Book Review: Ethical and Social Issues in the Information Age

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Ethical and Social Issues in the Information Age
Undergraduate Texts in Computer Science
Joseph Migga Kizza
0-387-98275-2, 172 Pages, Springer-Verlag

Overview: “Ethical and Social Issues in the Information Age” is an excellent foundation and resource for defining ethics and morals in a technological world. For any reader interested in exploring this often shady area of life, I highly recommend this be your introduction. Along with the clear and concise definitions, each chapter references real world examples to help illustrate each point and make the reader aware of the real and imaged concerns associated with each.

Chapter 1 – “Morality and the Law”: If you can judge a book by the first chapter, this book is a great read. The introduction to morality and the law starts out with clear explanation of what morality is, moral theories, moral decision making, as well as listing well established and general moral codes (such as ‘the golden rule’). By defining such concepts as ‘guilt’ and ‘judgment’, the reader is well equipped to move on and explore the different facets of ethics, morals, and how they apply to technology.

Chapter 2 – “Ethics, Technology, and Values”: The various definitions of ethics and the theories of ethics is explained very well. Providing short descriptions of major ethical theories, you begin to realize there are many more concerns than may meet the eye. Continuing on, Kizza creates an equation to explore the relation between ethics and the human mind. This chapter also goes in depth on Codes of Ethics, defines Computer Ethics, and explains why you should study Computer Ethics.

Chapter 3 – “Ethics and the Professions”: Chapter three delves into defining professional requirements and the codes that may apply to them. Kizza describes four codes: professional, personal, institutional, and community. From here, the four ‘pillars’ of professionalism are outlined and described: Commitment, integrity, responsibility, and accountability. The rest of this chapter deals with the making of an ethical profession, and the attributes that go with it.

Chapter 4 – “Anonymity, Security, and Privacy”: After defining each of these concepts, real world examples are provided to illustrate each, and help show the reason each is valuable and noteworthy. Perhaps the strongest point is the definition and breakout of ‘privacy’, and what it truly entails.

Chapter 5 – “Intellectual Property Rights and Computer Technology”: Before you can define intellectual property rights, you must qualify what property is in the technical and digital world. Once defined, there are several factors that affect the value and right of use including ‘public domain’, copyright, patents, ‘trade secret’ status, trademarks, and more. Last, you must define ownership as well as define what infringement really is. This chapter also goes into how you can better protect what is valuable to you or your company.

Chapter 6 – “Computer-Augmented Environments: The Workplace”: A few years ago, the ‘workplace’ was easily defined by four walls in a set location. In today’s world, travelling, home and virtual offices have replaced that idea. Chapter six defines this changing world and considers the effects and benefits of each. Section 6.4 goes into explicit detail about the implications and considerations of workplace privacy and surveillance. How do you monitor virtual workers? What rights do you have to monitor home activity?

Chapter 7 – “Software Issues”: Since software in one form or another controls every computer or computer component, it becomes a more important and fundamental part of our life. Even though we may not understand the languages that make up the software, we must be aware of the elements of software that affect its use. Verification and Validation, reliability, security, safety, and quality are some of the major points examined and brought to light. Section 7.2 delves into the various reasons of why software fails and who is responsible. More importantly, it covers what consumer protection exists, the rights of software buyer’s, and more.

Chapter 8 – “New Frontiers for Ethical Considerations: Artificial Intelligence, Cyberspace, and Virtual Reality”: Most literature on future concepts in computing typically lack material justifying one stance or another. This book differs as it provides solid definitions of areas of computers barely defined, and more importantly, provides reference to existing work in the fields of AI and VR.

Chapter 9 – “Ethical and Social Issues in Cyberspace”: Perhaps one of the most obscured and widely (mis?)used words to describe computer culture is ‘cyberspace’. Rather than try to force an unwieldy definition on the word, Kizza gives the reader a foundation and quick background for the word. That in mind, he moves on to cover the role of copyright, patents, identity, censorship, privacy, and security and how they are affected, as well as how they affect cyberspace.

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