Computers in the Workplace: Are They Used Ethically?
Today's offices look very different from those in the late 1970s. Then typewriters, filing cabinets, and correction fluid were the norm. Today these items have been replaced by desktop and portable computers, database management systems, and word processing software. You are already familiar with some of the benefits of using computers in the workplace—for example, computers make it easier to manage the company database, accounting, and finance-related activities, and communications among different departments in a company—but what are some of the ethical issues that have arisen as a result of using computers in the workplace?
Information technology is replacing energy as society's main resource. Many people are concerned that too much emphasis has been put on what the computer can do to streamline business and too little on how it may be affecting the quality of our lives. For example, is it distorting the meaning of thought? That is, is it absurd and dangerous to attribute the capabilities of thinking and creativity to a computer? People have experience, convictions, and cultural traditions. Are these qualities being devalued? If so, perhaps we are heading into an era in which machinelike qualities of speed and problem solving will be valued more highly than what used to be called humane qualities. As a result, many people believe computers have the potential to contribute to worker dissatisfaction.
Consider the potential for computer-based systems in business to be used to monitor employees. What if computers were (and some are already) programmed to check your speed, the pauses you make, the breaks you take, the rate of keying errors? Would it be fair for the company to do this to make sure it retains only the most efficient workers, and thus increase the value of goods and services it has to sell? Or would this detract from your dignity as a human being—your right to do some things better than...
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