Introducing ethics in Information and Computer Sciences
Introducing ethics in Information and Computer Sciences

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Introducing ethics in Information and Computer Sciences

5.7 The story so far

In Act 1 of Landscape with Weapon, Dan, the dentist, has been disturbed by the defence project that his brother is working on. Dan, however, is a fairly mercenary individual, so he feels that having had the idea, Ned should aim for a good return. The company is keen to exploit Ned's work, but Ned has resisted handing over the IP for his invention because he wants to control who gets access to the weapon system that his work has enabled.

In this Act Ned says weapons are empirical, that is, you don't know what will happen until you use them, and this is a particularly interesting point as we are pursuing the allegory with technology in general. This is actually true of all technology: all technology is empirical in that you do not know what is going to happen to it, and it is impossible for anyone to imagine every way the technology might be used and hence, what benefit or harm will result. Perhaps as a technologist, the best that can be done is to design with the intention of bringing benefit to people, to promote those uses that are expected to bring benefits, to warn of uses that you know will cause harm and to use knowledge of the technology to offer remedies if harmful uses take a grip. Of course, what constitutes harm and benefit and which communities gain and which lose can't be answered in general, but those questions are for the individual technologists to consider.


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