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Reading: Digital Ethics

Reading: Digital Ethics

My children -as well as the majority of people that aren’t aware of what’s behind- tend to take the digital applications that they see, touch and use as something that just “is what it is”, as if it was picked from a tree.
It couldn’t be further from reality. Behind all this digital ‘stuff’, there are humans that make decisions on a daily basis.

In a very interesting article on digital ethics from Luciano Flòridi where I found this very interesting quote. It is about any computer program ( called an artificial agent) that seems to have some sort of intelligence:

[…] artificial agents have no intentions, motivations, mind and so on. Therefore, they are part of an ethical discussion centered upon the choices, made by humans, that occur as these systems are built and allowed to operate.

Those (like me) that have studied and worked in the development of digital systems are very much aware of the fact that behind any shiny application, there are flesh-and-blood humans that worked on it.
Humans with moods, and humans with their own set of ethics.

How long of a leash are we willing to give them? Is the sacrosanct quest for innovation an acceptable waiver? Once a program is allowed to be used by one, two or millions of people, who’s accountable for its behavior?

In the construction industry, you cannot use a new technique or a new material to build a house, a school, or a high-rise building, without that innovation receiving some sort of approval from independent authorities. The same could be said for the food or pharmaceutical industries.

Questions: Who is vetting the functionality provided by web browsers used by hundreds of millions of individuals? Who’s checking the code behind websites that have become integral part of your daily life? Answer: the companies that built them.

Is that making you feel any better about the ethics applied knowing that it’s being taken care by limited liability corporations focused on revenue and share value?

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