Information Technology and the Ethics of Globalization: Transnational Issues and Implications

Information Technology and the Ethics of Globalization: Transnational Issues and Implications

Robert A. Schultz (Woodbury University, USA)
Indexed In: SCOPUS
Release Date: November, 2009|Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 272
ISBN13: 9781605669229|ISBN10: 1605669229|EISBN13: 9781605669236|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-922-9

Description

As technologies advance and become social norms worldwide, certain ethical considerations must be examined and reflected upon due to their various cultural implications.

Information Technology and the Ethics of Globalization: Transnational Issues and Implications discusses the widespread influence of technologies across the globe with particular attention placed on moral consideration. A unique compilation of examinations on issues in IT, this innovative publication provides researchers, academicians, and practitioners with a comprehensive survey of theories and insight into human considerations of this vast globalization.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Contribution of IT to globalization
  • Domestic theories of justice
  • Economic value
  • Elements of a global contract
  • Ethical implications for IT
  • Ethically globalized institutions
  • IT-enabled global ethical problems
  • Political realism
  • Transnational issues in ethics

Reviews and Testimonials

"In this book my aim is neither to condemn globalization nor to praise it. Globalization is a form of human social cooperation with both good and bad aspects. To try to prove that globalization is in itself good or bad would be just as nonsensical as to try to prove that human social cooperation is in itself good or bad. Human social cooperation has produced a technologized lifestyle which is dramatically better for many people. It has also produced great evils such as wars and the potential collapse of the ecosystem. Globalization has also produced benefits and harms. So instead of trying to determine whether globalization is good or bad, I will determine how globalization can be implemented in a just and ethical way."

– Robert A. Schultz, Woodbury University, USA

Your book is so coherent and well written. It reads easily, and has a nice fair and even tone.

– John Dittmeier, Los Angeles, CA.

The discussion of what constitutes an ethically globalized institution" and the role of IT as an " "enabler" of globalization are a great initial premise, especially in distinguishing a globalized ethic from national or even transnational ethics.
...You know I'd like the Heideggerian critique of Friedman! The discussion of flattening is one of the strongest so far.
...How to include corporations into any form of a global social contract is especially relevant in the current economic and ethical situation."

– Douglas Cremer, Professor of Philosophy and Political Science, Woodbury University, USA.

Very well written.

– Major Johnson, Los Angeles, CA.

Schultz (emeritus, Woodbury University) illustrates how globalized ethical challenges arise during IT activities and provides a framework for analyzing the implications of alternative actions and choosing ethical paths. After examining existing theories of justice, transnational ethics, and cosmopolitanism, the author proposes two global social contracts, one for ethical relations between states and one governing the global economy. The international social contract is adopted from Rawls' Law of Peoples, and the global economy social contract would require new global institutions. The last two chapters consider conflicts between economic development and the environment, and the value of IT-enabled globalization.

– Sci Tech Book News, BookNews.com

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

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Preface

TENTATIVE

Globalization--the coalescence of the economies and cultures of this planet--has definitely been enabled by Information Technology (IT). Globalization, in altering previous economic and social structures, also raises new ethical issues. But IT is much more, I think, than a mere enabler of globalization. Within globalization, IT produces new ethical problems all by itself.

Globalization has become a contested concept. In this book my aim is neither to condemn globalization nor to praise it. Globalization is a form of human social cooperation with both good and bad aspects. To try to prove that globalization is in itself good or bad would be just as nonsensical as to try to prove that human social cooperation is in itself good or bad. Human social cooperation has produced a technologized lifestyle which is dramatically better for many people. It has also produced great evils such as wars and the potential collapse of the ecosystem. Globalization has also produced benefits and harms. So instead of trying to determine whether globalization is good or bad, I will determine how globalization can be implemented in a just and ethical way.

There is already a substantial literature in philosophy and political theory on globalized ethics. I will examine the major possibilities. But for the most part theories of transnational ethics proceed by allocating ethical problems to different states and therefore are not helpful in dealing with ethical problems of ethically globalized institutions, most of which would not exist were it not for IT. (Throughout this book I use ‘global’ and ‘transnational’ to mean the same thing. I believe this is standard usage.)

In Section I, IT-Enabled Globalized Ethical Problems, I will show how these IT-enabled global ethical problems come about. One recent example is Yahoo’s difficulties with e-mail in China. Around 2002, Yahoo provided the Chinese government with information about two pro-democracy journalists who were subsequently jailed and apparently tortured. The journalists later successfully sued Yahoo. Yahoo initially claimed that it was merely complying with Chinese law. The obvious ethical issue is whether Yahoo should do this, whether the law of a country not recognizing basic human rights should be followed. The background question is whose law, if any, should be followed by a transnational IT company? At Yahoo’s 2007 annual meetings, Yahoo shareholders voted overwhelmingly against a proposal for Yahoo to reject censorship. Obviously Yahoo, as a corporation, is bound by the vote of its shareholders. But ethically do the shareholders of transnational corporations have the last word? What IT has produced in the case of Yahoo and other Internet communications companies, are ethically globalized companies, companies whose ethical problems cannot be solved by dividing them up among different nations.

Chapter 1, IT-Enabled Global Ethical Problems, lists the various kinds of globalized ethical problems that have arisen. Chapter 2, Current Ethically Globalized Institutions, records the globalized institutions currently involved with global ethical problems. In Chapter 3, IT's Contribution to Globalization, the nature of globalization is examined in some detail. Some concepts of globalization such as Thomas Friedman’s “flattening” encapsulate contested value judgements. After separating out a more neutral concept of globalization, I examine what aspects of IT play a role in the ethics of globalization.

