As a result, the term “computer ethics”, as it is typically used today, names only a subfield of Wiener’s much broader concerns.Tags: Choices And Consequences EssayBusiness Disaster PlanS Thesis PaperPhd Thesis ResubmissionNewsweek Magazine EssaysMethod Of Research ProposalA Good Thesis Statement For And ObesityHow To Write A Good Personal EssayThe Island On Bird Street Book ReportCritical Thinking Skills For Education Students
When the War ended, Wiener wrote the book (1963), included topics that are still important today: computers and security, computers and unemployment, responsibilities of computer professionals, computers for persons with disabilities, information networks and globalization, virtual communities, teleworking, merging of human bodies with machines, robot ethics, artificial intelligence, computers and religion, and a number of other subjects.
(See Bynum 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008a, 2008b.) Although he coined the name “cybernetics” for his new science, Wiener apparently did not see himself as also creating a new branch of ethics.
It is possible, nevertheless, to lead a good human life – to flourish – in an indefinitely large number of ways; for example, as a diplomat, scientist, teacher, nurse, doctor, soldier, housewife, midwife, musician, tradesman, artisan, and so on.
This understanding of the purpose of a human life led Wiener to adopt what he called “great principles of justice” upon which society should be built.
The fact that the mechanical rigidity of the insect is such as to limit its intelligence while the mechanical fluidity of the human being provides for his almost indefinite intellectual expansion is highly relevant to the point of view of this book. man’s advantage over the rest of nature is that he has the physiological and hence the intellectual equipment to adapt himself to radical changes in his environment.
The human species is strong only insofar as it takes advantage of the innate, adaptive, learning faculties that its physiological structure makes possible. 57–58, italics in the original) Given the physiology of human beings, it is possible for them to take in a wide diversity of information from the external world, access information about conditions and events within their own bodies, and process all that information in ways that constitute reasoning, calculating, wondering, deliberating, deciding and many other intellectual activities.
Thus, he says of human beings, We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. The individuality of the body is that of a flame…of a form rather than of a bit of substance. 102) Using the language of today’s “information age” (see, for example, Lloyd 2006 and Vedral 2010) we would say that, according to Wiener, human beings are “information objects”; and their intellectual capacities, as well as their personal identities, are dependent upon persisting patterns of information and information processing within the body, rather than on specific bits of matter-energy.
We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves. According to Wiener, for human beings to flourish they must be free to engage in creative and flexible actions and thereby maximize their full potential as intelligent, decision-making beings in charge of their own lives. Because people have various levels and kinds of talent and possibility, however, one person’s achievements will be different from those of others.
“Computer and information ethics”, in the present essay, is understood as that branch of applied ethics which studies and analyzes such social and ethical impacts of ICT.
The more specific term “computer ethics” has been used, in the past, in several different ways.