Preface and Author’s Reflections
Presenting an argument regarding information ethics can be overwhelming. Yet one of the most challenging aspects of this project happened right away: coming up with a “topic” or issue that had not been covered before. Yet just when developing something to work with, some research would be stumbled upon that had already been done on the same topic; and by professionals with much greater educational and time resources. Often, the over-arching areas of concern and discussion seemed to have almost plateaued, at least for the time being. And the greatest deal of awareness seems to exist only in higher educational or professional circles, not necessarily the public at large. It’s time the public’s awareness of information ethics is raised.
However, the public’s aversion to understanding information ethics may be a result of the high levels of involvement and participation required to do so. Ethics cannot be learned quickly or easily because there aren’t many concrete solutions to study. Rather, ethics tend to act as a guide when facing dilemmas. Instead of just being a method towards solving problems, ethics aims to understand the dynamics of the problems themselves in the belief that understanding the source of the dilemma is valuable in avoiding harmful consequences. In turn, solutions can be learned that forgo dilemma.
Thus, ethics can be thought of as a way of optimizing the human experience. Ethics stands in juxtaposition with the optimization and efficiency implemented under the principles of competition. Competition results in from unbalances. Yet this is a time when balance is more important than ever. This is a time where the resources available to society are becoming inadequate for our world’s population, down even to the most basic level, such as with fresh water. Therefore, we must use cooperation in order to sustain the world’s future. Competitive efficiency must be deemphasized in favor of cooperative, ethical reasoning.
The question, then, is how we go about achieving this ethical reasoning. One student commented that she “always thought of ethics as a household plant. If you do not water it, it simply dies.” In other words, ethics needs to be an ongoing reaffirmation of values. As hinted to above, this is a world where maximizing profits seems to be the only apparent goal, and that instead we must seek other measures of long-term success. When looking at this class in specific, as future business leaders we have the unique opportunity to craft a new era in which people will come before profits. We have the chance to create workplaces in which employees will not have to wear masks or sacrifice their moral standards to “make a living.” We wrote this book hoping to illuminate some of the “darker” ethical issues that are emerging from this new information era. And some of the issues are indeed very new. Thus, anticipating future ethical conflicts is a fundamental process. In any case, it is crucial to remember our ethical values and most importantly, put them to “work” in every decision we make. The papers contained in this book are glimpse of a journey towards discovering our own values, creating new ones, and then challenging them within a complex ethical dilemma.
The 2007 Leeds School of Business Information Ethics Class