Information Age Anthology: The Information Age Millitary
Information technology has also had a lasting impression on the philosophical study of logic and information. In this field logic is used as a way to understand information as well as using information science as a way to build the foundations of logic itself see the entry on logic and information. The issues just discussed are fascinating but they are separate arguments that do not necessarily have to be resolved before we can enter a discussion on information technology and moral values. Even purely syntactical machines can still impact many important ethical concerns even if they are completely oblivious to the semantic meaning of the information that they compute.
The second starting point is to explore the more metaphysical role that information might play in philosophy. If we were to begin with the claim that information either constitutes or is closely correlated with what constitutes our existence and the existence of everything around us, then this claim means that information plays an important ontological role in the manner in which the universe operates.
Adopting this standpoint places information as a core concern for philosophy and gives rise to the fields philosophy of information and information ethics. In this entry, we will not limit our exploration to just the theory of information but instead look more closely at the actual moral and ethical impacts that information technologies are already having on our societies. Philosophy of Information will not be addressed in detail here but the interested reader can begin with Floridi b, b for an introduction. Some of the most important aspects of Information Ethics will be outlined in more detail below.
The move from one set of dominant information technologies to another is always morally contentious. Socrates lived during the long transition from a largely oral tradition to a newer information technology consisting of writing down words and information and collecting those writings into scrolls and books. Famously Socrates was somewhat antagonistic to writing and scholars claim that he never wrote anything down himself.
Socrates tells a fable of an Egyptian God he names Theuth who gives the gift of writing to a king named Thamus. Thamus is not pleased with the gift and replies,. If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. Phaedrus, section a. Socrates, who was adept at quoting lines from poems and epics and placing them into his conversations, fears that those who rely on writing will never be able to truly understand and live by these words.
For Socrates there is something immoral or false about writing. Books can provide information but they cannot, by themselves, give you the wisdom you need to use or deeply understand that information. Conversely, in an oral tradition you do not simply consult a library, you are the library, a living manifestation of the information you know by heart.
For Socrates, reading a book is nowhere near as insightful as talking with its author. Written words,. Phaedrus, section d. His criticism of writing at first glance may seem humorous but the temptation to use recall and call it memory is getting more and more prevalent in modern information technologies.
Why learn anything when information is just an Internet search away? Early in the information technology revolution Richard Mason suggested that the coming changes in information technologies, such as their roles in education and economic impacts, would necessitate rethinking the social contract Mason Information technologies change quickly and move in and out of fashion at a bewildering pace.
This makes it difficult to try to list them all and catalog the moral impacts of each. The very fact that this change is so rapid and momentous has caused some to argue that we need to deeply question the ethics of the process of developing emerging technologies Moor It has also been argued that the ever morphing nature of information technology is changing our ability to even fully understand moral values as they change. The legal theorist Larry Lessig warns that the pace of change in information technology is so rapid that it leaves the slow and deliberative process of law and political policy behind and in effect these technologies become lawless, or extralegal.
This is due to the fact that by the time a law is written to curtail, for instance, some form of copyright infringement facilitated by a particular file sharing technology, that technology has become out of date and users are on to something else that facilitates even more copyright infringement Lessig But even given this rapid pace of change, it remains the case that information technologies or applications can all be categorized into at least three different types — each of which we will look at below.
For example, a book is a record of information, a telephone is used to communicate information, and the Dewey decimal system organizes information. Many information technologies can accomplish more than one of the above functions and, most notably, the computer can accomplish all of them since it can be described as a universal machine see the entry on Computability and Complexity , so it can be programmed to emulate any form of information technology.
In section 2 we will look at some specific example technologies and applications from each of the three types of information technology listed above and track the moral challenges that arise out of the use and design of these particular technologies. In addition to the above we will need to address the growing use of information environments such as massive multiplayer games, which are environments completely composed of information where people can develop alternate lives filled with various forms of social activities see section 3. Finally we will look at not only how information technology impacts our moral intuitions but also how it might be changing the very nature of moral reasoning.
In section 4 , we will look at information as a technology of morality and how we might program applications and robots to interact with us in a more morally acceptable manner. The control of information is power, and in an information economy such as we find ourselves today, it may be the ultimate form of political power. We live in a world rich in data and the technology to produce, record, and store vast amounts of this data has developed rapidly. As was mentioned above, each of us produces a vast amount of information every day that could be recorded and stored as useful data to be accessed later when needed.
