The central problem in cyber ethics is not, as many might think, how to address the problems of protecting individual privacy, or preventing software piracy, or forcing computer programmers to take responsibility for the systems that they build. These are, of course, legitimate concerns of cyber ethics, but the central problem is how you decide what the right thing to do is with regard to these issues when the consequences of any responses cannot be known in advance. Stated more clearly, the central problem in cyber ethics is - how do you establish ethical standards in a professional field that is defined by a rapidly evolving technology where the consequences of the technology and the impact of any ethical standards cannot be known in the time frame in which the standards must be established? Stories play a very important role in addressing this issue. Specifically, stories provide a means of exploring ethical issues for which the full range of consequences is not currently known. But, in order to justify this claim, a few words of explanation are in order.
Narrative Vs. Logical Thinking
Narrative and logical reasoning represent two distinct methods of making sense out of the world around us. They are both legitimate and both can be very rigorous (Bruner, 1986). Sometimes they provide alternative paths to truth and understanding. Sometimes one or the other provides the only path. Logical reasoning is general, context independent, objective and leads to a single conclusion. Narrative reasoning is specific, context dependent, open to subjective interpretation, and potentially leads to multiple conclusions. The characteristics of narrative reasoning are considered flaws when applied to logical reasoning. But the reverse applies also. A story that has only one interpretation and means the same to everyone is not much of a story. While narrative and logical reasoning are different kinds of reasoning, they are not mutually exclusive. A good narrative is also often quite logical in structure, and a good logical argument can often be better understood with a good narrative example. But for the most part, they are complimentary, alternative modes of thinking that provide different paths to truth and understanding.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Ethics: A branch of moral philosophy that examines the standards for proper conduct.
Story: A rendition or a telling of a series of true or fictitious events, connected by a narrative, in which a set of characters experience and react to a set of actions or events and in doing so reveal something about the human character or condition.
Imagination: The creative capacity to think of possibilities.