James Moor: What Is Computer Essay

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The sheer number and variety of sites where such ostensibly private information is made public can make it impossible for someone to truly get privacy.

What is remarkable is how well Dr. Moor did at predicting the ethical issues that would continue to be part of the Computer Revolution. Even if computers are simply exacerbating existing ethical dilemmas, the fact that they are capable of doing so means that they are going to continue to present ethical problems. For example, when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, slavery was already in existence and used through the American South. That Industrial Revolution invention did not create the ethical issue of slavery. However, with the improved ability to process cotton, cotton suddenly became an incredibly profitable crop. The need for cheap labor jumped dramatically, which certainly increased the demand for slave labor. What that example makes clear is that even seemingly helpful inventions can have far-reaching consequences, many of which might be outside of the realm of thought for the inventor. That is why computer ethics should be a field of study with special status; to help facilitate the exploration of the possible ethical ramifications of a computer program. A modern example similar to the cotton gin might be the creation of easy tourism software. Sex tourism has been around as long as world travel has been feasible. Men have frequently gone to other locations to engage in sexual practices that would be impermissible in their homelands. Typically, they use women or children who are indigenous to these non-European lands for those purposes.
The internet has made this practice easy to engage in, while allowing its practitioners to maintain a high degree of anonymity. Men can find sex tourism sites that will book their passage and hotel in a country that does not criminalize having sex with children, and that behavior is generally not illegal, because the person is breaking no laws in a jurisdiction that criminalizes using children for sex. While this has always been possible, the internet has made it easy to accomplish. Examples such as that one make the case for the specific study of computer ethics.

Dr. Moor did such a fantastic job of describing and anticipating the ethical issues related to computers that I would actually be interested in finding out his own, personal, ethical views on some of today's troubling ethical computer issues. For example, I would be interested in asking him if he would support or oppose restrictions on internet usage which might restrict the types of unethical behavior computers could be used for, or if he would consider those restrictions more unethical because they would reflect systemic controls. I would ask Dr. Moor if he considers WikiLeaks to be ethical or unethical, because, at its heart, WikiLeaks is trying to uncover some of the invisibility that Moor seems to find so ethically troubling. Finally, I would ask Dr. Moor if he believes that the Computer Revolution has ended or is ongoing.


Moor, J. (1985). What is computer….....

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