If you stop for a moment and think about the number of technological wonders you use every day, you will most likely be surprised by the number of devices you take for granted. You listen to music through your iPod or other MP3 playback device; watch movies on your way to work on a tablet or portable phone; talk to your relatives who reside on another side of the world through a computer or phone camera; share your thoughts or photographs with your friends without having to meet them in person by social networks hosted in the ether; quickly browsing the Internet for any information you need. These, as well as many other amazing commodities we use without even suspecting a number of ethical issues that arise in connection to rapid scientific and technological advancement.
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Communication technologies contribute to the issue of protecting one’s privacy. For the most common example, one needs to look no further than Facebook with its photo sharing. Cases when people post photos of their drunk friends (or other photos of an intimate nature) without asking permission happen more and more often. People can remain ignorant about their unconfirmed presence on the Web for a long time, while their reputation suffers. In this connection, Neela Sakaria, a consumer strategist from the trend research firm Iconoculture asks: “What is the ethical responsibility of someone posting photos online that have other people in them?” (CNN). Sakaria also points to websites like Rottenneighbor.com, which allows people to post photo and video proofs of their neighbors’ inappropriate behavior. The unethical behavior associated with such postings violates privacy rights of those people whose photos are being posted.
A more serious problem arises from the government achieving new ways of establishing anonymous surveillance over their citizens. About 60 years ago, security cameras, satellite observation, micro-cameras, and other gadgets existed only in science-fiction novels. Today, they have become reality. And though these means are supposed to help maintain public order and safety, at the same time, they could be successfully used to monitor people’s activity in public places and control them. Stated succinctly, we are talking about the fact that every person can be watched by the authorities without their permission; the fact that security records could be used against citizens is also rather disturbing—it contradicts human rights and democratic principles (IEP). All this refers even to civil portable devices, including the debated Google Glass; though it was designed as a civil gadget, you never know who is watching and documenting you with its help, and with what purpose.
Talking about even more advanced technologies, it is impossible to omit bioengineering and genetics. As humanity discovers new possibilities of interfering with nature’s prerogatives, it can face a strong temptation to make corrections and try to enhance itself and its environment. This can be achieved by rewriting DNA sequences, interbreeding species, and artificially breeding new ones, cloning (including human beings), implanting cybernetic devices into the human body, and other similar forms of intervention into natural processes (World Wonder News). Today, many people resist such innovations, claiming that science should observe certain ethical limits, which is reasonable and fair. But, as we know, concepts that used to be unacceptable in the not-so-distant past are seen by modern morals as bearable. This means that any future scenario is possible.
Technology is a consummate presence in the modern era. Though it grants people with many possibilities, such as communicating with those precious to us from long distances or finding all necessary information in no time, it also poses certain disadvantages and even ethical threats. Among them, one could name privacy violation, the unauthorized surveillance of citizens, and the interference with natural processes by the means of genetics and bioengineering. And though some of the future scenarios, such as human cloning or cyborgization look rather impossible, people should not forget that many unacceptable issues of the past are seen as bearable today.
Mollman, Steve. “Technology Posing Ethical Questions.” CNN. Cable News Network, 25 Sept. 2008. Web. 20 Aug. 2013. <http://edition.cnn.com/2008/BUSINESS/09/25/digital.ethics/>.
Macnish, Kevin. “Surveillance Ethics.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Aug. 2013. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/surv-eth/>.
Pears, Kim. “Bioenginnering’s Future.” World Wonder News. International Journalism Introspection Society, 26th Sept. 2009. Print.
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