An Overview of Ethical Considerations

Throughout the last few months, I’ve been regularly posting my thoughts about the current and future states of technology. I’ve touched on quite a few themes in this time, but I’d like to take some time to re-examine and emphasize the most important ones. As I consider technology from within a liberal arts perspective, I am concerned mostly with technology-human interactions and the ways in which they form our culture. The specific computer science behind the interface does not concern me as much as the implications and consequences of said interface.

I believe the most common issue I’ve touched on is that of ethical concerns regarding technology. One could easily make the argument that this is the one of the most important issues in the field of digital studies. More specifically, how can we balance the rights of consumers with the rights of corporations? This question has led me to variety of places. In my first blog post, I wrote of the rights that Google and Facebook users had regarding transparency and knowledge of data centers. Should companies be forced to supply consumers with the information they request? How can companies make reasonable accommodations for such requests? I believe I do my best in all posts to become the voice of reason and to resolve these conflicts in a non-partisan, moderate way. In all cases, both the consumer and the corporation have certain rights and responsibilities that must be addressed.

For example, in my fourth blog post, I discussed Equivant’s COMPAS: the algorithm that predicts recidivism among charged defendants. The algorithm has been accused of being racist and of being unfair to defendants. In this case, defendants have a right to a fair trial and a fair assessment of flight risk and recidivism potential. If the allegations against COMPAS are true, then the defendants are being robbed. Equivant has consistently refused to provide the algorithm’s internal working for analysis, citing intellectual property concerns. While I believe this is valid, the stakes in this case are higher than most, and so Equivant should at least provide the algorithm to a group of unbiased academics for analysis.

Above: The majority of world considers internet access a human right. How does this change our discussion of ethical considerations?

Over the past few weeks, my posts have varied in topic, but my overall mission has remained the same. In each case, some aspect of ethics is considered to some degree. I believe this is a testament to the overarching need to be cognizant of human needs and rights when inventing and using technology. This is especially important now that the UN has declared internet access a human right. When conflict arises in this new field, both sides must be heard, and a fair judgment must be reached. Sometimes consumers will not have as much freedom as they desire, and sometimes corporations have more responsibilities than they can handle. The era of technology is a learning process for all of us, and we must treat it as such.

 

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