Chapter 1 - Computer Science & Information Technology

Chapter 1
The Internet and Ethical Values
Introductory Comments
• “…the Internet has the potential to magnify the
power of the individual and fortify democratic
• “..the control of technology through law and
regulation has often been a futile effort,
‘correcting’ technology with other technology has
been more effective.”
– Ex) law has had a hard time controlling dissemination
of pornography on the Internet but blocking software
that filter out indecent material has been more
Two Assumptions of the text
• The directive and architectonic (of or relating to
architecture or design) role of moral ideals and
principles in determining responsible behavior in
cyberspace and
• The capacity of free and responsible human
beings to exercise some control over the forces
of technology (technological realism)
– Technological realism is a philosophy that argues
technology is a powerful agent for social change and
Cyberethics and the “Law of the
• Constraints on our behavior
– From Week 1, list some institutions that impact our
moral behavior
– Our Book lists: laws of civil society, social pressures
of the communities in which we live and work
• Book: Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace
– Larry Lessig
– Describes four constraints that regulate our behavior
in real space and are subject to the same four
constraints in cyberspace
Four Constraints on Behavior
• Law – a prominent regulator of behavior because if you
fail to follow the law their can be consequences
• Social Norms - understandings or expectations of how I
ought to behave
– These can regulate behavior in a far wider array of
contexts than any law
• Market – regulates by price, by pricing goods, the market
sets my opportunities, and through this range of
opportunities it regulates
• Nature or what he calls architecture
– The constraint of the world as it is
– I can’t see through walls, a constraint on my ability to know what
is happening on the other side
– No wheel chair ramp can constrain access to a library for a wheel
chair bound individual
– In the cyber world, the equivalent of this architectural constraint is
code, the programs and protocols that make up the Internet.
Regulation through the Four
• To understand a regulation we must understand the sum
of the four constraints operating together
• Any one cannot represent the effect of the four together
Cyberspace Hype
Cyberspace is unavoidable
Cyberspace is unregulable
No nation can live without it
No nation will be able to control behavior
in it
• A place where individuals are inherently
free from the control of real space
Lessig’s attack against the Hype
• He has a different view
• Now entering a world where freedom is
not assured
• Cyberspace has the potential to be the
most fully and extensively regulated space
that we have ever known
• Unless we understand this we are likely to
miss the transition from freedom into
Connecting Cyberspace to Real
• Similar to the real world, behavior in cyberspace is
regulated by four types of constraints
• Again, Law is one of those constraints
– copyright law, defamation law, sexual harassment law
– In spite of the hype that cyberspace is wide open,
these laws constrain behavior similarly to how
behaviors are constrained in real space
• There are also Norms in cyberspace as there are in real
• When norms are not followed, punishments are
meted out
Connecting 2
• The market also constrains cyberspace as in real space
– change the price of access and constraints on access
• Architecture, the fourth, is most significant of the four
– He calls this CODE - meaning the SW and HW which
constitute cyberspace
– the set of protocols implemented or codified in the
SW of cyberspace that determine how people
interact, or exist in the space
– It sets the terms upon which we enter or exist in
cyberspace, just like the architecture of the real space
How Architecture(CODE)
constrains Behavior
• Sometimes one must enter a password, othertimes they
• Some transactions produce link back to individual,
othertimes they don’t
• Sometimes encryption is an option, sometimes it isn’t
• These differences are created by code by programmers,
they constrain some behavior while allowing others
• They are like architecture of real space regulating
behavior in cyberspace
Real Space and CyberSpace
• In real space architecture, market, norms,
and law regulate behavior
• In cyberspace code, market, norms, and
law regulate behavior
• As with real space, in cyberspace we need
to look at how the four work together to
constrain behavior
Example - Regulation of
Indecency on the Net
• Concern sharply grew in 1995
• Kids using net more frequently mixed with availability of
• A paper at the time cited a controversial and flawed
study in Georgetown Law Review reported that the
Internet was “awash with porn.”
• Time and Newsweek ran cover articles about its
• Senators and Congressman bombarded with demands
to do something to regulate cybersmut
Why the Outcry?
