why take an ethics course?

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why take an ethics course?

Postby TerraFrost » Sat Sep 13, 2003 2:55 am

i'm taking a course that covers ethics in computer science, and... at the begining of the course, he suggested to us why we should take an ethics course... he said that it would foster an appreciation of the world around us, iirc. of course, i don't agree with that. appreciation is pretty much what it is to be self-actualized, and according to maslow's heirarchy of needs, self-actualization isn't something you can be taught in school - it's something you can only have once you have high self esteem, and no one can teach you esteem. you either find it, or don't.

the other main reason was that computer science is an awsome power, and it needs ethics to guide it. my own personal opinion is something along this line... if anyone can change the future, we can't affored for anyone to be ignorant as to the implications their acts (or lack there of) may have. politics is no more shapped by politicians than what is done with computers is shaped by computer scientists. anyone can (not that they will) find themselves in a position to overthrow some government, or something. if they do find themselves in this position, we can't risk them being unappreciative of the power they hold.
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Postby Gigafrost » Sat Sep 13, 2003 3:27 am

Well, I suppose there are some people that a course like this would help, but really I think that if almost anybody would abuse a position of power if they thought they could get away with it. To hell with ethics, in that case, you know?

One morning I was gasing up my car and when I went inside the attendant had pretty much said that she figured she could trust me (I hadn't seen the sign to ask to pay before gasing up). She talked about how a...priest? Well dressed man? They had gased up and drove off...why? Because they could get away with it.

That's sort of meant alot to me. I think most people don't do stuff for the mere reason that they think they'll get caught. As far as I've observed, this is the idea behind speeding, throwing junk out windows, smoking in public, frivolous lawsuits, stealing, murder, rape, writing computer viruses, etc.

Now, I know that in the case of alot of those it's about habits and control, but that doesn't change my point. Ethics classes simply won't work for the average person, imo.

But, that said, it sounds like I'll have to take this class anyways, and somehow it feels like I won't learn anything I don't already know is wrong.
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Postby TerraFrost » Sat Sep 13, 2003 3:49 am

ethics, as with most all branches of philosophy, don't give definitive answers - it only raises possibilities that you might not have otherwise considered. so, while you may already know right from wrong, you no doubt only know it, from your perspective. ethics, pretty much, gives you other perspectives.

for example, we just finished a chapter on privacy - the perspective that i thought was the most interesting was that privacy should just be seen as an extension of property. if you have a private conversation with someone, that information is your and their property, and should be governed by laws regarding property. that may or may not be obvious to you, but it certainly wasn't something i had considered.

now, i can't give you an ultra concise definition of ethics, but i can tell you that your definition isn't what ethics is about. in my first post, i assume that ethics is about making people make informed decissions, if they are given the chance to do so. abortion, for example, is a hotly contested issue. is it right or wrong? ethics doesn't give you any definitive answer because there *isn't* one. it simply provides you with views that you can adopt as your own, or not. it makes you think about things that you might not have otherwise thought about, and in that way, better prepaires you to make informed decissions, should the need arise.

also, some of the other stuff on the syllabus include free speech, intellectual property, and some stuff that i, currently, don't know how it applies to ethics at all, including rpg's and game theory. we're additionally reading the age of spiritual machines which is more supposed to talk about the possibility of AI, and i don't know what that has to do with ethics, but i'm sure i'll find out by the courses end.

however, if you still don't want to take it... don't worry - while it's a CS class, it isn't a required one. although i do believe it is the only one with a writting credit.
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Postby Exalted Ugu » Sat Sep 13, 2003 3:57 am

I don't think that privacy can be related to property in any way imaginable... although maybe that's because i regard the idea of 'intellectual property' as a massive fraud, perpetrated on a willing populace by those who stand to make a large profit as rights-holders.

The fact is, if i learn of a conversation you have with giga, you have not LOST anything of measurable value, and that can be witnessed by the fact that if i don't tell anyone what i know, you won't know that i know that. (if that made any sense). The fact is, you cannot STEAL a secret, you can only learn it, and break the secrecy, should you so choose.

A piece of secret information is exactly the same as a piece of public information. If an author writes a textbook, and i learn something about ethics from it, does the author have less knowledge, or less wealth now that i know some of what he knows?

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Postby TerraFrost » Sat Sep 13, 2003 5:52 am

that's actually a good connection you made, there...

the specific right the book said was being violated was the right to prevent people from looking at something, or rights like that... kinda sorta like how police need search warrants...
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