The use and application of the term computer ethics trace its background in the mid-1970s as the computer technology started to take shape and widespread acceptance. At that time, the issues of ethical problems surfaced as a result of the use of computers in various industrial sectors. Since the first instance of computer ethics issues, there are a number of definitions for the topic coming from different schools of thought. According to some, computer ethics refers to the ways through which the use of computer technology brings about new standards with respect to moral problems and dilemmas, requiring the application of moral norms. From another perspective, others see computer ethics as the field concerned with dealing with policy vacuums and conceptual muddles which arise as a result of using information technology to the social and ethical means. Other schools of thought define computer ethics as the standards used to identify and evaluate all impacts resulting from the application of information technology to social and human values including work, health, security, knowledge, privacy and self-fulfillment (Neumann 218). From the above, it is clear that the issue of computer ethics is comprehensive and incorporates many important aspects.
Computer Ethics in the Global Scene
The world today has seen computing become more and more prevalent. As a result, the arising computer ethics issues in the current world are equally important and challenging. Today’s world features a generation that is marked by ubiquitous computing and massive globalization. As a result, the computer ethics issues feature globally as opposed to local limitation. Globalization has made the stakes higher and, as a result, the application and considerations for information and computer ethics require a broader perspective. Every year sees a tremendous growth in the number of computer and computing applications. The use of electronic communication mediums, online money transfers, as well as several other applications of the World Wide Web result to a situation where the entire world now operates as one electronic village (Spafford 229). In today’s world, the entire population in all developed countries is in a stage where the use of computers and computer technology characterizes almost every aspect of their day-to-day life.
The point of globalized computer era where almost everyone on the planet can easily connect with everyone by the use of computers and computer technology is overly breathtaking. However, the above leaves a notable impact in the ordinary human life. In as much as there are various positive effects, there are a couple of negative aspects as well. As a result, it becomes vital to learn the importance of what happens as a result of embracing all information and computer related technological advancements. The rationale for the above finds its basis in the fact that the computer revolution has the necessary potential required to create major effects on how human beings lead their lives. The paramount issue on how people should control computing alongside the flow of information to serve the benefits of everyone is what brings about the issue of computer ethics (Spafford 231). It is true that the computer revolution has impacted significantly in almost every field thus promoting the arising of computer ethics.
In light of the above, it is possible to view computer ethics from two perspectives. In the first, they feature as routine values. From the systematic point of view, the computer ethics are alike to the other standards in various other fields. They apply custom norms, and laws in assessing the issues at hand. In the second point of view, computer ethics features as cultural relativism. From the cultural relativism point of view, local laws and customs determine what is wrong and what is right. The cultural relativism point of view embraces the fact that computer ethics is intractable because most of the modern computer technology goes beyond any cultural boundaries.
Information Enrichment and Malleability in Computer Ethics
The issue of computer ethics features so widely as a result of the revolutionary nature of computers and computer technology. The above feature is better known as the logical malleability of computers. The meaning of malleability refers to the fact that it is easy to manipulate computers and computer technology into doing any activity. The logic behind the computer technology follows a system based on connecting logical operation to get outputs from inputs into the computer system. The above means that the computers can be manipulated both in terms of semantics and syntax. Semantic manipulation involves the use of use of personal attributes by the computer to represent anything he or she chooses (Johnson 203). Te ability to carry out such manipulative activities makes the consideration of computer ethics paramount since such characteristics pave a way for harmful exploitation.
As a result of the above mentioned logical malleability, computer and computer systems are very vital for the purpose of information enrichment. The rationale for the above statement finds its basis in the fact that one can put computer and computer technology for use in various activities. From one point of view, it is easy to modify computers so as to enhance their overall performance and capabilities. Ideally, all computerized activities turn out to be information based, that is, the processing of information stands out as a vital aspect necessary to the understanding of the above activities. As a result of the above, the conceptions of the activities as well as the activities themselves end up enriched in terms of information basis.
Information enrichment features as a factor affecting the legal and ethical practices and concepts of computers and computer technologies. The above is clearly illustrated in the concept of privacy. When computer ethics was first established in the 1970s, the concept of privacy expanded all the way to include the personal protection against interference by the government in personal decisions. In today’s world, the concept includes all the former provisions and includes a clause that focuses on informational privacy. Such a development exists in the current world as a result of the increased development of computer technology and how it is applied in collecting and maintaining huge databases of personal information. In addition to personal information, money, copyrights, and war are also examples featuring under the information enrichment ethical threat. Ideally, almost every activity in the modern world has a computerized function meaning that information enrichment is everywhere. Even where information enrichment is silent and unnoticeable, it is important to remember that the current world is under siege from computers and computer related technologies. The above means that information passing in computer systems is stored somewhere and only the application of computer ethics will prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
Special Nature of Computer Ethics
With respect to everything highlighted above so far, the field of computer ethics is unique and calls for extensive application and research. Ideally, computer ethics constitutes two primary parts. Part one deals with the analysis of the impact and the general nature of computer technology (Neumann 214). On the other hand, the second deals with the justification of policies as well as the corresponding formulation of standard ethics from a technological point of view. In the overall reflection of computer ethics, the term computer technologies feature a lot. The rationale for the above finds its basis in the fact that the subject matter of computer ethics includes a reflection of computers with all their associated technology including hardware, software, and networks.