• At the time it was written that more
indecent materials existed in real space
than in cyberspace
• Most kids (at that time )didn’t have access
to cyberspace, so why the outcry?
• Look at it differently, what regulates
indecent materials in real space?
Why (U.S. View)
• 1) US laws regulate distribution of indecent materials to
– ID checks to check age of buyers
– Laws requiring these businesses to be far from kids
• 2) Norms - possibly more important than laws
– Norms constrain adults not to sell this to kids
• 3) Market Norms - To buy this costs money and most
kids do not have money
• 4) Architecture - difficult in real space to hide the fact that
you are a kid
• So, constraints on being a kid are effective in real space
Cyberspace is Different Though
• In real space hard to hide that you are a kid, in
cyberspace the default is anonymity
• Easy to hide who one is
• Practically impossible for the same laws and
norms to apply in cyberspace
• Key difference is the regulability of cyberspace,
the ability of governments to regulate behavior
• Currently, cyberspace is less regulable than real
space, less governments can do
• Key difference is the code that constitutes
• Its current architecture is essentially unregulable
(at least in 1995)
• The architecture of 1995 and 1996 essentially
allowed anyone w/ access to roam w/o
identifying who they were - Net95
• One’s identity was invisible to the net then
• One could enter w/o credentials, w/o an internal
• Users were fundamentally equal, essentially free
Communications Decency Act
• With Net95 as the architecture of the network at the
time-- this statute was declared unconstitutional
• Because, at the time, any regulation attempting to zone
kids from indecent materials would be a regulation that
was too burdensome on speakers and listeners
• As the net was then, regulation would be too
• Key problem was that the court spoke as if this
architecture, net95, was the only architecture that the net
could have
• We know that the net has no nature, no single
• Net 95 is a set of features or protocols that
constituted the net at a particular period in time
• Nothing requires it to always be that way
(remember malleability?)
• Court spoke as if it had discovered the nature of
the net and was therefore deciding on the nature
of any possible regulation of the net
Univ of Chicago - Harvard Story
• Author was professor at UoC, to gain
access to net, just plug into a jack (located
throughout Univ)
• Any machine could do it and you would
have full, anonymous, free access to the
• It was this way because of the
• This policy established the architectural
design of the UoC net
• One cannot connect one’s machine to the net unless the
machine is registered
– That is, licensed, approved, verified
• Only members of the Univ community can register their
• Once registered all transactions over the net are
potentially monitored and identified to a particular
• Anonymous speech on this net is not permitted
• Access can be controlled based on who someone is,
interactions can be traced
Two Views
• Controlling access is the ideal at Harvard
• Facilitating access is the ideal at Univ of Chicago
• These two views are common today at Univ’s across
• UoC is Net95
• Harvard is not an Internet but an Intranet architecture
– within an intranet, identity is sufficiently established
such that access can be controlled and usage
• They both are built from TCP/IP but at
Harvard you have Internet Plus, the plus
means the power to control
• They reflect two philosophies about
access and reflect two sets of principles or
values on how speech should be
• they parallel difference between political
regimes of freedom and political regimes
of control
The Point
• Nothing against Harvard or Chicago
• Wants us to see that at the level of a nation, architecture
is inherently political
• In cyberspace, the selection of an architecture is as
important as the choice of a constitution
• The code of cyberspace is its constitution, it sets terms
for access, sets the rules, controls their behavior, a sort
of sovereignty competing with real space sovereigns in
the regulation of behavior of real space citizens
Architecture Shift
• From an architecture of freedom to an
architecture of control
• As it becomes an architecture of control it
becomes more regulable
• US government is moving the architecture
in these directions
• How? The government can regulate the
architectures in cyberspace so that
behaviors in cyberspace become more
Spinello’s View on Lessig’s Work
• Describes Lessig’s work as a neat regulatory
• Feels that Lessig includes ethical standards in
the broad category of norms
• Spinello believes cultural norms should be
segregated from ethical ideals and principles
– Cultural norms are variable social action guides that
are relative and dependent on a given social or
cultural environment
– Fundamental principles of ethics are “metanorms”
they have universal validity remaining the same
whether we are doing business in another country or
in cyberspace.
