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作者: Robert A. Schultz

日期: 2006

ISBN: 1-59140-779-6

页数: 230

出版社: Idea Group Inc.

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  • Author: Robert A. Schultz
  • Publisher: Idea Group Inc.
  • Publish Date: 2006
  • Pages: 230
Robert A. Schultz
Woodbury University, USA
Publisher: Copyright ? 2006 by Idea Group Inc.
Pages: 230
ISBN 1-59140-779-6 (hardcover)
ISBN 1-59140-780-X (softcover)
ISBN 1-59140-781-8(ebook)

Information technology (IT) has caused and will continue to cause enormous
changes in the ways we do things. Very often, the introduction of new technologies
results in dramatic alterations in old ways of relating to each other.
Examples range all the way from entirely new ways of meeting romantic partners
to making travel arrangements; from new ways of connecting with suppliers
to entirely new kinds of businesses. It is, therefore, only to be expected
that IT produces new challenges and issues for us to deal with ethically. Issues
about privacy, security, piracy, and ownership take on new aspects when applied
to new IT applications. So far, in discussions of ethical issues of IT,
these types of issues have been the most discussed. Yet other important issues
that raise difficult ethical problems also need to be addressed, for example,
the outsourcing of high-level jobs and the value of information technology
I will be using a framework for ethical problems influenced very much by the
late philosopher John Rawls. Rawls is regarded by many political theorists as
the greatest social and political philosopher of the 20th century. His importance
was perhaps signaled by the fact that his obituary appeared in the News
and Review section of the New York Times rather than in the regular obituary
section. He was my PhD thesis adviser at Harvard, so I had the chance to
gain familiarity with his work. This book does not contain a full and accurate
account of his work. Its intended audience is IT professionals and IT users
who have ethical concerns. A full and accurate account of Rawls’ work would
take us into the convolutions of professional philosophy, which I intend to
avoid.1 This is very much a book of applied ethics, but I have tried my best
to be faithful to the spirit of the ideals of Rawls’ work.
The basic idea is that ethical problems arise because there are conflicts between
different interests. IT examples include: music downloaders vs. music
rights owners; corporate managers or stockholders vs. outsourced professionals;
spammers vs. e-mail users. These problems cannot be resolved on
the level of individual interests alone. Higher level principles need to be applied.
Very often, these higher level considerations are embodied in laws, but
laws themselves need to be ethical—we need to know that laws themselves
are just. Rawls’ main contribution to ethics was a theory of justice based on
the idea that justice means fairness to all concerned, plus a method for determining
when this is so3 (Rawls, 1999). As I worked on the various issues
discussed in the book, I experienced once again the power of these ideas of
Rawls. They are direct descendants of the founding ideas of the United States,
so it is perhaps no wonder that they are so attractive.
In Section I, Ethics and IT—The Background, ethics is applied to information
technology. Chapter I, Ethical Issues in Information Technology, considers
three questions:
? What makes an issue an ethical issue?
? What features of information technology create new ethical issues?
? Who is to say what is right and wrong?
My answer to the question, “Who is to say what is right and wrong?” is the
person with the most overall view using the highest level principles.
Chapter II, A Background in Ethical Theory, introduces the underlying ethical
principles used in the rest of the book. The basis for deciding on ethical
principles is the principle of higher level principles; it is rational to follow a
higher level principle to resolve conflicts between lower level principles.
I present some classical theories of right action and a classical theory of value.
Then I discuss how higher level ethical principles for institutions arise and
outline the social contract theory of justice developed by John Rawls. The
basic idea of a social contract is that a justly ordered society is one to which
individuals can freely decide to obligate themselves. Rawls believes two principles
of justice would be chosen to regulate institutions: Greatest Equal Liberty—
all members of society have the greatest equal liberty possible, including
fair equality of opportunity; and the Difference Principle—economic inequalities
in society are justified by their making the least advantaged better
off than if there were no inequality. Finally, Rawls’ extension of his social contract
theory to a transnational context is explained.
In Chapter III, The Context of IT Ethical Issues, ethical issues within organizations
are seen to arise from three points of view: IT professionals, IT users,
and general managers. I also discuss partial compliance, how to deal with
cases where ethical principles are not being fully observed. How to deal with
such cases turns out to be important in many of the following chapters.
In Section II, Ethics and IT Professionals, some IT ethical issues within organizations
are considered from the point of view of the IT professional. Discussion
in Chapter IV is based on traditional theories of right. Chapters V, VI,
and VII rely on John Rawls’ theory of justice.
In Chapter IV, Professional Duties, I begin by considering the nature of the IT
profession and the special ethical duties of the IT professional. My position is
that IT has developed a distinctive and robust set of professional ethical
standards even without the benefit of formal credentialing and accreditation.
Since ethical behavior for the IT professional is also impacted by the ethics of
people and institutions in his or her environment, the rest of the chapters in this