But moral conundrums arise when that collection, storage and use of our information is done by third parties without our knowledge or done with only our tacit consent. The social institutions that have traditionally exercised this power are things like, religious organizations, universities, libraries, healthcare officials, government agencies, banks and corporations.
These entities have access to stored information that gives them a certain amount of power over their customers and constituencies. Today each citizen has access to more and more of that stored information without the necessity of utilizing the traditional mediators of that information and therefore a greater individual share of social power see Lessig One of the great values of modern information technology is that it makes the recording of information easy and almost automatic. Today, a growing number of people enter biometric data such as blood pressure, calorie intake, exercise patterns, etc.
This type of data collection could become almost fully automated in the near future. How long until a smartphone collects a running data stream of your blood pressure throughout the day perhaps tagged with geolocation markers of particularly high or low readings? In one sense this could be immensely powerful data that could lead to much healthier lifestyle choices.
But it could also be a serious breach in privacy if the information got into the wrong hands, which could be easily accomplished, since third parties have access to information collected on smartphones and online applications. In the next section 2. But here we must address a more subtle privacy breach — the collection and recording of data about a users without their knowledge or consent. When searching on the Internet, browser software records all manner of data about our visits to various websites which can, for example, make webpages load faster next time you visit them.
Even the websites themselves use various means to record information when your computer has accessed them and they may leave bits of information on your computer which the site can use the next time you visit. Some websites are able to detect which other sites you have visited or which pages on the website you spend the most time on. If someone were following you around a library noting down this kind of information, you might find it uncomfortable or hostile, but online this kind of behavior takes place behind the scenes and is barely noticed by the casual user. According to some professionals, information technology has all but eliminated the private sphere and that it has been this way for decades.
Helen Nissenbaum observes that,. Clearly, earlier theories of privacy that assumed the inviolability of physical walls no longer apply but as Nissenbaum argues, personal autonomy and intimacy require us to protect privacy nonetheless Nissenbaum If you load all the photographs of your life to a service like Flickr and they were to somehow lose or delete them, this would be a tragic mistake that might not be impossible to repair.
Information technology has forced us to rethink earlier notions of privacy that were based on print technologies, such as letters, notes, books, pamphlets, newspapers, etc. The moral values that coalesced around these earlier technologies have been sorely stretched by the easy way that information can be shared and altered using digital information technologies and this has required the rapid development of new moral theories that recognize both the benefits and risks of communicating all manner of information using modern information technologies.
The primary moral values that seem to be under pressure from these changes are privacy, confidentiality, ownership, trust, and the veracity of the information being communicated in these new ways. Who has the final say whether or not some information about a user is communicated or not? Who is allowed to sell your medical records, your financial records, your email, your browser history, etc.? If you do not have control over this process, then how can you enforce your own moral right to privacy?
It follows that if we care about privacy, then we should give all the control of access to personal information to the individual. Most corporate entities resist this notion for the simple reason that information about users has become a primary commodity in the digital world boosting the vast fortunes of corporations like Google or Facebook. Indeed, there is a great deal of utility each of us gains from the services provided by internet search companies like Google and social networks such as Facebook. It might be argued that it is actually a fair exchange we receive since they provide search results and other applications for free and they offset the cost of creating those valuable serviced by collecting data from individual user behavior that can be monetized in various lucrative ways.
Information Technology and Moral Values (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
A major component of the profit model for these companies is based on directed advertising where the information collected on the user is used to help identify advertising that will be most effective on a particular user based on his or her search history and other online behaviors. Simply by using the free applications offered, each user tacitly agrees to give up some amount of privacy that varies with the applications they are using. Even if we were to agree that there is some utility to the services users receive in this exchange, there are still many potential moral problems with this arrangement.
If we follow the argument raised by Westin earlier that privacy is equivalent to information control ibid. There is a counterargument to this. Herman Tavani and James Moor argue that in some cases giving the user more control of their information may actually result in greater loss of privacy. Their primary argument is that no one can actually control all of the information about oneself that is produced every day by our activities. If we focus only on the fraction of it that we can control, we lose sight of the vast mountains of data we cannot Tavani and Moor, Tavani and Moor argue that privacy must be recognized by the third parties that do control your information and only if those parties have a commitment to protecting user privacy, will we actually acquire any privacy worth having.
