers of their power. He was also a critic of higher education and believed he had been denied tenure at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University because of it.
An activist as much as a professor, Noble was also a vocal Jewish anti-Zionist. His many passions were praised for the fervor they gave him in the classroom, where he was acknowledged as a dedicated teacher. He helped to shape a critical approach to technology in a generation that has been more prone to praise than pan.
Chapman photo from the National Alliance of Media Arts and Culture