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Ethics

This category contains 16 posts

Organic cyberwars

The respectable sounding Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a media organisation that was started by the Russian government in 2013, initially to exert influence over Ukrainian and Russian citizens. Some time before the 2016 US election the Russian IRA directed these operations to influence online political discussions in the US, with further influence in other … Continue reading

Families and crime: Kompromat 102

“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” said convicted felon Michael Cohen, “I put family and country first” (ABC article). This is clearly no legal defence, but an attempt at public sympathy at least. He loves his wife and kids. How bad can he be? Loyalty to family … Continue reading

Millennials and Morals

In the opinion of most people, millennials are tech-savvy, materialistic, selfish, lazy and arrogant — according to a 2016 Ipsos global trends survey. By way of contrast the same survey showed how the previous, baby boomer generation identifies itself as respectful, work-centric, community-oriented, well-educated and ethical. The Ipsos report provides some global evidence to correct … Continue reading

Least commitment principle

The least commitment principle is one of several strategies people use when they make plans, such as preparing for a day’s outing. The principle gained currency in the 1980s in the early days of artificial intelligence research. It simply means to prioritise tasks in such a way that you keep certain decisions about resources and … Continue reading

Cracks and flaws

I enjoy Keith Olbermann’s weekly YouTube tirades against the US presidential incumbent, who he describes as “f*cking crazy.” See The Resistance with Keith Olbermann. Crazy is what you say about old ships “Full of cracks or flaws; damaged, impaired, unsound; liable to break or fall to pieces; frail, ‘shaky’” (OED). The metaphor translates to a state … Continue reading

Pointlessness

“What is the average weight of residents of Vienna with telephone numbers ending in ‘3’?” In arguing for clear logic, the prominent philosopher and logician Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) cited the question above as pointless (p.61). Who cares, and who really wants to know anyway! Of course, with the data deluge of the digital age, even … Continue reading

Troll farming

When did the Internet lose its innocence? In 1993 pioneering advocate for life online Howard Rheingold wrote in The Virtual Community: “People in virtual communities use words on screens to exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love, find friends and … Continue reading

Is the Internet really evil?

Vast technological infrastructures rely on global capital. They also sustain it. As wealth is accumulated by the few, the rest are lulled into the role of acquiescent consumers, buying products they don’t need or can’t afford, in order to preserve existing concentrations of capital. Digital systems further exaggerate inequalities, providing new channels for exploitation and … Continue reading

Armchair postmodernism

What is (or was) postmodernism? “[T]ruth is relative, morality is subjective, and therefore all of our individually preferred ‘narratives’ that give our lives meaning are equally true and worthy of validation,” wrote David Ernst by way of definition in The Federalist (21 January 2017). It seems that the current US president is the first “to … Continue reading

Testing ethical acuity

Ethical sensitivity is best cultivated through examples. To test this proposition I ran a class in which ethical matters were addressed through a series of contemporary case studies. There were 50 masters students in the class. Before the students broke into their groups to discuss the case studies I asked them all some simple binary questions, … Continue reading

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