Towards this end, they suggest that we think in terms of restricted access to information rather than strict personal control of information ibid.
What Clausewitz Can Teach Us About War on Social Media
Information security is another important moral value that impacts the communication and access of user information. If we grant the control of our information to third parties in exchange for the services they provide, then these entities must also be responsible for restricting the access to that information by others who might use it to harm us See Epstein ; Magnani ; Tavani This type of crime has grown rapidly since the advent of digital information technologies.
The victims of these crimes can have their lives ruined as they try to rebuild such things as their credit rating and bank accounts. This has led to the design of computer systems that are more difficult to access and the growth of a new industry dedicated to securing computer systems. Even with these efforts the economic and social impact of cybercrime is growing at a staggering rate.
The difficulty in obtaining complete digital security rests on the fact that the moral value of security can be in conflict with the moral values of sharing and openness, and it is these later values that guided many of the early builders of information technology. So it seems that information technology has a strong dissonance created in the competing values of security and openness that is worked right into the design of these technologies and this is all based on the competing moral values held by the various people who designed the technologies themselves. This conflict in values has been debated by philosophers.
While many of the hackers interviewed by Levy argue that hacking is not as dangerous as it seems and that it is mostly about gaining access to hidden knowledge of how information technology systems work, Eugene Spafford counters that no computer break-in is entirely harmless and that the harm precludes the possibility of ethical hacking except in the most extreme cases Spafford Mark Manion and Abby Goodrum agree that hacktivism could be a special case of ethical hacking but warn that it should proceed in accordance to the moral norms set by the acts of civil disobedience that marked the twentieth century or risk being classified as online terrorism Manion and Goodrum What information technology adds to these long standing moral debates is the nearly effortless access to information that others might want to control such as intellectual property, dangerous information and pornography Floridi , as well as providing technological anonymity for both the user and those providing access to the information in question Nissenbaum ; Sullins For example, even though cases of bullying and stalking occur regularly, the anonymous and remote actions of cyber-bullying and cyberstalking make these behaviors much easier and the perpetrator less likely to be caught.
Given that information technologies can make these unethical behaviors more likely, then it can be argued that the design of cyberspace itself tacitly promotes unethical behavior Adams ; Grodzinsky and Tavani Since the very design capabilities of information technology influence the lives of their users, the moral commitments of the designers of these technologies may dictate the course society will take and our commitments to certain moral values will then be determined by technologists Brey ; Bynum ; Ess ; Johnson ; Magnani ; Moor ; Spinello ; Sullins Assuming we are justified in granting access to some store of information that we may be in control of, there is a duty to ensure that that information is truthful, accurate, and useful.
A simple experiment will show that information technologies might have some deep problems in this regard. Load a number of different search engines and then type the same search terms in each of them, each will present different results and some of these searches will vary widely from one another. This shows that each of these services uses a different proprietary algorithm for presenting the user with results from their search. It follows then that not all searches are equal and the truthfulness, accuracy, and usefulness of the results will depend greatly on which search provider you are using and how much user information is shared with this provider.
All searches are filtered by various algorithms in order to ensure that the information the search provider believes is most important to the user is listed first. Since these algorithms are not made public and are closely held trade secrets, users are placing a great deal of trust in this filtering process. The hope is that these filtering decisions are morally justifiable but it is difficult to know. Again the anonymity and ease of use that information technology provides can facilitate deceitful practices such as clickjacking.
Pettit suggests that this should cause us to reevaluate the role that moral values such as trust and reliance play in a world of information technology. This is a significant problem and will be discussed in section 2. Lastly in this section we must address the impact that the access to information has on social justice. Information technology was largely developed in the Western industrial societies during the twentieth century.
But even today the benefits of this technology have not spread evenly around the world and to all socioeconomic demographics. Certain societies and social classes have little to no access to the information easily available to those in more well off and in developed nations, and some of those who have some access have that access heavily censored by their own governments. It is worth noting that as the cost of smart phones decreases these technologies are giving some access to the global internet to communities that have been shut out before Poushter John Weckert also notes that cultural differences in giving and taking offence play a role in the design of more egalitarian information technologies Weckert In addition to storing and communicating information, many information technologies automate the organizing of information as well as synthesizing or mechanically authoring or acting on new information.
