Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ethics and Technology – Part 3

Somewhere I read about a study of human nature using a simulated society. Two societies were created. In one society the rules were simple, in one you would be rewarded for good behavior and the other punished for bad. The one where a person was simply rewarded for positive behavior began a slow decline into self serving and selfish conduct. The other where there was a consequence for bad behavior actually performed better in that people were more giving and altruistic. What does this say about the nature of people? 

How does this tie into technology? Consider the nature of our interaction using technology is such that they rarely are consequences and is done under the mask most cases of anonymity. Why – because people hide who their real life identities, the person they pretend to be so they can act out their truest and most base core values and impulses, the things they would do in real life if they did not think they would get caught or held responsible. 

Technology allows people to become more of who they already are. 

  • A person with an interest PCs can fixate on and appear to be a tech. 
  • A person who occasionally writes can appear a poet. 
  • A person with an interest in law can appear to be a legal expert. 
  • A person with an interest in porn can fixate of this obsession. 
  • A person seeking sexual gratification can go n the prowl for conquests. 
  • A person who is a gold digger or emotional predator can scope out their next victim. 
  • A person who is lonely can imprint on some aspect of a person they see on a screen thinking they have found someone they truly have not. 

Technology like eharmony is used to take a scientific approach to matching people. Based on common interest – danger is you do not know if this person shares you value system, has integrity, shares complimentary ambitions, or their overall opinion of the opposite sex, heck you could end up with a serial killer. 

Let’s look at some behavior we do virtually that we would not in the real world:

  • In the virtual world we have followers who pay attention to all we say or do – in the real world that is called being a stalker or voyeur and depending how invasive it is a punishable offense.
  • In the virtual world we give our email and website addresses and yet in the real would we would be hesitant to so freely share such information not knowing more about the person
  • In the virtual world we call those connected to us friends and yet in the real world we often wait until we see and know the caliber of that person’s character before giving them such a label
  • In the virtual world some visit other people pages or streams and spew profanities and yet in the real world a person would rarely go into another home and berate or disrespect them
  • In the video games we blow up things and kill people while in the real world such behavior is considered a capital offense
  • In the virtual world if you are killed you can start over, hit reset or have extra lives while in the real world (unless you believe in reincarnation) you have one shot blow it and often you will not get a repeat
  • In the virtual world in some games it is ok to steal is a part of the game and yet in the real world such behavior will get you sent to jail
  • In the virtual world you have control over your environment (not so much true) – you have some influence over how your character interacts with a predefined role as designed by the person who wrote the code for the game and some say in the level of difficulty by which you interact while in the real world the only person you have any level of influence over is yourself there is no control over how others respond and act.
  • In the virtual world there is not accountability for much of your action and in the real world you are ideally held accountable for you actions

Let me give you one in terms of military and technology

  • As we continue to unman war could it not be perceived by the person being fought that you do not respect me enough to send a real person?
  • How about this – if a piloted drone kills someone is the drone responsible or the pilot?
  • If an unnamed drone kills someone is the drone responsible or the people who wrote the code?
  • What if due to a programming glitch the unmanned drone misses its target and kills innocent people is it the drone’s fault or the person or people who wrote the code?

I hope you are following so far and are seeing some of what I am observing, with that in mind a few questions for you:

  1. What are some of your thoughts on ethics and technology?
  2. Do you think we are advancing faster than our value system?
  3. What are some of your thoughts or examples of some disconnects?
  4. How many of you remember the saying just because you can does not mean you should?

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