How relevant are codes of #ethics in the era of Digital?


Wouh, what a year in so many dimensions! And one year where computing made big steps forward, in speed (quantum computing) ubiquity (cloud everywhere) and revamped AI (aka cognitive). Seeing these developments in the rising digital age – or are we already in the mid of it? – the topic around ethics in computing or IT is one of the most challenging to my perception. ethics1There are the more soft ones as the European GPDR or tougher ones like the developments around autonomous weapons (e.g. a “visionary” example here at https://autonomousweapons.org/ . So for me the question rises about how to build codes of conduct and what is the the value of creating a global code defining ethical standards and how to keep up ethics (or moral philosophy) in the digital age alive? All of us in IT related jobs dealing with these challenges on a daily base need to reflect on this. Simon Rogerson posted an interesting article on Linkedin. One area he covered is that ICT (information and communication technology) development which is a global activity about which IDC periodically produces surveys about. ethics3The IDC survey of 2014 found that there were, worldwide, 11.005.000 professional software developers and 7.500.000 additional hobbyists of which a large proportion were students. Comparing this to one of the largest societies in computing ACM which has 94.000 members [65.000 professional members and 29.000 student members] and even having an established special interest group (SIG) around computing and socienty (ACM-SIGCAS) – which I enjoy very much being part of it – influence is yet limited. What I do like what ACM-SIGCAS is disseminating, is the “The Pledge of the Computer Professional” which is intended to promote and recognize the ethical and moral behavior of graduates of computing-related degree programs. Being with the learning profession since a while I found that there is a lot of education around business ethic and compliance – mostly financial yet not much around policy related to ethics in the digital age. Isn’t there more need of companies that are active in this domain or is it to be left to politics to pick this up? What else need to be done`? Would be very interested in the view my network has on this topic. Comments highly appreciated and welcome! 🙂 Merry Christmas to whom who observe and a peaceful wonderful year 2018 for all!

3 comments

  1. Nurcan

    Wow, Lutz, this is an important and kind of heavy topic. Ethics in IT is really a wide field. Where to start? When keeping to the main topic: How relevant are codes of #ethics in IT? I would say: maximally relevant! As in any field, where in principle “everything is possible” for human beings, homo sapiens needs to protect and hold up its “humanity” by formulating ethical principles and keeping to them. Otherwise chaos and anarchy will be inevitable. The question is, who defines the ethical code and who controls its implementation? Governments formulate them and independent instances control their application would be the classical pathway. But in my (lay) impression, this chance has been missed already. However, can we say that we are “ethicless” and in “bad morals” when looking at today`s IT and internet world? For the pessimistic view, there will be many examples for a “yes”. To look at it from a more constructive perspective: as in any other field, homo sapiens will find a way to deal with this crucial issues and the system will regulate itself: this will mean a (+/- long) time frame of struggle and will cost sacrifices, but finally, practices violating ethics and morals will be eliminated by the system and its users. Please do let me in my belief in the rationality of mankind – at least in these special days around Christmas and a fresh and New Year ahead… 🙂

    • Nurcan, thank you for your elaborate response! I very much like the question you ask: „ The question is, who defines the ethical code and who controls its implementation?“ Indeed this is core, as ethic if I use the definition that it is part of philosophy and at the end is recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct, runs it to the dilemma: what is right and what is wrong? Given all the facets in here from culture, religion, other normative principles and so on this seems to be a goal hard to achieve. So we probably have ethical flavors in different aspects in our lives following some guiding principles. Sounds very philosophical, doesn’t it? And may be philosophy is part of the solution here. Who controls? Well everyone probably in a world full of social beings. I would see that the concept of centralized control isn‘t working anymore for many reasons in many cases!

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