Then, in Section II, Theories of Globalized Ethics, I summarize the main theories of globalized ethics and show their inadequacies in dealing with IT-enabled global ethical problems. Chapter 4, The Basis of Ethical Principles, provides a background in ethical theory. I make a distinction between ethics as principles of social cooperation and morality as rules depending on special beliefs. Chapter 5, Domestic Theories of Justice, discusses various theories of justice, or ethics for particular societies. I decide on John Rawls’ two Principles of Justice (1999a) as the best theory of ethics for social cooperation.

Chapter 6, Political Realism and the Society of Societies, and Chapter 7, Cosmopolitanism, present current theories of globalized ethics. Authors of some of these theories do not sufficiently appreciate the changes IT makes to underlying social and economic structures. Others don’t take social cooperation seriously enough. Chapter 8, The Ethical Status of Globalized Institutions, determines where globalized institutions need ethical principles, and of what kind. Chapter 9, IT and Globalized Ethics, does the same for IT in the service of globalization. A preliminary version of a global social contract is presented, and IT’s special role in that contract is discussed.

In Section III, A Social Contract for Globalized Institutions, I sketch a social contract approach to deal with these IT-enabled global ethical problems. The essence of this approach is that people in societies live under principles which they themselves could have chosen. Its political and ethical attractiveness is that coercive social and governmental commands are grounded in free agreement rather than in arbitrary force. This approach derives from the work of John Rawls on domestic and international justice. (Rawls 1999a, 1999b) Chapter 10, Elements of a Global Contract, lays out all the elements of the Global Contract. Actually two social contracts are required, the International Social Contract and the Global Economy Social Contract. The International Social Contract is a revision of Rawls version of international ethics. Two distinctive features of the Global Economy Social Contract are that it applies only to participants in the global economy and that corporations cannot be parties to the contract. Chapter 11, Globalized Ethics and Current Institutions, explores the extent to which current institutions are in compliance with the global social contracts. Chapter 12, New Globalized Institutions, discusses whether additional institutions would be required to implement the principles of the global social contracts. An important consideration is whether cooperation between existing states or other institutions would be sufficient. Simply adding new institutions for the sake of adding them raises difficult questions about authority and oversight, so cooperative solutions between existing institutions are in general preferable. Chapter 13, Ethical Implications for IT, explores the implications of the global social contracts for IT.

Then, in the Section IV, Ultimate Questions, I will consider issues beyond the reach of justice and social contracts, including issues of environmental ethics. These issues need to have priority even over the requirements of fair and just social contracts. Chapter 14, IT-Enabled Globalization and the Environment, deals with globalized environmental issues and IT’s role in those issues. Chapter15, The Value of IT-Enabled Globalization, deals with the value of cultural and economic globalization. Modern technology’s special value status is discussed, as well as the point of view of being on the value of IT and globalization.

This book reflects my practical experience with IT management, both for a Forbes 500 company and as Director of Academic Computing for Woodbury University. My academic qualifications include a Ph.D. dissertation in ethics done with John Rawls and teaching many graduate and undergraduate ethics courses. My previous book for IGI-Global Press, Contemporary Issues in Ethics and Information Technology (2006), discussed professional and individual ethical issues connected with IT. Globalization was discussed briefly in connection with offshoring. I believe a more complete discussion is now called for.

The primary intended audience for this book is I.T. professionals and I.T. users with ethical concerns. It is not intended as a contribution to professional philosophy. This is very much a book of applied ethics. But I have tried my best to be faithful to the spirit of Rawls’ work on social contracts. As I worked on the various issues discussed in the book, I experienced once again the power of the idea of a social contract. Rawls’ work has the “unique distinction among contemporary political philosophers of being frequently cited by the courts of law in the United States and referred to by practicing politicians in the United States and United Kingdom.” (Wikipedia 2008) President Bill Clinton stated that Rawls's thought "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself." (Clinton 1999)

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Major Johnson, Douglas Cremer, and the IGI-Global reviewers for helpful suggestions. I would also like to thank David Rosen of Woodbury University for a grant to present the ideas of this book at an InSite conference in Bulgaria in 2008. The Rinker Law Library of Chapman University and the Woodbury University Library were helpful in obtaining materials. Christine Bufton of IGI-Global was a very helpful and sympathetic editor.

For their encouragement, I would like to thank John Dittmeier and my daughters Katie and Rebecca. David Rosen, John Karayan, and other former colleagues at Woodbury University also cheered me on. Finally, my cat Zuni helped in many ways I am sure he did not understand.

    Authored by,
    Robert A. Schultz, Woodbury University, USA

Author(s)/Editor(s) Biography

Robert A. Schultz received his PhD in philosophy from Harvard University (1971). His dissertation in ethics was under the direction of John Rawls. He was a member of the philosophy faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, Cornell University, and the University of Southern California, and taught courses and published articles and reviews in the fields of ethics, logic, and aesthetics. In 1980 he assumed the position of data processing manager at A-Mark Precious Metals, a Forbes 500 company, then in Beverly Hills, CA. From 1989 through 2007, he was professor and chair of computer information systems and director of academic computing at Woodbury University (Burbank, CA). He regularly taught courses in database applications and design, systems development tools, and the management of information technology. He has numerous publications and presentations in the areas of database design, IT education, and the philosophy of technology. His previous book, Contemporary Issues in Ethics and Information Technology, was published by IRM Press (an imprint of IGI Global) in 2006. He retired and was awarded an emeritus professorship at Woodbury University in 2008. He continues to teach and publish in the areas of IT and ethics and taught an online course on this topic in the Applied Information Management Program at the University of Oregon in early 2009.

Indices