Moral, Social, and Political Responsibility in the Information Age

Moral, Social, and Political Responsibility in the Information Age

Tomas Cahlik (Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3479-3.ch099

Abstract

Humanity has entered the information age. Basic questions of moral philosophy stay as they have always been: How are we to live? What are we to be? Basic answers are that we ought to live good lives and be good persons. Humans are social beings, that is why moral, social, and political philosophy overlap. Basic questions of social and political philosophy have been always concerned with informal and formal rules in social and political structures. Basic answer is that rules ought to be equilibrated in the sense that social structures function well and are just. Everybody is morally responsible: she must be able to respond to questions about her life and personality; to explain what she does and why. Leaders in all social and political structures are socially and politically responsible: they are responsible both for functioning of their structures and for the latter being just. In this article, effects of ICTs on the responsibilities of living a good life and being a good person and having efficient and just social structures are discussed.
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Introduction

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have penetrated during the last 20 years all human activities everywhere on the Earth. Humanity has entered into the information age, virtual reality and even virtual worlds have been crated, serious discussions are led about possible impacts of Superintelligence that could be created in not so distant future.

Basic questions of moral philosophy stay as they have always been: How are we to live? What are we to be? Basic answers are, of course, that we ought to live good lives and be good persons. Humans are social beings, that is why moral, social and political philosophy overlap. Basic questions of social and political philosophy have been always concerned with informal and formal rules in social and political structures, companies and states being the most relevant for this article. Basic answer is that rules ought to be equilibrated in the sense that social structures function well and are just. Equilibrium is not petrified; it must reflect current conditions of social and political life.

What does responsibility mean? Everybody is morally responsible: she must be able to respond to questions about her life and personality; to explain what she does and why. Leaders in all social and political structures (families, schools, churches, companies, states ..) are socially and politically responsible: they are responsible both for functioning of their structures and for the latter being just.

What are just structures? This is a complicated question with many possible answers. For the purpose of this article, we stress just three important attributes of justice: people are not exploited, are not alienated and are as free as possible.

The aim of this article is:

  • To specify what “living a good life” and “being a good person” could be in the information age;

  • To identify some challenges and opportunities ICTs offer for good rules in social and political structures.

Having absolutely stabilized basic questions and basic answers makes the methodology of moral, social and political philosophy quite different from the methodology in sciences. In sciences, one starts with a thorough review of previous research, specifies some new and interesting research question, makes hypotheses about possible answers and bases argumentation on data. In moral, social and political philosophy, one reflects problems of the current age in mirrors that were created centuries ago and have been polished by many reflections ever since. Forms of texts are rich: dialogs, even poems, but the most used form is an essay.

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Background

Literature review in research articles is used for showing that the research described in the article fits into research themes that are interesting for contemporary research community. Literature review in ethical reflections is used differently, just for illustration of ideas that have been published in the area of interest and for “opening the scene”.

Looking into the Web of Science Core Collection database in May 2019 and using keywords “information technology” and (“moral responsibility” OR “social responsibility” OR “political responsibility”), in the whole timespan from 1945 to 2019 there are 108 entries obtained (from that 107 articles or conference proceedings). 20 entries were published from 1992 to 2009, 33 entries from 2010 to 2014 and 55 since 2015. This reveals not high but steady and increasing activity on the interdisciplinary border between ICTs and moral, social or political responsibility.

Looking closer into the content of those articles, following themes can be identified since the year 2010:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Marxism: It is (not only) an ideology aimed at equality and building of a classless society.

Existential Philosophy: Branch of philosophy that starts with individual existence and the problem of its being in the World. Important predecessor was Søren Kierkegaard (19 th century), among main representatives we can find Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre (both 20 th century). They looked for authentic existence and have found different solutions depending especially on the religiosity of the specific philosopher.

Ethics of Norms: Branch of ethics that analyses the structure of norms and what they are based on.

Casuistry: Branch of ethics that uses case studies to make clear moral principles and norms in typical situations. All ethical codes specify some norms of conduct. These norms are usually explained with the use of different case studies.

Liberalism: It is (not only) an ideology aiming at personal liberty, rule of law and consent of the governed.

Crypto-Currencies: Digital assets that are based on blockchain (or other advanced information technology) and can fulfill similar functions as money.

Ethics: Practical philosophy, scientific analysis of moral contents.

Blockchain: In informatics, a special type of a distributed decentralized database with growing number of records that are linked with the use of cryptography. It is resistant to any modifications.

Norms: Norms are the shared and sanctioned rules. Sanctions can be both formal (e.g. law) and informal (e.g. pressure of social group).

Virtue Ethics: Branch of ethics that considers humans as being bearers of given or developed virtues. Humans have to develop virtues and fight with vices for becoming good. Basic concepts go back as far as to Plato and Aristotle (5 th , 4 th century BCE).

Virtual Reality: Created and accessed by ICTs. It usually overlaps with “reality,” but the overlapping is changing and fuzzy. Extremes of Virtual Reality are Virtual Worlds, in which “avatars” of humans can live parallel lives.

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