computer ethics

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computer ethics

Ethics is the field of study that is concerned with questions of value, that is, judgments about what human behaviour is "good" or "bad". Ethical judgments are no different in the area of computing from those in any other area. Computers raise problems of privacy, ownership, theft, and power, to name but a few.

Computer ethics can be grounded in one of four basic world-views: Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, or Existentialism. Idealists believe that reality is basically ideas and that ethics therefore involves conforming to ideals. Realists believe that reality is basically nature and that ethics therefore involves acting according to what is natural. Pragmatists believe that reality is not fixed but is in process and that ethics therefore is practical (that is, concerned with what will produce socially-desired results). Existentialists believe reality is self-defined and that ethics therefore is individual (that is, concerned only with one's own conscience). Idealism and Realism can be considered ABSOLUTIST worldviews because they are based on something fixed (that is, ideas or nature, respectively). Pragmatism and Existentialism can be considered RELATIVIST worldviews because they are based or something relational (that is, society or the individual, respectively).

Thus ethical judgments will vary, depending on the judge's world-view. Some examples:

First consider theft. Suppose a university's computer is used for sending an e-mail message to a friend or for conducting a full-blown private business (billing, payroll, inventory, etc.). The absolutist would say that both activities are unethical (while recognising a difference in the amount of wrong being done). A relativist might say that the latter activities were wrong because they tied up too much memory and slowed down the machine, but the e-mail message wasn't wrong because it had no significant effect on operations.

Next consider privacy. An instructor uses her account to acquire the cumulative grade point average of a student who is in a class which she instructs. She obtained the password for this restricted information from someone in the Records Office who erroneously thought that she was the student's advisor. The absolutist would probably say that the instructor acted wrongly, since the only person who is entitled to this information is the student and his or her advisor. The relativist would probably ask why the instructor wanted the information. If she replied that she wanted it to be sure that her grading of the student was consistent with the student's overall academic performance record, the relativist might agree that such use was acceptable.

Finally, consider power. At a particular university, if a professor wants a computer account, all she or he need do is request one but a student must obtain faculty sponsorship in order to receive an account. An absolutist (because of a proclivity for hierarchical thinking) might not have a problem with this divergence in procedure. A relativist, on the other hand, might question what makes the two situations essentially different (e.g. are faculty assumed to have more need for computers than students? Are students more likely to cause problems than faculty? Is this a hold-over from the days of "in loco parentis"?).

"Philosophical Bases of Computer Ethics", Professor Robert N. Barger.

Usenet newsgroups: news:bit.listserv.ethics-l, news:alt.soc.ethics.

computer ethics

Social responsibility as applied to the use of computers and technology. Privacy of information as well as regard for digital property that can be easily duplicated are primary ethical issues. However, as time moves on, the more far reaching issue is the impact of technology on jobs. How the world deals with the declining need for people in the workplace as robots, AI and technology replace both skilled and unskilled workers alike is the major ethics issue in the future... and that future is getting closer all the time. See automation and driverless car.
References in periodicals archive ?
One major step in deterring unwanted behavior in the instruction of ethical hacking instruction is the use of a computer ethics policy.
In the literature, it can be seen that there have been a few attempts to support ethics or computer ethics education processes through the technological tools.
The second section notes "milestone" contributions to the evolution of the information and computer ethics field as well as writings on values/ethics and IT in Canada's public sector.
Wiener helps to generate the necessary technology for the information revolution, and provides a philosophical foundation for information and computer ethics.
of New Mexico) presents an introductory textbook on engineering ethics that discusses professional codes, problem-solving techniques, risk, safety, and accidents, research, and environmental and computer ethics.
Wiener, for example, explored what he saw as the ethical implications of computer technology, engaging basic questions, principles involving justice, mission and purpose, as well as computer ethics in practice (1950; Bynum, 1999).
He publishes on philosophy of artificial intelligence, computer ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and logic.
Internet & Computer Ethics for Kids: (and Parents & Teachers Who Haven't Got a Clue), by Winn Schwartau (Interpact Press, 2001).
En un articulo pionero, fundamental en el campo, James Moor define a la Computer Ethics como "el analisis de la naturaleza e impacto social de la tecnologia de la computacion y de la correspondiente formulacion y justificacion de politicas para un uso etico de dicha tecnologia" (2).
Additional evidence of ethical concerns is provided by the existence of the Computer Ethics Institute, which has developed The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics (available from their web site, www.
In the past 15 years, a dozen or so courses in computer ethics have also appeared in various universities as part of computer science programs or departments of philosophy.

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