S.Shaheen Taj,HOD (S&H Dept),NIST.
How are the hypotheses of Deborah Johnson and Krystyna Gorniak different from each other on the issue of computer revolution and ethics?
Computer ethics includes consideration of both personal and social policies for the ethical use of computer technology. Norbert Wiener is the father of computer ethics. Later many other thinkers like Johnson and Gorniak made extensive study of the applied personal and social computer ethics. Everyone had their own hypothesis.
In 1985 Johnson published her first major textbook, Computer Ethics. In it she has defined computer ethics as a field that examines new moral problems, dilemmas, old problems and application of ordinary morals in new situations. She thought that computers would not create new problems but they will give new twist to familiar issues of ownership, power, privacy and responsibility. Like Gorniak she too thought that computer ethics would disappear as a branch of applied ethics.
In the paper presented at the 1995 ETHICOMP international conference, Krystyna Gorniak predicted that computer ethics would evolve into global ethics which would be common to all cultures. It would be applicable to all human actions and relations. She predicted that all ethical theories would be replaced by computer ethics. In her view, the computer revolution would lead to a new ethical system which will be global and cross-cultural in nature.
Deborah Johnson said that computer ethics and ordinary ethics would become one. This is opposite of Krystyna’s theory. Computer revolution in her pinion would not lead to a revolution in ethics. Thus their views were different. Krystyna said that computer revolution would radically change human life style, whereas Deborah Johnson said that the current fundamental ethical theories would remain forever with a new twist. This would make applied computer ethics disappear.
Write about Norbert Weiner’s contribution to Computer Ethics.
Terrel Ward Bynum writes about the birth, growth and the probable death of Computer Ethics in his essay, “A Very Short History of Computer Ethics.” Weiner, a professor in the MIT is considered to be the ‘Father of Computer Ethics. He encountered a problem of automatic control systems for guided missiles. It required tracking and hunting of enemy aircraft and then shooting them down. he thought that the computer must be made to work like a human hunter.
Weiner observed that this gives rise to various social and ethical problems, he thus required a new branch of science related to computers which he called as “cybernetics” and digital computers would lead to revolutionary social and ethical consequences. He was sure that the integration of computer technology into society would affect every major aspect of life. Thus a new set of values and ethics were needed.
The mid 60s saw the rise of computer technology as Weiner had thought. Thus the thinkers like Donn Parker created a code of ethics for the members of the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM). The necessity of computer ethics was essential. Further, privacy became a thing of the past and George Orwell’s prediction tha the ‘big brother is watching you’ proved to be true. By mid 70s, new privacy laws and computer crime laws were enacted in many advanced countries.
Computer entered the field of medicine and psychology too. This gave rise to a set of strange ethical problems which required careful handling and thus a separate branch of applied ethics. This was nothing but computer ethics. Computer ethics includes consideration of both personal and social policies for the ethical use of computer technology. Thus computer ethics, at present is very much essential. Weiner’s contribution to computer ethics is so important that credit goes to him for conceiving the applied ethics.