part consider the justice of institutions impacting the IT professional. The
theory of justice used is the social contract theory developed by John Rawls.
Economic justice is the major focus in Chapters V, Justice in a Market Economy,
and Chapter VI, Trust Issues in a Market Economy. These chapters examine
the ethical constraints necessary for justice in an efficient market economy.
The basis for the discussion is Rawls’ second principle of justice, the Difference
Principle, which requires social institutions to be arranged to make the
worst off in society as well off as possible. Topics discussed include monopoly,
the “digital divide,” trust in supply chain management and outsourcing,
and dealing with unethical organizational behavior.
Chapter VII, Offshoring as an Ethical Issue, examines the justice of the practice
of moving skilled IT jobs to lower wage countries. Rawls’ extension of his
principles of justice to transnational contexts, which he calls “the law of peoples,”
is the basis for my analysis. One major concern is that the safeguards of justice
present internally in national economies are not automatically duplicated
in transnational contexts.
In Section III, Ethics for IT Users, we turn to issues relating to the individual
user of IT These issues include several much-discussed ethical issues such as
privacy, security, copyright, and piracy. Some other less usual problems involving
the individual are also discussed. These are issues that take on a different
cast in an online environment, such as taxing Internet sales equitably
and eliminating paper from transactions.
I include these issues here to give some idea of what a Rawlsian treatment of
them would look like. I have not been able to include consideration of the
very extensive discussions of these issues. Some of the ethical principles involved
in this part are not discussed by Rawls, but I believe they are natural
extensions of his principles. Of special ethical significance is a very strong
individual right to privacy, formulated and discussed in Chapter VIII. The
discussion of copyright in Chapter IX also turned out to be the most appropriate
place to consider the ethical status of corporations, an issue Rawls
does not directly consider.
The range of issues in Chapter X each require different treatment because of
their special features. Sales tax is traditionally collected at the location of the
infrastructure supporting the business, but there doesn’t seem to be any way
to apply this to Web-based transactions. Paperless transactions raise the issue
of justice for those without access to computers. Spam raises free-speech
issues. Finally, although the Internet seems to raise no new ethical issues concerning
dating and sex, the difficulty in censoring the Internet does underline
its contribution to realizing the first principle of justice—that of Greatest Equal
Freedom, especially with respect to freedom of speech.
Section IV, Ultimate Questions, begins in Chapter XI with issues of how to
value IT itself. These issues are considered from various points of view: I
begin with the point of view of organizations and the economy and then consider
the ultimate value of technology and IT from the point of view of the human
species, the environment, and being itself.
The discussion of IT value from organizational and socioeconomic points of
view builds from a discussion of the “productivity paradox” of the early 1990s.
Because of the uncertainties involved in assessments of global socioeconomic
value, this type of value assessment may not be useful to managers in organizations.
Managers are, after all, concerned with whether they can realize value
from particular projects. I discuss ways of realizing value in particular projects
and barriers to realizing this value.
Chapters XII and XIII consider “ultimate” ethical questions of the value of
technology from the point of view of humanity, the ecosystem, and being itself.
Chapter XII first discusses the value of modern technology per se, and
then Chapter XIII discusses to what extent conclusions about modern technology
apply to information technology.
My analysis of modern technology is based on Heidegger’s view of modern
technology as an independent force in human existence, with its own point of
view and its own ends, chiefly to build a new and incompatible order for the
purpose of extracting and storing energy for later uses. The ends of technology
are expressed in an ethical principle I call the Technology Principle. Two
other ethical principles, the Species Survival Principle and the Ecosystem Principle,
emerge from a discussion from the points of view of the species and the
environment. I argue that these principles have priority over the Technology
Principle. To establish this priority, ultimately one must take the point of view
of being itself.
In the final chapter, I consider whether IT possesses the characteristics of
modern technology. I conclude that the answer is quite different for IT hardware
and IT applications. IT hardware is a part of modern technology, but IT
applications are not. IT as application is not trying to replace the world, but
rather to produce a useful simulation of the world, being in this respect like
art. At the end, I discuss the ethical implications of these views for managers,
the species, the ecosystem, and being itself.
Ethics can have two possible emphases: on judgments or on agents. A judgment
emphasis in ethics results in judgments of the behavior or character of
others. An agent emphasis in ethics provides guidance for an individual trying
to decide what to do. This book has an agent emphasis. My aim is to have
produced a book useful for dealing with practical ethical problems of IT—
problems faced by professionals and users. But, in any case, ethical solutions
must be based on higher level principles, because, in the end, this is the only
way we can deal ethically and consistently with the rapidly changing environment
presented to us by IT.

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