In the pursuit of understanding the unique nature of computer ethics, it is necessary to analyze thoughtfully the situations under which the impact computer and computer technology features most. The above is necessary for the formulation and justification of policies applied in setting the strategic code of computer ethics. However, although it is necessary to make comprehensive analyzes before the justification and formulation processes, discovering ethical issues follows a reverse process. For example, an ethical consideration may arise upon whether a government agency should be allowed to limit internet access. Initially, there are no explicit policies providing substantial provisions for such a matter. Such a situation illustrates the existence of a policy vacuum. In such a case, the optimal technique to find a workable solution involves the formulation of ethical provisions as soon as such a policy vacuum comes into limelight. Ideally, the above process should start by seeking the most tentative understanding of the situation. In so doing, it becomes possible have a logical proposal and evaluation of all the possible policies that can be incorporated in the process of making the best standards of computer ethics.
The process of policy evaluation mostly calls very close examination and refinement of the various values that the policy yearns to protect and uphold. In light of the above, such evaluation at times leads the policymakers back in the pursuit of seeking more conceptual clarification necessary for further formulation and evaluation. At the end of such tedious processes, it becomes easy to arrive at definite understanding points thus making the most justifiable policies governing computer ethics. The most important thing to know about the policy making for computer ethics is that it is a never ending process. Every day, new consequences come up from the application of new computer technologies. As a result, a new cycle of policy formulation, concept clarification, and evaluation must start.
As a result of the logical malleability of computers and computer technology, the application of both continues to feature unpredictably (Johnson 201). As a result, the future always faces numerous cases of policy vacuums. However, the above does not imply that it is impossible to achieve the conceptual clarity necessary for the formulation and justification of the most standard and reasonable computer ethics. Rather, it helps in highlighting the real task of making reasonable computer ethics – formidable and ongoing. There is no other field of professional ethics that comes close to computer ethics in terms of formulation and justification complexities. Ideally, all the problems highlighted during the formulation of standard computer ethics require a lot more than a simple, straightforward application of rules in a situation requiring ethical solutions. In short, standard computer ethics spans to wider perspectives beyond the use in computing. However, the fact that computer ethics is relatively unusual does not mean that every ethical issue involving the use of computers and computer technology is special or unique.
In short, it is a universally agreed fact that computer ethics is unique. The uniqueness of computer ethics features in the computing technologies that are so dynamic (Johnson 201). The uniqueness of computer ethics thus comes up in terms of depth, scope, and general novelty of the ethical situations for which the standard rules seek to safeguard. Ideally, the uniqueness of computer ethics is sometimes so ambiguous in that it calls for one to take considerable thinking time before taking sides in setting up standards. Notably, the legal and ethical categories such as copyright and privacy can easily shift their meaning by way of attaining informational enrichment. However, the decision to classify computer ethics as unique or not must take consideration that computer ethics represents a very demanding field of ethics which calls upon the application of intense and routine process activities and principles.
The Relative Framework within Computer Ethics
There are a significant number of critics who fail to understand the argument of the basics of the routine ethics in computer and computer technology. Their argument majorly focuses on the notion that the application of computers and computer related technology most times leads to the development of informational enrichment and policy vacuums. Their argument is that the above promotes conceptual shifts characterized by critical conceptual muddles. However, most people are uncomfortable when routine ethics fails to feature (Weckert 17). The case of the general public is that cultural relativism is not in a position to solve computer ethic related problems alone. With reference to cultural relativism, computer ethics depends on simultaneous decisions based on the local laws and customs.
The above point of view brings forth two problems worth respect to the formulation and justification of computer ethics. First, the computer and computer related technologies involve global interaction. As a result, the conformity to local laws and customs fails to provide a reasonable solution. Information on the World Wide Web flows without conformity to any particular custom. Second, any problem facing the application of routine ethics remains. It is normal for a policy vacuum to feature in any culture. In addition, it is possible for a computing situation to be extremely novel such that there is no law or customs established anywhere that may optimally cope with its provisions (Himma and Herman 20).
