Lecture 1 : Ethics

What is Ethics?
The 1983 Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “ethics” as " the study of standards of conduct and moral judgment and the system of morals of a particular person, religion, group, etc.”. The appropriate meaning for the word “moral” is “dealing with, or capable of distinguishing between right and wrong.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines “ethics” as “the study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by the individual in his relationship with others, the rules or standards governing the conduct of the members of a profession”. “Moral” is concerned with the judgment principles of right and wrong in relation to human action and character, teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior. The word “right” is “conforming with or conformable to justice, law or morality in accordance with fact, reason or truth”. From these definitions, we see that the study of ethics is the study of way to distinguish right and wrong.

Ethical Theory
Ethical theory is the study of ethics at a very conceptual or philosophical level. There are three ethical philosophies we will apply to computing situations:1. Relativism 2. Utilitarianism 3. Deontological

1. Relativism Ethical relativism assert that there is no accepted, universal definition of right and wrong. Ethics is relative to one's own society or organization. Pro • It allows for a wide variety of cultures and diverse practices. Example: In some societies polygamy is permissible, while in other societies it is not. • Under ethical relativism you can accept that morality changes over time. So that what is considered wrong at one time in a given society may be considered right at another time. Example: Slavery was considered permissible (by many) at one time in our society but is not considered permissible now. • Ethical relativism can be taught and learned. A person acquires moral beliefs from his or her family, from experiences in his or her society, at school, at work, and so on.

TEP 1281 Ethics and Professional Conduct

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not individuals. then the outcome is that overall happiness is maximized. you do not believe this. Con • The bad thing about ethical relativism is that it lacks justice.. It is a simple ethical tool that can be applied easily in considering ethical actions. Rules are adopted to maximize long range happiness. Just because a society believes that an act is acceptable. you might believe that it is wrong for woman to appear in public without her face covered. should we take that persons life so that happiness is maximized? TEP 1281 Ethics and Professional Conduct Page 2 of 5 . It costs the lab nothing. 2.etc. do not kill people) if you examine any society deeply enough. your instructor loves your work.Lecture 1 : Ethics Example: If you had been raised in certain Middle Eastern cultures. So Dave should clean the bathroom.. 2. we are in danger of accepting slavery. Rule Utilitarianism : A larger view of ethical acts is taken. as moral acts. it does not make that act right. it is dehumanizing in that people become numbers. Pro Utilitarianism is a nice theory because it is easy for people to accept that happiness is something everybody seeks and can view it as the 'ultimate good'. infanticide. If 5 people are happy with Dave cleaning the bathroom and one person (presumably Dave) is unhappy. Two types of utilitarianism: 1. In a sense.. You could copy it from the lab computer (stealing) and do your work at home. Con Criticism of ethical relativism is that sacrificing the needs of the few for the many is not justifiable as ethical behavior. you get an A on your assignment. utilitarianism is almost mathematical. Yet but you were raised in the Malaysia. A rule utilitarian might claim that in the longer view of things you deny income from software producers and it has an affect on cost of software for all users. If we accept ethical relativism. Example: Consider that you are in the computer lab and need to work at home but you lack the software.. Our goal is to maximize “happiness” for the greatest number of people.e. many of us behave as utilitarian. Act utilitarianism : Ethics is based upon individual acts.seems ethical under act utilitarianism. Most schools of philosophy believe that there are universal rights and wrongs (i. Utilitarianism Under utilitarianism. Each person counts as one unit. we judge the ethics of an act based upon it's outcome. Everyone ought to act so as to bring about the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. Consider organ donors. I think in immediate practice.. If one person can be used to donate organs to save the lives of several people. Furthermore.

