Morality and Ethics and Computers

Topics: Computer, Ethics, Computer software Pages: 5 (1708 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Morality and Ethics and Computers

There are many different sides to the discussion on moral and ethical uses of computers. In many situations, the morality of a particular use of a computer is up to the individual to decide. For this reason, absolute laws about ethical computer usage is almost, but not entirely, impossible to define.

The introduction of computers into the workplace has introduced many questions as well: Should employers make sure the workplace is designed to minimize health risks such as back strain and carpal tunnel syndrome for people who work with computers? Can employers prohibit employees from sending personal memos by electronic mail to a friend at the other side of the office? Should employers monitor employees' work on computers? If so, should employees be warned beforehand? If warned, does that make the practice okay? According to Kenneth Goodman, director of the Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy at the University of Miami, who teaches courses in computer ethics, "There's hardly a business that's not using computers."1 This makes these questions all the more important for today's society to answer.

There are also many moral and ethical problems dealing with the use of computers in the medical field. In one particular case, a technician trusted what he thought a computer was telling him, and administered a deadly dose of radiation to a hospital patient.2 In cases like these, it is difficult to decide who's fault it is. It could have been the computer programmer's fault, but Goodman asks, "How much responsibility can you place on a machine?"3 Many problems also occur when computers are used in education. Should computers replace actual teachers in the classroom? In some schools, computers and computer manuals have already started to replace teachers. I would consider this an unethical use of computers because computers do not have the ability to think and interact on an interpersonal basis.

Computers "dehumanize human activity"4 by taking away many jobs and making many others "boring exercises in pushing the buttons that make the technology work." 5
Complete privacy is almost impossible in this computer age. By using a credit card or check cashing card, entering a raffle, or subscribing to a magazine, people provide information about themselves that can be sold to marketers and distributed to data bases throughout the world. When people use the world-wide web, the sites they visit and download things from, make a record that can be traced back to the person.6 This is not protected, as it is when books are checked out of a library. Therefore, information about someone's personal preferences and interests can be sold to anyone. A health insurance company could find out if a particular person had bought alcohol or cigarettes and charge that person a higher rate because he or she is a greater health risk. Although something like this has not been reported yet, there are no laws against it, at this point.

More and more data base companies are monitoring individuals with little regulation. "Other forms of monitoring-such as genetic screening-could eventually be used to discriminate against individuals not because of their past but because of statistical expectations about their future."7 For instance, people who do not have AIDS but carry the antibodies are being discharged from the U.S. military and also fired from some jobs. Who knows if this kind of medical information could lead employers to make decisions of employment based on possible future illnesses rather than on job qualifications. Is this an ethical use of computers?

One aspect of computers that is surely immoral and unethical is computer crime, which has been on the rise lately. There are many different types of computer crime. Three main types of crimes are making computer viruses, making illegal copies of software, and actually stealing computers.

Computer viruses have been around for a...

Bibliography: 1 Timothy O 'Conner, "Computers Creating Ethical Dilemmas," USA Today Magazine
(September 1995) 7 2 Max Frankel, "Cyberrights," The New York Times Magazine
(February 12, 1995) 26 3 O 'Conner 7 4 James Coates, "Unabomber Case Underscores
an On-Line Evil," Chicago Tribune (April 14, 1996) 5 5 Coates 5 6 O 'Conner 7 7
Tom Forester, Computers in the Human Context (Cambridge: The MIT Press,1989)
403 8 Stephen A. Booht, "Doom Virus," Popular Mechanics (June 1995) 51 9 Philip
Albinus, "Have You Seen This PC?," Home Office Computing (February 1996) 17
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