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Computer Ethics: Moral Reasoni Essay, Research Paper

Computer Ethics: Moral Reasoning and Ethics

Responsibilities for the ethical use of computers vary among individuals based on their basic principles of moral reasoning. As an individual, my beliefs are distinctive to my social and moral background. These beliefs are then molded from my interactions in educational and community environments. Initially, we all are raised to be individuals who follow the basic rules of morality. We are set to follow basic guidelines that society sets for individuals. In the computer world, moralities in terms of ethics are, to some extent, unique. I generally apply the rudimentary guidelines of life to those of the computer world. On an educational level, I would never use some other student s work as my own. Society would call this plagiarism. I also would never harass anyone in a chat room, by e-mail, or by any other means of communication. Harassment by any means is punishable by law. In my community environment, my beliefs on ethics would be very simple and similar to that of others. Destruction of another s property, violence towards others, and any acts of hate would be a crime in my eyes and should punishable by any means. On both levels, I combine these ethics to form ethics of the computer world.

Morality and moral reasoning are not ideas that are given to individuals, rather, they are ideas that we created and develop as individuals. If morality was a standard that every individual is raised with, then why is there such a variety of wrongdoing? Morality, in my opinion, is not handed down from our parents, teachers, and others we look up to, it is something that all individuals must learn from and develop. As a Computer Science student, the best I can relate is through programming. I think that in the not to distant future programmers will be a dime a dozen. Having this in mind, we are taught to not only program, but we are taught to program better. My recent visit to Cisco Systems proved this very well. Every individual was able to program routers to Cisco specifications, but the leaders of every team and section of Cisco were the programmers who possessed the extra knowledge of programming more efficiently. These leaders had the knowledge that was needed to know for getting the job done, but they had the knowledge of details that they wanted to know. The additional information proved to help these leaders to create better ideas in designing new hardware as well as leading the team more efficiently. Programming languages are ever-changing because there are many individuals who create better techniques in coding. These individuals develop their knowledge of programming to the next level by creating something entirely new. Morality is similar through this kind of development. If a child is raised to not hurt another person, that child will develop the ideas to abide by this guideline in different fashions. This child will not hurt anyone physically, and then later expand on that idea by being a kind and caring individual. Then, the child will expand even more by not hurting anyone on a mental level. All this is simply developed throughout the child s life through the interactions he/she has in their educational and community environments. If the environments are based with hurting people, then the child will learn to hurt, but if the environments are morally correct, the child will be the same.

My morality and moral reasoning is purely based on the environments around me. In a world of ever-changing technology, new technology is developed but offered at a high price. Currently, I have seen more people who cheat, steal, and hurt others more than I have seen good Samaritans . Following the rules seems to be on the other end of the spectrum for much of society today. In today s computer world, any software that issues a license and registration for a price can now most likely be found for free download . The software piracy era is in full effect and it seems that there is no way to stop it. The ever-popular warez sites can be found virtually anywhere on the web now. It seems that software piracy has become a common household term in today s world. Although software piracy is easy to learn and be part of, there are restrictions. Many companies now, one that we have discussed in class, such Red Hat offer their version of LINUX for free, but they do charge for extra features. One of the most important features that they require a payment for is technical service. Companies are beginning to follow the open-source path but still charge for the extras. Technical service, free limited downloads and upgrades, and other services are widely becoming popular. This popularity comes with a price. Software piracy if virtually eliminated by open-source and the only product that is left to pay for is simple services such as technical support. Studying as a Computer Science student, I have not been taught much about morality and ethics in the computer world except for maybe what to do and what to wear at a co-op interview. My basic principles of moral reason are based on and adapted from those that I have followed in my life. Never to hurt anyone physically or emotionally as well as following all major rules given by authority are my basics. Having these in mind, I develop these ideas and create new codes of ethics in the computer world as well as the world around me. My morality is based on how everyone should live his or her lives, honestly and productively. In order for the world to be a better place, we all should follow the basic ethics from which we create from our morality. Although my morality may seem different to others, it is applied to everyday life the same way anyone else s morality would be.

I believe that morality can be compared to something as simple as the pencil. A pencil is a pencil, but pencils come in many different sizes, colors, and shapes. In the end, any kind of pencil is applied to one common use, to write. Morality shares the same concept. In researching and getting ideas for this essay, I found that computer ethics came in various forms, but their applications were nearly exactly the same. A very interesting example that I found is from the comparison of the Relevant Facts of the University of Western Ontario and the Ten Commandments of the Computer Ethics Institute. The University of Western Ontario states this: UNAUTHORIZED copying of software is illegal. The Computer Ethics Institute says the same by: Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid. These two phrases, although worded differently, are applied exactly the same, but there s a loop between the two. This phrase from the Computer Ethics Institute goes back to UNAUTHORIZED copying of software can deprive developers of a fair return for their work, increase prices, reduce the level of future support and enhancement, and inhibit the development of new software products, stated by the University of Western Ontario. In return, the Computer Ethics Institute states, Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people. All of these excerpts for both groups state different ideas, but basically can be applied to the same concept, that being that an individual should not copy software. Copying of software, in turn, leads to various consequences that lead to punishment, by law or by other means. Ethics is a broad subject, but the application of ethics in different worlds is nearly similar in all cases.

