We Cannot Eat Data: The Need for Computer Ethics to Address the Cultural and Ecological Impacts of Computing

We Cannot Eat Data: The Need for Computer Ethics to Address the Cultural and Ecological Impacts of Computing

Barbara Paterson (Marine Biology Research Institute, Zoology Department, University of Cape Town, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-937-3.ch161
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Abstract

Computer ethicists foresee that as information and communication technology (ICT) increasingly pervades more and more aspects of life, ethical issues increasingly will be computer-related. This view is underpinned by the assumption that progress is linear and inevitable. In accordance with this assumption, ICT is promoted as an essential component of development. This notion ignores the cultural origin of computing. Computer technology is a product of the Western worldview, and consequently, the computer revolution is experienced differently by people in different parts of the world. The computer revolution not only threatens to marginalize non-Western cultural traditions, but the Western way of life also has caused large-scale environmental damage. This chapter argues that computer ethics has to critically analyze the links between computing and its effects on cultural diversity and the natural environment and proposes that the Earth Charter can function as a framework for such holistic research.

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