The highlighted difficulties and shortcomings facing the routine and the cultural relativism ethical standards create a situation that fosters caution towards applying any computer ethics at all. The primary concern of the public finds its basis on what would be used to settle differences without an agreement on what ethical standards to apply. The above illustrates that ethical issues are way too vague and considerably elusive. In the computer and computer technology sector, it is much easier to discuss and agree on data structures, algorithms, and computer networks than discussing computer ethics since they follow a particular set of factual topics.
Ideally, all enterprises including computer science depend on a particular set of value frameworks for operation (Langford and Wusteman 219). It is a usual thing for the above structures to face rational criticism and adjustments. At times, the criticism is external while, at others, it is internal. The value structures vary in terms of dynamisms with those relating to engineering sciences such as computer science is the rapidest in terms of revolution and developmental growth. It is upon the value frameworks that it becomes possible embrace reason in the process of formulating and justifying various ethical standards. As mentioned earlier, human values are important to consider in computer ethics just as in any other professional standards. It is not possible to overlook value judgments in workplaces. The normal decision-making processes feature value saturation that makes them vital for the success of all operations in any profession.
Like other professionals, computer scientists disagree from time to time, and the disagreements may feature the ethical standards (Spafford 232). However, differences with respect to value standards are merely about facts meaning that they can be easily solved by the use of empirical tests. In short, there are very high chances of non-ethical values playing a role in the due course of making sound decisions, even for computer science related topics. The above means that even in science, it is not possible to establish a safe technique that uses pure facts to solve all kinds of disputes. The above means that the value standards stipulated in various codes of ethic remains relevant and vital in all professions and industrial sectors, including in computer and computer technology related industries.
The Core Values of Computer Ethics
In every community, there exists a standard consensus on the community values with the accepted preferences. With reference to the above, ethical judgments feature the particular boundaries of individual communities. There are very many communities with very difference cultures. Therefore, establishing the core values of computer ethics stands out as a very critical consideration. Computers and computer-related technologies feature a lot of policy vacuums. As a result, formulating and justifying ethical standards in this field is overly complicated even while carried out within one community (Bynum and Rogerson 350). Computers and computer-related technologies affect the humans who use them. In light of the above, the primary core values upon which their establishment finds its basis are the same core values all human beings have in common. The core values common to all human beings include knowledge, ability, protection, as well as access to resources. Various communities may bear different points of view for standards, but they must at least agree with the above core values.
The above core values pave a way for the provision of the most standard values most optimal for evaluating the actions and policies that feature in over more than one community. Computer ethics stands out as the best example of ethical standards requiring the observance of the above core values since the application of computers, and computer technologies do not conform to specific customs of a particular community (Neumann 214). The above core values provide the basis upon which decision makers use to evaluate the rationality applied during the formulation and justification of standard computer ethics. It is upon the provisions of the above core values that it becomes possible to discards some courses of action while favoring others. The identification of the core values provides the decision makers with a framework of values which is applied in the process of determining how to structure standard computer ethics.
In short, if one applies computer ethics for a right course but without justification, the presence of the core values provides the most optimal standards applicable for the evaluation of policies and actions in such a case. Through the proper application of framework according to the core values, computer ethics become readily applicable in all communities.
The drive to ethical responsibility starts by embracing the necessary mentality for foster moral viewpoints. In every profession and industrial sector, respecting the core values of every stakeholder is very crucial. It is necessary to avoid the application of policies that are not accepted since it might result in significant negative motivation and harm to others. It is upon the consideration of such factors that professional ethics finds their basis of existence. Formulating and justifying computer ethics varies a little from other industrial sectors and professions. The above is true because computers and computer technology is very global and spans universally beyond the boundaries of one community. In light of the above, computer ethics is relatively unique and special. However, just like every other ethical provision in different professions and industries, computer ethics must observe and relate to the core values considered universal to human nature. It is upon understanding that rule that computer ethics succeeds in meeting their objectives.
Bynum, Terrell Ward, and Simon Rogerson. Computer Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004. Print.
Himma, Kenneth Einar, and Herman T Tavani. The Handbook Of Information And Computer Ethics. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2008. Print.
Johnson, Deborah. ‘Computer Systems: Moral Entities but Not Moral Agents’. Ethics and Information Technology 8 (2006): 195–204. Print.
Langford, Duncan, and Judith Wusteman. ‘The Increasing Importance of Ethics in Computer Science’. Business Ethics 3.4 (1994): 219-222. Web.
Neumann, Peter. ‘Computer Security and Human Value’. New Haven, CT: South Connecticut State University, 1991. 208 – 226. Print.
Spafford, Eugine. ‘Are Computer Hacker Break-Ins Ethical’. Journal of Systems and Software (1992): 227-248. Print.
Weckert, John. Computer Ethics. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Print.
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