Ethical Issues in Computing
Morality is a set of rules and principles that gives a guide concerning conduct. The morals permissible imply that the public can tolerate the behaviors and conduct of someone or a group of people. This means that when one undertakes something, then there will be no negative reactions from the society, because what they did is already acceptable within that society. The moral required implies that they have to do that thing; otherwise, there will be consequences arising from that. Engineers’ morals and ethics are cyber-ethics that fall under professional ethics (De, 2003). According to Don Gotterbarn, a profession is a perspective principle through which to examine ethical field concerning computing fields. Every profession has some moral obligations. These codes are there to inspire an engineer to behave ethically. The codes can also be used to discipline members who violate directives and educate members about the obligations involving their professions. Engineers, just like other employees, have an obligation to show loyalty to their employers and seniors (Mitcham, 2009).
A whistle-blower is someone who speaks out to the public something that was not to be disclosed. In the United States, whistle-blowers get protection by law and encouragement with a promise of protection from wrongful dismissal. There might also be incentives such as monetary rewards to whistle-blowers (Spinello, 2006). According to Sisela, a whistle-blower is an individual who reveals things with an intention to attract attention in matters of negligence and dangers threatening the interest of the public or abuses. They accomplish this by sounding alarms in their workplaces. This expresses and reveals disagreements between employees and employers or either between individuals (Mitcham, 2009). Bok suggests that whistle-blowing should be the last option since it can be destructive at times. An engineer, just like other employees, has an obligation to express concern to the relevant authorities if he detects violations unless it is dangerous, impossible or if it would lead to a negative outcome in production. Richard De George further notes that an engineer can first report significant violations to the relevant authorities (De, 2003). When consultation with those involved is dangerous, it would have a negative impact on production or be impossible. However, engineers should take more scrutiny on the situations in determining time and cause of which to blow the whistle (Mitcham, 2009).
Richard De George believes that employees, including the engineers, have moral permission to blow the whistle. He claims that the conditions in which an engineer may blow the whistle include those that have an aim of safeguarding a product. If they have reported the threat to the relevant authorities without an outcome, they can go public (De, 2003). The other is when a product would have a negative impact on the public and could do great harm on them. The third arises after they have filed dissatisfaction or complains to all relevant authorities and have exhausted the internal sources, possibilities and procedures. These include the board of directors and supervisors (Tavani, 2010). This goes in line with his arguments in chapter three of the notes concerning critical thinking and the role of arguments in supporting claims. He justifies it by giving premises. For example, he illustrates that in terms of premises. (Premise 1) People who own iMacs are smarter than those who own PCs. (Premise 2) my roommate owns an iMac. (Premise 3) I own a personal computer. Conclusion: my roommate is smarter than me. This means, all the premises should be correct so as to justify the conclusion (Mitcham, 2009). An engineer will then observe the first three procedures. If they bear no fruits, then he is justified morally and logically to blow the whistle.
Richard De George adds that for an engineer to have a moral requirement on the same there should be extra conditions to justify his decision. An engineer should have a good reason to believe that the necessary changes will occur after he goes public (De, 2003). He should also have enough evidence as to justify his claims. These include items such as documented evidence so as to convince the observers that his claims are correct. This can be supported by John Stuart Mills’s argument “the only possible proof showing that something is audible is people actually hearing it; the only possible proof that something becomes evident is when people see it, and the only possible proof that something is desirable is that people actually desire it”. An engineer would not be able to question or stop something if he does not have enough viable evidence (Mitcham, 2009).
In chapter two, Richard De George criticizes the act of being judgmental. This justifies the conditions that he gives since he says that an engineer must first express the issue to the authorities (De, 2003). If all the relevant authorities fail to address the issue, then he can go ahead and make it public. The first procedure would be to address an issue to the immediate supervisor. If it bears no fruits, then he should push it to the above authorities systematically without making a move until he has exhausted every means (Tavani, 2010).
Michael McFarland gives a model that would serve as an alternative to Richard De George’s. He suggests that engineers view themselves in a different and wider context. According to him, an engineer acts in a way to collaborate with both the insiders and outsiders of the profession. They should also relate their work with the society (De, 2003). He suggests that they might be held to a higher social responsibility collectively, not as an individual engineer. He realizes the need of engineers working collectively in achieving their goals so that they can reduce or eliminate such incidences (Spinello, 2006). Most engineers work as individuals and cannot always have the ability to help. However, this would have been possible if they work collectively. When they merge, they will be in unison in their undertakings, and such conflicts or mistakes will not arise. There will be no need to express dissatisfaction or concern outside the organization (De, 2003). They will conduct the process jointly and can note the errors at early stages and correct them. The astronauts’ lives would not be lost had there been collaboration and consultation by all the engineers involved in the 1986 space shuttle crash.
In chapter three, he brings out the issue of critical thinking, argument and claims. These are vital in decision making. One should argue wisely and evaluate different situations at a personal level before involving others. This will ensure quality argument and justification of their claims to the public (Mitcham, 2009). After evaluating it at a personal level, one views it as justified to pass it on to the next level. He can go forth to the public but with concrete evidence after evaluating it with the authority, and they are unable to resolve it out. This calls for caution when deciding to let it out. Richard De George gives some levels of outcome. One of the levels is that if one does something on his/her own, then he/she should be morally responsible for the outcome (De, 2003). These may include shame and guilt although they may not face any legal implications. If a group or corporate performs the action, they will be legally responsible for the outcome. There will be no blame upon those held responsible. However, they might have to compensate for the loss that arises and the damage of property (Tavani, 2010).