Spinello and Lessig
• Spinello believes that ethics and cultural norms
must be kept distinct
• Explains that this defies popular notion of ethical
relativism which he says often equates the two
– Ethical relativism is the theory that holds that
morality is relative to the norms of one's culture. That
is, whether an action is right or wrong depends on the
moral norms of the society in which it is practiced.
– We could spend weeks on just this one term, author
writes that “a full refutation of that viewpoint is beyond
the scope of our discussion here.”
Quote from contemporary
• Phillippa Foot
– “…All need affection, the cooperation of
others, a place in community, and help in
– What does this connect to from our
Introduction to Ethics (Week 1)?
Spinello’s Final Comments on
• The observed weakness does not
invalidate Lessig’s framework
• Chief contribution the four constraints of
the real world also regulate in cyber space
• And, the structures of software can
potentially do even more than laws to
curtail freedom. (Provide more constraints)
Extending Lessig’s Framework
• Spinello believes the model can be improved by
adding fixed ethical values as a constraining
force citing
• James Moor- list of core human goods includes
life, happiness, and autonomy
• John Finnis, list of intrinsic goods: life,
knowledge, play (and skillful work), aesthetic
experience, sociability, religion, and practical
reasonableness (which includes autonomy)
A Moral Ideal
• So, the ultimate good, the human flourishing of ourselves
and of others should function as a prescriptive guidepost
of enduring value, serving as a basis for crafting laws,
developing social institutions, or regulating the Internet
• Applying this to policy making can be difficult so we have
ethical principles such as the golden rule or from Kant,
“act so that you treat humanity always as an end and
never as a means”
• Author thus feels that the role of morality is the ultimate
regulator of cyberspace that sets the boundaries for
activities and policies in figure 1-1 on page 7, it sits
above the four constraints of Lessig.
Iron Cage or Gateway to Utopia
• There is skepticism about anyone’s ability to control the evolution
and effects of the technologies of networking and computing
• Author asks, are our attempts to regulate cyberspace merely a
chimera? (a fanciful notion?)
• Some philosophers have regarded technology as a dark and
oppressive force
– Menaces our individuality and authenticity
– Views of technology determinists – see technology as an independent
and dehumanizing force
• Most interpretations of technological determinism share two general
– that the development of technology itself follows a predictable,
traceable path largely beyond cultural or political influence, and
– that technology in turn has "effects" on societies that are inherent,
rather than socially conditioned or produced because that society
organizes itself to support and further develop a technology once it
has been introduced.
Other Philosophers
• French philosopher, Jacques Ellul writes, technique has
become a dominant and untranscendable human value.
– The totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute
efficiency in every field of human activity
– Feels that modern technology has irreversibly shaped the way
we live, work, and interact in this world
• Similarly, Max Weber, coined term iron cage,
– Meaning, how technology locks us in to certain ways of being or
patterns of behavior
– A more fragmented, narrow-minded society dominated by a
crude instrumental rationality
• Martin Heidegger saw technology not merely as a tool
that we can manipulate but as a way of “being in the
world” that deeply affects how we relate to that world.
A Not so Bleak View
• Technology neutralists argue that technology
is a neutral force, completely dependent on
human aims and objectives
– this view holds that technologies are free of bias and
do not promote one type of behavior over another
– Technology is just a tool and does not compromise
our human freedom or determine our destiny in any
appreciable way
– Up to us to whether the tool is a powerful force for
good or bad
The Ideal View
• Technological utopianism regards certain
technologies as making possible an ideal world
with improved lifestyles and workplaces
• An optimistic philosophy believes humanity can
eradicate many of technology’s adverse effects
and manipulate this tool effectively to improve
the human condition
Author’s Concerns
• Technological neutralism and utopianism seem problematic
– Technology does condition with givens that are virtually impossible to
– Langdon Winner describes this as the adjustment of human ends to
match the character of the available means
– Author writes that it is an exaggeration to claim that computer and
network technology locks us into a virtual but inescapable iron cage
– Middle ground between these extremes is technological realism
• “although technology has a force of its own, it is not independent of political
and social forces.”