Norbert Wiener first developed a theory of automated information synthesis which he called Cybernetics Wiener . Wiener realized that a machine could be designed to gather information about the world, derive logical conclusions about that information which would imply certain actions, which the machine could then implement, all without any direct input form a human agent. Wiener quickly saw that if his vision of cybernetics was realized, there would be tremendous moral concerns raised by such machines and he outlined some of them in his book the Human Use of Human Beings Wiener Wiener argued that, while this sort of technology could have drastic moral impacts, it was still possible to be proactive and guide the technology in ways that would increase the moral reasoning capabilities of both humans and machines Bynum Machines make decisions that have moral impacts.
One of the authors left on a vacation and when he arrived overseas his credit card stopped working, perplexed, he called the bank and learned that an automatic anti-theft program had decided that there was a high probability that the charges he was trying to make were from someone stealing his card and that in order to protect him the machine had denied his credit card transactions. Here we have a situation where a piece of information technology was making decisions about the probability of nefarious activity happening that resulted in a small amount of harm to the person that it was trying to help.
Increasingly, machines make important life changing financial decisions about people without much oversight from human agents. Whether or not you will be given a credit card, mortgage loan, the price you will have to pay for insurance, etc. For instance if you apply for a credit card, the machine will look for certain data points, like your salary, your credit record, the economic condition of the area you reside in, etc. That probability will either pass a threshold of acceptance or not and determine whether or not you are given the card.
The machine can typically learn to make better judgments given the results of earlier decisions it has made. This kind of machine learning and prediction is based on complex logic and mathematics see for example, Russell and Norvig , this complexity may result in slightly humorous examples of mistaken predictions as told in the anecdote above, or it might be more eventful.
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It all depends on the design of the learning and prediction algorithm, something that is typically kept secret, so that it is hard to justify the veracity of the prediction. Several of the issues raised above result from the moral paradox of Information technologies. Many users want information to be quickly accessible and easy to use and desire that it should come at as low a cost as possible, preferably free.
But users also want important and sensitive information to be secure, stable and reliable. Maximizing our value of quick and low cost minimizes our ability to provide secure and high quality information and the reverse is true also. Thus the designers of information technologies are constantly faced with making uncomfortable compromises. The early web pioneer Stewart Brand sums this up well in his famous quote:. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time.
Since these competing moral values are essentially impossible to reconcile, they are likely to continue to be at the heart of moral debates in the use and design of information technologies for the foreseeable future. In the section above, the focus was on the moral impacts of information technologies on the individual user. In this section, the focus will be on how these technologies shape the moral landscape at the societal level. This change has meant that a growing number of people have begun to spend significant portions of their lives online with other users experiencing a new unprecedented lifestyle.
Vast numbers of people congregate on sites like Facebook and interact with friends old and new, real and virtual. The Internet offers the immersive experience of interacting with others in virtual worlds where environments are constructed entirely out of information. Just now, emerging onto the scene are technologies that will allow us to merge the real and the virtual.
Each of these technologies comes with their own suite of new moral challenges some of which will be discussed below. There are a number of moral values that these sites call into question. Shannon Vallor , has reflected on how sites like Facebook change or even challenge our notion of friendship. Aristotle argued that humans realize a good and true life though virtuous friendships. Here is a more complete discussion of Aristotelian friendship. Thus these media cannot fully support the Aristotelian notion of complete and virtuous friendship by themselves Vallor Vallor also has a similar analysis of other Aristotelian virtues such as patience, honesty, and empathy and their problematic application in social media Vallor Privacy issues abound in the use of social media.
In this way a social network provider can try to maintain the moral value of privacy for its users while still profiting off of linking them with advertisers. The first moral impact one encounters when contemplating online games is the tendency for these games to portray violence, sexism, and sexual violence. There are many news stories that claim a cause and effect relationship between violence in computer games and real violence.
The claim that violence in video games has a causal connection to actual violence has been strongly critiqued by the social scientist Christopher J. Ferguson Ferguson But Coeckelbergh goes on to claim that computer games could be designed to facilitate virtues like empathy and cosmopolitan moral development, thus he is not arguing against all games just those where the violence inhibits moral growth Coeckelbergh Marcus Schulzke defends the depiction of violence in video games.
