In my course of Ethics and Technology; and in my previous blog; i note that many ethical frameworks are coming to the conclusion that ethics in Information Technology are based on individualistic morals (due to the nature of technology), and that in order to have a governing ethical framework in technology, there must be universals (not unlike in real life).
The question was asked “How does one find the standards for the universal” – I can’t answer that question in a 250-500 word essay; therefore – I provided only hints to my answer, without giving my answer.
C.S. Lewis writes in book one of Mere Christianity:
“Everyone has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant… They say things like this: ‘How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?’ – ‘Come on you promised.’ People say things like that every day, educated … as well as uneducated… children… [and] grown-ups.”
“Now what interests me… is that the man who makes [these statements] is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not … please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard… and the other man seldom replies: ‘To hell with your standard.’” (Lewis, 2009, p. 257)
Lewis later states:
“Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature… because people thought that everyone knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it… I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature … is unsound… but the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later… if you try breaking [a promise] to him, he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ (Lewis, 2009, p. 285).”
On the idea of whether or not there are universal laws, Lewis concludes:
“It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong (Lewis, 2009, p. 300).”
For me, I agree with Lewis, as he continues further on in book one: that in order to come to a conclusion of a universal set of right and wrong; one must find a standard to measure against. This standard must also exist necessarily outside of oneself in order to be appealed to universally. Therefore, I believe one of the most important decisions that can be made to help move towards a global view of Right and Wrong must first start with a common standard.
This of course, is where the difficulty begins; as all discussions of morality begin in trying to lay a foundation of moral framework (i.e. what is the standard to be considered right or wrong). Some more common frameworks are deontological, utilitarian and existential, all of which have their supporters and their oppositions.
As this topic is very complex; and cannot be addressed by anything short than a doctoral thesis; I will briefly say that I would have to state that a good starting point is the “Golden Rule”: Treat others as you want to be treated. This, I believe, at least points us in the right direction.
Lewis, C. S. (2009). Mere Christianity. HarperCollins e-books (Kindle Edition).