De Facto Ethics Principles and Applications

De Facto Ethics Principles and Applications

Olli Mäkinen (Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland) and Jyri Naarmala (Novia University of Applied Sciences, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch317

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What is virtual ethics or cyberethics? Defining the topic is a cross-disciplinary project and related to such concepts as Internet ethics, self-regulation, game theory, plagiarism, mediation, trust and privacy, digital divide, democracy, anonymity, professional ethics, surveillance, and regulations related to freedom of speech, to name a few. These are common topics in publications related to Internet ethics (Edgar, 2003; Spinello, 1997; Spinello, 2000; Lessing, 1999; Wall, 2001; Nayar, 2010; Shaw, 2008; Wallach & Allen, 2008; Barney, 2004; Wessels, 2009; Nusselder, 2009; Smith & Wilson, 2010; Lanier, 2010; Ess, 2009).

While the speed of technological advances is very fast, ethical discussion concerning these issues seems to be lagging behind (Chester, 2007). While used technology has already established itself as a part of normal everyday routines, it is still unclear what is right or wrong.

There are different kinds of responsibilities in all professions. The moral responsibility rests on moral norms, duties and obligations. Professional responsibility, instead, has to do with one’s role as a professional – it, anyway, has to stay within the limits of what is morally allowed (van de Poel, 2011).

Efficiency is a well-liked concept among engineers and in business world as well because it is both simple and also easy to measure. From a moral point of view, effectiveness and efficiency are not always recommended because they do not take account of other values such as equity, justice, rightness, equality etc.

The Internet and IT are foundations for virtual life. They should not be mixed up with virtual life itself. IT applications are not ethical subjects but they can be useful, effective, fast and cheap. These qualities would not gain the upper hand. The Internet has also introduced some important immaterial values. Everything is not material, technical, and measurable. It may be that all the high hopes of the information (e.g. democracy) age have not been fulfilled. Some researchers like Salter (2003), say that the Internet grows apart from the ideals of free communication which were so typical in the beginning of the Internet era.

The goal of the philosophy is to clarify and simplify, to make phenomena transparent and unambiguous. The ethical questions are not over-complicated, they are often obscure and not seen because our everyday life does not require ethical or moral reflection.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Regulation: When a person or group governs or polices itself without outside assistance or influence.

Pragmatism: A philosophical tradition that began in the United States around 1870.

Cyberethics (a.k.a. Virtual Ethics): The philosophic study of ethics pertaining to computer networks, encompassing user behavior and what networked computers are programmed to do, and how this affects individuals and society.

Virtual Reality: A computer-simulated environment that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds.

Information Society: A society where the creation, distribution, use, integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity.

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