Thus virtual violence is very different from real violence, a distinction that gamers are comfortable with Schulzke While virtual violence may seem palatable to some, Morgan Luck seeks a moral theory that might be able to allow the acceptance of virtual murder but that will not extend to other immoral acts such as pedophilia. Christopher Bartel is less worried about the distinction Luck attempts to draw; Bartel argues that virtual pedophilia is real child pornography, which is already morally reprehensible and illegal across the globe.
While violence is easy to see in online games, there is a much more substantial moral value at play and that is the politics of virtual worlds. Ludlow and Wallace chronicle how the players in massive online worlds have begun to form groups and guilds that often confound the designers of the game and are at times in conflict with those that make the game.
Their contention is that designers rarely realize that they are creating a space where people intended to live large portions of their lives and engage in real economic and social activity and thus the designers have the moral duties somewhat equivalent to those who may write a political constitution Ludlow and Wallace According to Purcell , there is little commitment to democracy or egalitarianism by those who create and own online games and this needs to be discussed, if more and more of us are going to spend time living in these virtual societies.
A persistent concern about the use of computers and especially computer games is that this could result in anti-social behavior and isolation. Yet studies might not support these hypotheses Gibba, et al. With the advent of massively multiplayer games as well as video games designed for families the social isolation hypothesis is even harder to believe.
These games do, however, raise gender equality issues.
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James Ivory used online reviews of games to complete a study that shows that male characters outnumber female characters in games and those female images that are in games tend to be overly sexualized Ivory Soukup suggests that gameplay in these virtual worlds is most often based on gameplay that is oriented to masculine styles of play thus potentially alienating women players. And those women that do participate in game play at the highest level play roles in gaming culture that are very different from those the largely heterosexual white male gamers, often leveraging their sexuality to gain acceptance Taylor et al.
Additionally, Joan M. McMahon and Ronnie Cohen have studied how gender plays a role in the making of ethical decisions in the virtual online world, with women more likely to judge a questionable act as unethical then men The online world is now just as indispensable to governments , militaries, activists, and spies as it is to advertisers and shoppers. And whether the goal is to win an election or a battle, or just to sell an album, everyone uses the same tactics.
This new kind of warfare takes all forms, from battlefield footage on YouTube to a plague of Nazi-sympathizing cartoon frogs. It can seem like a fundamental break with the past. And in some ways—the digital terrain on which the war is fought, the need to grab attention rather than material resources, and the extraordinary power of a few people—it is. Yet not everything about it is new. Efforts to shape how the enemy thinks, to control the flow of information, and to win wars while avoiding actual fighting have been around for centuries.
Indeed, the best place to start if you want to understand the weaponization of social media is with the past. Raised in Enlightenment Europe, Clausewitz enlisted in the Prussian army at the age of What Next for Networks and Netwars? Contributors PDF. About the Authors PDF. The attacks of Sept 11 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have generated interest throughout the world in the way networked technologies are affecting the waging of conflicts around our globe, be they ideological or military.
The fact that the writing of the papers preceded the attacks of last September does not diminish their timeliness; on the contrary, these events throw many of the points discussed into relief… [This book is] a comprehensive and well-structured volume that manages to cover many, if not all, aspects of the subject at hand. It makes the reader more actively consider the future of the state and its ability to meet its obligations in the years to come. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
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In fact, this is an excellent text for many reading audiences: social scientists, computer scientists, policy makers, military leaders or anyone interested in emerging threats. All can benefit from the depth of research and breadth of perspective that are adroitly combined in this accessible text…".
The essays include chapters on the tactics of anti-World Trade Organization protesters during the riots in Seattle in ; the Internet and international crime; 'hacktivism' the convergence of hacking with activism ; and the rise of what the authors term 'netwar'. Before September 11, readers might have been naturally inclined to pooh-pooh such talk of loose networks of terrorists, criminals, and militant subversives. But the peculiar structure of al-Qaeda vindicates much of the argument here--as the editors point out in a postscript written shortly after the terrorist attacks.
In Networks and Netwars they grasp an emerging reality still lost on those preoccupied with the geostrategic balance of power: War in the future will be waged by leaderless networks that can come together quickly out of cyberspace to 'swarm' an opponent. Like few others, they recognize that the flipside of the celebrated global civil society born of the Internet is the 'uncivil society' of terrorists and criminals who will use the same means to spread havoc and instability.