• Indicates this is echoed in Lessig’s work, sometimes code is an instrument
of social and political control, it is not always neutral
• We do have the capacity to redirect or subdue technology when it becomes
• Author agrees with Charels Taylor, “We are not, indeed, locked in. But there
is a slope, an incline in things that is all too easy to slide down.”
Ethical Values and the Digital frontier
• Several theories that embody the moral point of view
• Kant describes the principle that we must respect humanity in all our
choices and actions
• Rights-based theories discuss core human goods in terms of
protection of human rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of
• Utilitarian approach emphasizes happiness
• Modern ethical frameworks fall under 2 broad categories
teleological or deontological
– 1st means goal or end, these theories argue that the rightness or
wrongness of an action depends on whether or not they bring about the
end in questions (like happiness)
– Deontological consider actions to be intrinsically right or wrong and do
not depend in any way on the consequences they effect
• These frameworks emphasize duty and obligation
Utilitarianism (p11)
• This is a teleological theory and is most popular version of
• Classic utilitarianism was developed by 2 British philosophers:
– Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill
– Right course of action is to promote the general good, can be
described in terms of utility
– Utility refers to the net benefits (or good) created by an action
– Another way to think of this is, persons ought to act in a way that
promotes the maximum net expectable utility, that is, the greatest
net benefits or the lowest net costs, for the broadest community
affected by their actions.
– On one level, utilitarianism asks us to make moral decision by
means of a rational, objective cost/benefit analysis
Example pg. 11-12
• An organization has to make a decision about random inspection of
employee e-mail
• It is perfectly legal but some managers wonder if it is the right thing
to do as it seems to violate privacy rights of employees
• Rightness in the utilitarian ethical model is determined by
consequences that become clear in a cost/benefit analysis
• 3 possible choices: 1) email not inspected; 2) email inspected but
policy clearly displayed; 3) email inspected, not policy displayed
• Look at pg. 13 for a table summarizing costs and benefits (first write
one for the class on the board with their own ideas of benefits and
Summary of Utilitarianism
• Theory has strengths but some serious flaws too
• In certain contexts, could be used to justify the infliction
of pain on a small number of individuals for the sake of
the happiness or benefits of the majority.
• No intrinsically unjust or immoral acts for the utilitarian
which poses a problem
• What happens when human rights conflict with utility?
• This theory lacks sensitivity to the ideals of justice and
human rights
Contract Rights
(Contractarianism) p 12
uses rights based analysis
a deontologic theory
looks at moral issues from viewpoint of the human rights that may be at stake
A right is an entitlement or a claim to something
Contractarianism differs from utilitarianism in that the consequences of an action are
morally irrelevant for those who support contractarianism
– rights are enjoyed by all citizens, and the rights of the minority cannot be
suspended or abolished even if that abolition will maximize social welfare
– A problem with most rights-based theories is that they do not provide adequate
criteria for resolving practical disputes when rights are in conflict
• eg those who send spam claim they are exercising their right to free speech
but those receiving it say that it is intrusive
• How do we resolve this?
• Rights based theories are not always helpful in making this determination
Moral Duty (Pluralism) P14
• This framework is based not on rights but
on duty
• Immanuel Kant is one of the foremost
philosophers of this approach
• The moral point of view is best expressed
by discerning and carrying out one’s moral
• A duty-based, deontological ethical
• Sometimes referred to as pluralism
Immanuel Kant
• Consequences of an action are morally irrelevant
• Actions only have moral worth when they are done for
the sake of duty
• According to Kant’s systematic philosophy, our moral
duty is simple: to follow the moral law which, like the
laws of science or physics, must be rational
• And, like all rational laws, the moral law must be
• Kant, is one of the more difficult to read philosophers but
quite interesting.
• A good example (for readability and understandability)
can be found on pg. 16 (you read).
Understanding Kant
• Kant’s universal law is expressed as what is
called the categorical imperative:
• “I should never act except in such a way that I
can also will that my maxim should become a
universal law.”
