The great artist Picasso once believed that computers were useless because they could only give answers (as cited in Thornhill, 2016). However, the 21st century has greatly shifted the opinions of those who shared his view with the advent of superior technological breakthroughs. It’s a data driven world evolving into smart cities filled with media saturation, drones, driverless cars, and even the study of artificial intelligence whereby innovators are looking to capitalize (Powles and Brussels, 2016). As a result, these innovators, are often placed in a position where their ethics, morals, and standards are questioned. It is not merely new, but a unique subject on its own that affects the level of commitment to ethical action and social responsibility as a citizen for computer professionals. Though challenging, computer ethics problems can be solved by understanding the realm it entails and correcting misconceptions.
A New & Unique Subject
Unlike older professions such as that of medicine which has a primary ethical principle; to prevent death. Computer ethics reasoning with ethical standards are yet to be formally defined. Its uniqueness can be based upon the speed of how rapid technology is quickly changing, the logical flexibility, and its impact on society as a whole. It encompasses a larger realm that touches the surface of many other subjects. Moore (n.d) states that scope of computer ethics is often characterized by encompassing all moral abuses with a computer that transform our social institutions. It has become so embedded into our society that people are concerned about their privacy, security, computer crimes, and overall who is responsible for the technological failures (Berzai, 2012). It’s no wonder that people are becoming increasingly concerned about the advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics. It’s the next big thing that will flux into our daily lives in the near future. Hammond (2016) states that it’s making everyone tense, questioning how beings of steel will be able to judge and determine what is right. However, as broad and unique as the area may seem; it is to be noted that ethical issues in the field can be subsumed under the issues of general and professional ethics.
The characteristics of professionalism are often based on mental capacities, and advanced skills with training. Thus if the individual misuses his knowledge then the person becomes liable. Therefore, as professionals in the computer science field, judgement and autonomy are critical when developing and working with technologies. It is no different from a medical doctor exercising his autonomous judgment on a patient whether to cut a leg or not, than that of a software engineer to write code in a form that may or may not cause harm. When the risk of privacy or security that may cause harm to others is set into motion, it is as simple as understanding what was the basis of the technology that was deployed in order to perform its functionalities. Although there may be grey areas for which to account such as when mixing computer professionals with the earning of profits for businesses, at the end of the day as professionals we are left with the question of what is the moral and ethical thing to do. Consequently, our act of autonomy and judgement are the key principles that should guide us to ethical and moral decisions
In summary, the computer technologies today bring a whole new field of ethical dilemmas, but at the core it’s no different than those of medical doctors. Perhaps entailing difficult detail oriented decisions, but judgement and autonomy are key guides for ethics. When technologies fail to perform their given tasks, it is us as humans who have failed and not the technology. However, even the best medical doctors have failed and overlooked the most minor mistakes that have had ultimate consequences. That is why it is significantly important to educate people about the possible abuses, and power computer technology holds. As Berzai (2012) noted, if we educate people then they will be able to better handle moral and ethical dilemmas regarding technology in a proper manner.
Berzai, L. (2012). Ethical Problems in Computing. Retrieved fromhttps://www.aitp.org/news/98451/
Hammond, K. (2016). Ethics and Artificial Intelligence: The Moral Compass of a Machine. Retrieved fromhttp://www.recode.net/2016/4/13/11644890/ethics-and-artificial-intelligence-the-moralcompass-of-a-machine
Moor, J. (n.d). What is Computer Ethics. Retrieved from http://web.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/classes/188/spring06/papers/moor.html
Powless, J., & Véliz, C. (2016). How Europe is fighting to change tech companies. ‘Wrecking ball’ Ethics.Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/30/europe-googlefacebook-technology-ethics-eu-martin-schulz
Thornhill, J. (2016). Brave New Era in Technology Needs New Ethics. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/dd328bf4-a25e-11e5-8d70-42b68cfae6e4.html#axzz4Iw4EHcQY