Ethics in general is just as broad as the computer world. The world of computers has numerous applications that seem to be multiplying as the technology multiplies. Ethics, in a sense, is the similar. My research for the code of ethics on the Internet yielded several sub-categories for the code of ethics. The Computer Society of India formulated a code of ethics directed more towards IT Professionals and the British Computer Society created codes of practice and conduct rather than of ethics in detail. Groups such as the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and members of the University if Western Ontario each had a code of ethics directed towards the business individual rather than the common Computer Science student. Keeping this in mind, I agree with Duncan Langford, in a sense, when he says, A Compute Scientist s suit may impress; but it s no substitute for a code of ethics. I see this as a comparison of ethics of two different issues of the computer world. It is arguable that the ethics of something as simple as dressing in the computer world and the ethics of software and/or hardware development are two like ideas. My belief behind the code of ethics in the computer world relate and adapt several ideas from the codes of ethics from that of the worlds of society, education, and business. It is easier for me to relate to this form of ethics instead of following the Ten Commandments for Computer Ethics , given by the Computer Ethics Institute. Computer ethics should mainly be constructed by the individual but also adopted from that of society and the individual s environments. I think it was best stated by M. van Swaay when he/she said, Ethics in computing is not about computers, it is about people Ethics is therefore based on morality in which it is developed and applied instead of it being given and memorized.

M. van Swaay best defines ethical behavior as follows: Because ethical behavior implies free choice, it cannot be captured in rule. The standard of reference for what is ethical has to exist outside human definition , and therefore cannot be open to human negotiation. Ethics are not to be mistaken as a set of rules and regulations, they should rather be considered as personal decisions that needed to be made so that everyday life in society is in order. The order that society maintains can be different in various environments. In the computer world, the code of ethics is fairly different than that of the code of ethics in the business world, but both worlds share nearly the same applications. The ethical use of computers is mainly based on the morality in which one follows. That individual is given the option to freely choose the path in which they wish to follow. The ethical use of computers in my society is amazingly similar to the Association of Computing Machinery Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. The most simple and comparable are as follows:

1. Contribute to society and human well-being.

2. Avoid harm to others.

3. Be honest and trustworthy.

4. Be fair and take action not to discriminate.

5. Honor property rights including copyrights and patent.

6. Give proper credit for intellectual property.

7. Respect the privacy of others.

8. Honor confidentiality.

I must admit that I do not follow all these strictly, but I do follow them to a certain extent. This code of ethics, like others, is not a set of rules. Yet, it is a path that individuals can follow. Choosing this path carefully and correctly is what I define as ethical behavior based on morality. Individuals in today s society are not enforced, by law, to follow a code of ethics, but they are required to make good judgments and go about living, working, and learning through moral reasoning. In order for individuals to prosper in the computer world, they must use moral reasoning. Although many may disagree, it is a very simple idea. Following the Association of Computing Machinery Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (contribute to society and human well-being), individuals must create ideas to serve society in a positive manner. The contribution is the simplest idea, in that there seems to be no possible way to create anything that will not serve useful to society. Even nuclear weapons, although are very debatable, serve some kind of society. How is that? Society today is very conscious of tensions between groups; any hint of violence would directly lead the mind into self-defense. If an individual were attacked, he would use their nature and begin to defend himself. A simple application of this would be nuclear weapons. As gentle as the topic may be, why else create nuclear weapons? No matter what the creation, the idea of it began to serve society in some matter or form. Ethical behavior would then lead an individual to choose other ideas from a code of ethics. The choice is purely reliant on the individual. A code of ethics, in my eyes, is a submission of ideas for developing moral reasoning.

In conclusion, my view of ethics in the use of computers is ever changing but applied nearly the same. The code of ethics for computers followed by my peers and myself has never been declared nor defined. Ethics was always something that I was raised to develop. Teachers were and still are very vague around the subject of ethics. Ethical behavior, based on morality is taught, learned, and developed through interactions in several environments. Writing this paper has brought more to my knowledge about ethics and how the applications are similar to basic moral beliefs.


Association of Computer Machinery. ACM Code of Ethics and Professional. ACM: Code of Ethics. 10 October 1992. http://www.acm.org/constitution/code.html. 19 January 2001.

Van Swaay, M. Guiding Principles. Notes on Ethics by Prof. M. van Swaay. 15 January 1997. http://www.cis.ksu.edu/Department/ethics.html. 19 January 2001.

Langford, Duncan. Essay: Computer Ethics and Clothing. Computer Ethics and Clothing. 1995. http://www.depaul.edu/ethics/computer.html. 19 January 2001.

Computer Ethics Institute. Computer Ethics. Brookings: Computer Ethics Institute. Unknown date. http://www.brook.edu/its/cei/cei_hp.htm. 19 January 2001.

Munro, Cindy. Software Ethics. Software Ethics. 26 January 1999. http://www.uwo.ca/its/pps/softethics.html. 19 January 2001.

Computer Society of India. Codes of Ethics Online. Codes of Ethics Online. 24 October 1997. http://csep.iit.edu/codes/coe/India_Code.htm. 19 January 2001.

British Computer Society. Codes of Ethics Online. Codes of Ethics Online. 6 March 1998. http://csep.iit.edu/codes/coe/bcs-b.htm. 19 January 2001.

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