The word ethics has its root in the word ethos, which most often refers to character. The concepts of ethics, character, right and wrong, and good and evil have captivated humankind ever since we began to live in groups, communicate, and pass judgment on each other’s actions based on motivation, group rules and norms, and intermediate and end results. Thinking about ethics can begin with the individual, and then expand into group, societal, and cultural ethical considerations. From this foundation, we can apply (and test against) known theories and frameworks to information systems and situations in the modern age. Can ethics and personal character apply, and in the same ways, in the modern information- and data-based world in which we currently live, work, and function? Discovering this application, and determining the degree to which it satisfies logic, justice, ethical truths, and modern reality, is the overarching goal of this course.
While ethics is important for its own sake, we, as information-systems professionals, have a particular responsibility to understand and apply ethics to our professional actions and decisions. Character, goodness, and just actions are certainly important for everyone, as they have been throughout history—and the more power the individual possesses due to political position or wealth, the greater the ramifications of character or the lack of it. However, in no previous age has the technology for information retrieval, storage, and communication possessed such potential to change power structures and be the source of power itself. In the modern era, information systems managers and professionals exercise a new kind of power, with broad and often instant ramifications. This power—gained through technical expertise—requires a new level of social responsibility. This responsibility is satisfied through a development of understanding of ethics in Information Technology and the application of ethics to their own decision-making...
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