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Question about the Moral and Philosophical Aspects of Information Technology

posted Jan 21, 2014, 4:22 PM by Anjuan Simmons   [ updated Jan 21, 2014, 4:57 PM ]
Here's a question I received from a reader. His question is in italics, and my response is in bold.

Dear, Mr. Anjuan Simmons

I am Regie Tuyco, Bachelor of Science in Information technology student of the Philippine College of Technology, Davao City, Philippine. I am currently doing a research on philosophy of management in information technology and i am very interested with your work on "Minority Tech". I hope i can get your own view on the following questions:

1. What is the role of an information technology Manage in society?
2. What are the moral obligations that pertain to it?
3. What is your philosophy of management in i.t?

Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity.

Very truly yours,
Regie Tuyco
Bachelor of Science in Information technology

Dear Regie, 

Thanks for the question. I actually visited the Philippines several years ago, and I have a lot of great memories of your country.

Your question is a lot more subjective than most of the questions I receive from my readers, but I like it. Keep in mind, of course, that this is just my opinion.

I think that the moral obligations of information technology management are rarely discussed. That is a tragedy because we've seen several examples of scientific and technological failures that can be traced to lapses in moral judgement. The best example of this is probably the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. However, I think that much smaller lapses in moral judgement happen every day. This can range from technology consultants who demand payment even when contractual obligations are not met. I've even seen technologists exhibit poor ethical behavior when they are competing against other vendors.

While we often think of technology as occurring behind corporate walls, the reality is that technology is gaining an increasing portion of our daily lives. This can be seen by the number of people you can see walking (and even driving) while looking at their smartphones or tablets. Soon, and I can't wait for this to happen, technology may drive us around by taking control of our cars. So, there is a huge moral obligation to get technology right not just in terms of requirements but also in terms of minimizing societal harm.

I would summarize my philosophy of information technology morality this way:

  1. Any act that jeopardizes human life should be avoided at all costs.
  2. Any action that I would be embarrassed to see reported on the front page of a national newspaper should not be taken.
  3. All local, state, federal, and international laws must be strictly followed.
  4. If I have a competitor, I will try to treat him or her the way that I would want to be treated.
  5. Document everything.
  6. Immediately communicate any mistakes or omissions in my work.
  7. Fix any errors I commit to the best of my ability.
I hope that helps! Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions or need more information.