Having read the sample chapter, the most significant weakness in the discussion of ethics and ethical theory is the reason why people would want to engage in ethical theory at all. The author provided occasions when people could engage in ethical theory and three reasons why people engage in theory generally, but these does not address the question of why people should even bother with ethical theory in the first place.
The author cited previous works regarding the nature and importance of ethics, saying that ethics is something short of a waste of time especially for busy practitioners because it is impractical and hopelessly abstract, distracting in the workplace, even. In light of this, the author failed to address the importance of ethics and ethical theory in the workplace, specifically for professionals. Although he mentioned that engaging in (ethical) theory can be motivated by the practical, historical, and aesthetic, a discussion on the defense and necessity of ethics is found wanting.
Throughout the chapter he drew illustrations of when situations where ethical problems may arise, but the question remains: why would an individual consider engaging in ethical inquiry when he could just as easily make a decision based on his own prejudices, or based on existing rules and regulations in order to be objective? The author mentioned that we all engage in ethical considerations whether we know it or not, and the operative term here is consciousness. Does the author want his readers to think about how they reach decisions consciously, for them to be aware of their own ethical inquiries instead of just making a snap decision out of whim? If so, why? If not, what is the purpose of the whole chapter? This is crucial, because if he cannot convince his readers that ethics is worthwhile field of inquiry, then we could all forgo reading about it in the first place.
The Computer Revolution has been booming – the world has seen an increase not only in computer production and related technology, but also an increase in users of such technology and alongside with the increasing globalization, an increasing connectivity all over the world through computers and the internet as well. James Moor is correct in proposing Computer Ethics as a viable and important field of study, and his assertion that the global village needs to work together to converse about the social and ethical impact of computing is equally agreeable.
Moor asserts that Computer Ethics is a very practical and important field of study; however, a stream of questions begins to surface: how do we define an ethical and/or an unethical application of computing technology? Practical and important to whom? Further, Moor’s assumption that computing technology needs to be used solely so as not to inflict danger or abuse can be seen as a weakness, seeing that progress in the field of computers have been largely developed for military purposes.
Moor asserts that computing technology can be harmful and subject to abuse, whether intended or unintended. For this reason, we should seriously consider discussing the effects and impact of computing technology, and the invisible ways by which it can be manipulated, so that we can begin formulating ways of protecting consumers of computing technology and preventing utilization of such technology that promotes danger and violence to others.
Moor also asserts that the basis of such ethical standpoint will find its root in our core values as human beings. Although we are members of different cultures and society, he believes that since we are all human beings, we all share some core values, like security, freedom, knowledge. People from all over the globe can engage in a dialogue and discuss how we can protect each other’s rights, especially in this relatively new cyber sphere where laws and rules are only beginning to be formed.
Even so, Moor’s proposition to consider shared core values as basis for the foundation of a working computer ethic practice is laudable. The only thing is that, this same core values may be the reasons for not arriving at a consensus. For example, a serious problem in the field of computer technology now is the legal use of software. People from developed countries might be able to afford to buy original software, but people from less developed countries rarely have enough resources to meet their basic needs, let alone purchase expensive software licenses. Can we expect them to uphold values when their immediate needs are that of survival?
Another area of computer ethics that is problematic is that of the black hats – groups of hackers who do what they do for a living. We can argue that they can pursue other modes of livelihood and other profession if they want to, and yet there are employers who hire them for what they do. The there is also the matter of using advanced computing technology in the military. The so-called “smart bombs” objectify its targets to the point that killing becomes no longer an ethical or moral dilemma, but is reduced to a single press of a button to send the bombs to a specific location to wipe off the enemy. Is that acceptable if the enemy is a suspected terrorist? Does it matter if the target is only a suspect? Moor pointed out that there is an invisible factor at work in the realm of computing technology, in that programmers might not even be aware of the bias of the script that they encode until a situation arises. In this case, the program for a “smart bomb” has no way of knowing for sure if the target is indeed the target present at the given intercepts.
The demarcation line between what constitutes unacceptable behavior in terms of using computer technology becomes blurred and highly subjective. Shared core values are not enough as basis for a framework of computer ethics, although it is a viable start. But it seems that the subject of computer ethics is intricately linked with a more general moral problem regarding who holds the world’s power, especially now that the world is divided between developing and developed countries, between those who can give time to think of values and morals versus those who are keen on securing their next meal.
Moor’s argument rests on Kantian notion of ethics, or the deontological ethics, where people derive the determination to uphold moral obligation stemming from practical reason, bound by duty. Reading Moor’s essays, he seems to assume that computing technology should develop an ethical framework as a function of people’s moral obligation.
In a sense, Moor was harping on developing a framework for computer ethics because it is an area that is shared and that binds people together, because it is the next logical step. His proposal of finding a common ground by determining shared core values, universally accepted and binding understanding of man’s nature is simply a function of setting up the framework, consequences of fulfilling the moral obligation of making the computing realm safe. Thus, he proposes that shared core values like security can be a probable ground for the global village to converge and develop computer ethics as a way of carrying out the categorical imperative where computer technology is concerned.
Further, Moor assumes in his paper that everyone will agree on setting up computing ethics frameworks, and thereby set up some form of control. The assumption stems from thinking that people have a moral obligation to behave in a certain way – a universal way of nature of assuming that people are generally good, or would want to abide by what is good, out of a conception of a general law. Pursuing computer ethics is simply an end in itself, its tenets and interests done and pursued because it is the right thing to do.
Thus, we determine what to do in the case of Computer Ethics in the light of our duty to oversee that we conform and act in a way that everyone should act and behave in the same moral manner. Indeed, perhaps it is the only way for a global, a universal code of computer ethics to be efficiently carried out and implemented. For, if everyone who is linked to the cyber world, everyone using a computer and enjoying computing technology, will abide by a universal duty to remain moral in the undertaking of using such technology stripped of personal interests can only there be a promising ethical framework to govern a vast and increasingly incomprehensible and intangible technology.