and services that do exist, including
TaskRabbit, Pokémon Go, and Yik Yak. Indeed, the app in the story was based on
one described in a 2013 academic paper. 39 Still, we are fast approaching a
world like the one in the story, and it is
not difficult to imagine an app like
Here-and-Now existing here, and now.
Study questions. Among the many
essential ingredients of Tilly Here-and-Now’s economy are money and information but also interest on the part
of users, information requesters and
information gatherers alike. What are
the sorts of interest that might lead
someone to use the app in either of
these roles? Are any of these interests
in tension with the others?
Does it matter that Tilly’s request
function is anonymous? Why or why not?
Early in the story, Aaron decides “
Tilly Here-and-Now made you more aware
of the world around you ... more connected to your community.” How do the
events of the story itself confirm or challenge that conclusion? Characters in the
story you can use to think about this
question include Aaron’s acquaintance,
Lucas, Aaron’s parents, the unnamed
people whose bounties are being fulfilled, the girls in the video Lucas has
purchased, and Aaron himself.
The reward for fulfilling an information request is called a “bounty,” rather
than, say, a “fee,” “one-time payment,” or other possible term; you
can probably think of others. How
does that choice of word affect the way
the reader think about the relationship
between the information-requester
and the information gatherer? Does it
affect how the reader thinks about the
relationship between either of these
individuals and the information that is
gathered? Do you think the choice of
the word “bounty” has an effect on the
characters in the story, as well? If so, in
Moreover, who has access to the
requests, and how is it controlled?
Instructor’s guide. This material is
available to instructors to help them
guide in-class discussion of the story.
The Tilly Here-and-Now app exists in
a world that is just different enough
from our own to be provocative but
similar enough to feel intuitive. Stu-
dents may be tempted to jump
straightaway to talking about the app
itself, independent of the story. But
core ethical challenges of a given story.
In the context of an ongoing discussion,
the instructor can introduce these de-
tails to raise new questions or challenge
provisional explanations about how the
world of the story works or why charac-
ters make the choices they do. In story
discussions—and, indeed, in discus-
sions concerning the real world—stu-
dents often begin the course by wanting
to find tidy answers for challenging ethi-
cal problems. To counter this impulse,
future instructors will find it useful to
interject into the discussion details that
complicate the students’ explanations.
In this way, discussion of the story
worlds can help train students to per-
ceive complexity in the real world.
Story frame for “Here-and-Now.” The
story under study here is Liu’s “Here-
and-Now,” a short story that has sparked
lively and productive discussion among
students in previous versions of the
course. Liu, a trained computer scien-
tist, has written several excellent stories
in recent years that directly address is-
sues in computer ethics, material circu-
lated to students, along with the story
text itself; “Here-and-Now” is available
for free at http://www.kasmamagazine.
The story itself25 begins with this sen-
tence: “It’s amazing what you can get,
just by asking.”
How much is information worth?
That is the question Aaron, the protago-
nist of “Here-and-Now,” is forced to con-
front over the course of one complicated
afternoon and evening. Aaron is one of
thousands (if not millions) of people us-
ing a new app called Tilly Here-and-Now
that allows users to pose anonymous re-
quests for “information” of any kind.
The story asks deceptively simple ques-
tions as to why information matters. It
also points out that some kinds of infor-
mation are much more meaningful or
valuable to some people than to others,
asking readers to consider whether that
difference should matter, and how.
The world of the story is not quite the
same as ours but is similar in many ways.
It appears that Centillion, the app’s parent company, has achieved data-man-agement capabilities that are not yet
available in the real world, though we
recognize the possibility is certainly on
the horizon. Likewise, nothing exactly
like the Here-and-Now app exists yet, but
it is a plausible amalgam of many apps
Discussing ethics in
the context of fiction
can make it easier
for instructors to
adopt an open-
required for a good