Computer Hacking and Ethics
used to place long distance telephone calls without paying for them) and uses it to chat with her for anhour every other day. This is not intellectual curiosity, nor is it a deliberate, long-term choice of a life of crime. Instead, this hypothetical adolescent, probably normally honest, has stepped over a line withoutreally noticing it, because his mind is focused on something else. It would be inappropriate, I think, to pathim on the head and tell him how clever he is, and equally inappropriate to throw him in prison. What wemust do is call his attention to the inconsistency between his activities and, most likely, his own moralstandards.
Two Models for Moral Direction
What to do about it? Saying that the problems of computer ethics are like other ethical problems doesn'tsolve them. Many approaches are possible. We are starting to hear among computer experts the samedebates we've heard for centuries among criminologists: prevention, deterrence, retribution, cure?Among all the possible approaches, it may be instructive to consider two strongly opposed ones: first,control of the technology, and second, moral training. As examples of these approaches, compare theregistration of automobiles with instruction in karate.Automobile registration is certainly a good idea in helping the police control professional crime. Asthieves have learned to steal cars for their parts, rather than to sell whole, the technology of registrationhas had to grow more sophisticated: we now see serial numbers on each major component, not just on thedoor frame. But registration doesn't help against joyriders.Other technological security measures can help. Steering column locks have made joyriding harder, butnot impossible. Many adolescents are expert locksmiths, not because they're dishonest but because locksand keys pose a technical challenge much like that of passwords in a computer system. Also, increasedsecurity has made the consequences of juvenile car theft more serious, because the easiest way to defeat asteering column lock is to destroy it by brute force.The example of karate instruction shows a very different approach to the problem of adolescent morallimitations. Instead of using technology to limit the power of young people, this second approachdeliberately empowers them. Skill in karate is a deadly weapon; to give that weapon to a young person isan affirmation of trust rather than suspicion.Why do karate classes for kids work? Why don't they lead to an epidemic of juvenile murders? Thispaper can't present a definitive answer. But I want to suggest some possibilities and use them to drawanalogies for computer education.One probable reason is that every person responds to his or her situation. If I know you're trusting mewith something important, I'll try to live up to your trust. If I sense that you consider me untrustworthy, Imay decide that I might as well live up to your low expectations.
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