If I find a term paper on the Internet and submit it as my own work." . Immanuel Kant (17xx) developed the Categorical Imperaive: "Never treat another human being merely as a means but always as an end. You should act out of a sense of duty and 'do the right thing'.. it is essentially impossible for all people to share the same applied ethics in all details. TEP 1281 Ethics and Professional Conduct Page 3 of 5 . I am using the application developer as a means to an end by denying them the opportunity to benefit from their own work.. But of course it was not derived purely from any single theory.". Some people believe that a professional requires a great deal of education or must undergo a long apprenticeship. Others see some special value of the profession to society because its members must be licensed. From this perspective.Lecture 1 : Ethics 3.. a society would choose its ethical theory and then use that theory to derive an ideal set of rules for ethical behavior. “profession” may be used to describe nearly any occupation."Because we each have the capacity to think and decide and act for ourselves. In the specific technical sense. Abortion and capital punishment come to mind as obvious examples. that is with recognition of this capacity. Reality is never so tidy. The ritual animal sacrifice and drug use in some religions are examples. I am using the original author to benefit myself without giving them any credit. For that reason. Applied Ethics Ideally. for example. Also.. we should each be treated with respect. Professional Ethics In a general sense. People need to act out of a sense of duty. And there are segments of society that regard certain illegal practices as moral. “profession” is an occupation that society somehow recognizes as being in a class apart from other occupation. Our society does have a legal system that enforces a set of rules we live with as citizens and as members of our profession. not the consequences or outcomes of that act. Thus some degree of tolerance of minor disagreements with others is important. Deontological Deontological Theories of philosophy believe that right and wrong are based on the individual characteristics of an act. many legal things are regarded as not moral by some substantial segment of society. If I copy that software to use at home. Example : Consider again the software in the computer lab.or do not use people.

Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people. organizations that represent the membership of a profession may undertake to set down a code of ethics specifically for its members. human advancement. 8. 2. Fairbun and Watson suggest three steps toward better ethical behavior: 1. A moderate level of self-interest is perhaps necessary for survival.Lecture 1 : Ethics Professional ethics can be different from general ethics to extent that professional ethics must take into account: • Relations between practicing professionals and their clients • Relations between the profession and society in general • Relations among professionals • Relations between employee and employer • Specialized technical details of the profession For these reasons. praise. Have high standards of ethical conduct 2. 3. food. 5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness. God. 4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics by the Computer Ethics Institute 1. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's computer files. Serve a larger purpose – truth. power) can ruin your life. Guidance For Living Ethically Fairburn and Watson observe that the primary factor leading us from ethical behavior is our tendency toward self-interest. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization or proper compensation. 6. reason. the community. customers. the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) are the codes of ethics that apply to professionals in the computing industry. Bodly live with the belief that this is the way to conduct yourself even though you may be giving up more immediate gains 3. 7. But an obsession with any particular appetite (money. sex. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work. What is Computer Ethics? Computer ethics is the study of the ethical questions that arise as a consequence of the development and deployment of computers and computer technology. society. TEP 1281 Ethics and Professional Conduct Page 4 of 5 .

Problems relating to the social and cultural impact of computer technology Problems involving the proper deployment of the technologies that process information. including hardware. breaches and computer crime 8 Viruses 8 Worms 8 Espionage 8 Sabotage 8 What is a “hacker”? ownership of intellectual property 8 Trade secrets 8 Patents 8 Copyright obligation of computing technology vendors to provide safe. 10.Lecture 1 : Ethics 9. software and networks. Categories of Problems in Computer Ethics • • • Problems involving the proper deployment of the technologies that process information. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or he system you are designing. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that insure consideration and respect for your fellow humans. reliable systems 8 Risks 8 Responsibility 8 Blame 8 Accountability 8 Are we really “professionals”? Problems involving the management and control of information Acquisition. Problems involving the management and control of information. Access and Stewardship 8 What types of information will be gathered and stored? 8 Who will have access to that information? 8 How will the information be protected from unauthorized users? How will its accuracy be maintained? How will recombination be controlled? Problems relating to the social and cultural impact of computer technology Encroachment of the Internet Computers in the Workplace Virtual Communities Utopia/Dystopia? &…… • • • • • • • • TEP 1281 Ethics and Professional Conduct Page 5 of 5 . including hardware. software and networks security of networks and systems.

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