• The imperative is “categorical” because it does
not allow for any exceptions
• A maxim (as used here) is an implied general
principle or rule understanding a particular
• Read middle of pg 16 steve
Difficulties with Kant’s Framework
• Kant’s moral philosophy is very rigid
• No exceptions to the moral laws derived from
the absolute categorical imperative
• Lying is always wrong even though we can think
of times where it might seem reasonable (to
save a life)
– In examples like this, there is a conflict of moral laws
– The law to tell the truth and the law to save a life in
Another duty-based philosopher
(William D. Ross)
• Believes we must follow several basic duties that we
know through simple reflection
• The duties are conditional and not absolute
– Under normal circumstances we would follow a particular duty
– But, in those unusual situations where duties conflict with one
another, one duty may be overridden by another duty that is
judged to be superior (at least in this environment).
– Ross, unlike Kant, allows exceptions
– One criticism of Ross’ work is that his list of 7 moral duties is
– But, like other frameworks we have discussed, it does have
some merit
New Natural Law (p18)
• Often neglected in business and computer ethics
• Claim is its too “impractical” and too closely
associated with the philosophy of St. Thomas
• The new natural law (John Finnis and Germain
Grisez) is faithful to the theories of Aquinas but
modified to address contemporary moral
• They claim the first practical principle is: “Good
should be done and evil avoided, “ where good
means what is intelligibly worthwhile
More on the New Natural Law
• What is the good?
• Finnis considers 7 human goods key to human flourishing: life and
health, knowledge of the truth, play (and some forms of work),
aesthetic experience, sociability (includes friendship and marriage),
religion, and practical reasonableness
• This framework provides another way to look at ethical dilemmas in
• It asks us to consider whether certain policies or actions are
consistent with human flourishing
• Does Spamming pass the test?
• Pg. 21 has a table with a summary of the theoretical frameworks
that we have discussed and the general questions that one asks in
determining if an action is moral or not.
Normative Principles (p21)
When ethical theory is too abstract, an approach called principilism can be
Often used in biomedical ethics
These moral principles are derived from an compatible with all of the moral
theories previously mentioned in the text
They describe prima facie duties that are always in force but may conflict on
– This term was introduced back on page 17 (re-read)
– –noun first appearance; at first view, before investigation.2.plain or
clear; self-evident; obvious.
– adv. At first sight; before closer inspection: They had, prima facie, a
legitimate complaint.
– True, authentic, or adequate at first sight; ostensible: prima facie
– Evident without proof or reasoning; obvious: a prima facie violation of
the treaty.
Principlism is a system of ethics based on the four moral principles of:
1. Autonomy--free-will, one’s capacity to be autonomous or self-determining
– When someone is deprived of their autonomy, their plans are interfered with and
they are not treated with the respect they deserve
2. Beneficence—a positive duty, to do good, we should act in such a a way
that we advance the welfare of other people when we are able to do so
– When do we have such a duty to act?
• 1. the need is serious or urgent
• 2. we have knowledge or awareness of the situation, and
• 3. we have the capability to provide assistance (“ought assumes can” is the operative
– Author comments, that this principle has some relevance when we evaluate
society’s questionable duty of beneficience to provide universal Internet service.
Prinicpilism Continued
• 3. Nonmaleficence--not to harm, and or, “above all, do no harm”
• 4. Justice– follows a basic formal principle: “Similar cases ought to
be treated in similar ways.”
– Justice requires fair treatment and impartiality
– Determining “similar” cases leads to an underlying principle for how we
should distribute the benefits and burdens of social life
– Leading to theories of distributive justice
• “all goods should be distributed equally”; although John Rawls has argued
that an unequal distribution of goods is acceptable when it works for the
advantage of everyone especially the least advantaged (called the difference
• Or, benefits or resources should be distributed according to the contribution
each individual makes to the furtherance of society’s goals
• Another, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
• Not choosing one over another, moral judgments should be based in part on
the formal principle of justice.
Concluding Principilism
• Advocates for principilism argue that from the beginning of
recorded history most moral decision-makers descriptively and
prescriptively have used these four moral principles; that they are
part of or compatible with most intellectual, religious, and cultural
End of Chapter
• Hand out homework assignment
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