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Virtue Ethics

Describe about the Ethical Theories in ICT for Virtue Ethics.

The field of ethics has a wide degree of applicability in various sectors. There are a number of ethical theories that apply to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. The purpose of the report is to explain all the key ethical theories and the professional code of ethics associated with the ICT industry. The report covers the ethical theories that apply to ICT and the detailed description of each one of them. The report also highlights the comparison and contrast between all the different ethical theories.

Virtue Ethics

This is the theory of Ethics that defines a particular activity as ethically correct or incorrect by evaluating the same on the basis of the character of the individuals involved in the same rather than the act itself or the implications of the same (www.philosophybasics.com, 2016).

There are three main elements of this ethical theory which are described as below:

Eudaemonism: This is the element of Virtue Ethics that says that the basic aim of a human in his or her life is happiness. A virtue or a habit that enables an individual to achieve the prime goal of life that is happiness contributes in the well being and leads to a good life.

Ethics of Care: This is the second element of the Virtue Ethics that suggests that the significance of solidarity, community and relationships lies way above the universal standards and impartialities. It supports the interest of self and the close ones over the rest of the community and the strangers.

Agents Based Theories: This is the third element of Virtue Ethics that evaluates a particular action of the agent or provides the ethical judgment on the basis of intuitions and moral sense.

The theory applies aptly to the field of ICT as there are a number of activities which are considered ethically incorrect by other ethical theories but score well on the platform of Virtue Ethics. For instance, the download of movies and other copyrighted content from Internet is a common practice that is carried out by every other user. It is considered to be ethically incorrect by theories such as those of Consequentialism. However, Virtue Ethics terms it as ethically correct by justifying the same as it leads to the happiness of the individual. It says that if the content is downloaded for personal fun and entertainment and provided to the friends and families then there is nothing wrong in the activity.

The second theory of ethics that applies to the ICT and its components is the theory of rights. When the discussion is on the rights that are provided to the individual then the first and the foremost are the Legal Rights. These are the rights that are provided by the State and Federal Government of the country to each of its citizen. Apart from these, there is another set of rights which are termed as the Natural Rights. This theory is based upon the second set of rights which include the freedom of thought, belief, customs and likewise.

Theories of Ethics: Rights

The theory applies to the ICT industry as it evaluates a particular act by measuring it on the rights that are granted to an individual. For instance, there are specific laws in every country that restrict the individuals to put up a specific category of content on the web which majorly includes the content that may defame a political entity or the Government. However, this theory of ethics allows the individual to go ahead and utilize his/her right to belief and expression (Baumeyer, 2016).

This is the theory of ethics that forms its decision on the fact that morality is relative to the customs, practices and norms of the one’s society and culture. There may be events that are termed as ethically correct on the basis of the norms of one society and the same event is termed as ethically incorrect due to the practices that are followed in the other community or society (Velasquez, 2016).

The theory aptly applies in the world of Information and Communications Technology. For instance, YouTube is a website that is blocked in certain parts of the world. Also, there are a certain number of organizations that allow the use of Facebook and other social networking application whereas some of them do not allow the usage of such applications. The primary reason behind this is the negative effect on the productivity of the employees. However, there is also a reason that does not justify the usage of such applications such as YouTube and Facebook as per the norms of the society whereas there is no restriction on these applications in the other parts of the world.

The basic values of this theory are reason, purpose and self. Reason forms the means of acquiring the knowledge from different sources and the means of survival as well. Purpose involves the path an individual chooses in his or her life. Self is included because there is nothing without self esteem and motivation.  The theory of objectivism is based upon these three values.

This theory suggests that any activity in the world of ICT will be considered as ethically correct of it’s adheres to the laws that circulate and manage the same. For instance, the act of downloading of the copyrighted content from web that was discussed under the Virtue Ethics was ethically justified over there. However, there can be legal penalties and punishments around this act which leads to the same act as ethically incorrect under the theory of Objectivism (Biddle, 2016).

This theory of ethics says that an act is morally correct only and only if the consequences of the same do not harm any entity in any way. There are two basic principles that are involved in this ethical theory which are described below:

The results or the consequences of the act determine whether the act is correct or incorrect in nature

The number of positive consequences of an act determine the correctness of the act (faculty.washington.edu, 2016)

There are different forms of this theory such as Utilitarianism says that the utility of the act or the human welfare or well being caused by the act is of prime importance. Hedonism on the other hand says that human pleasure should be on the top priority in an act (www.bbc.co.uk, 2016).

Theory of Relativism

The theory is applicable in the world of ICT and its associated activities. There are acts that take place in the field of ICT that may be justified on the basis of other ethical theories but are termed as morally incorrect on the basis of the negative consequences of the same. For instance, the case of download of the copyrighted content from the web for free of cost is termed as ethically correct by Virtue Ethics if the same is done for personal benefit. Theory of Consequentialism terms the act as morally incorrect since the same leads to loss for the owners of the content. There may also be legal obligations for the user and the content providers. Major consequences that result out of this act cause damage to the associated parties and hence, is termed as morally and ethically incorrect.

Deontology theory of ethics is a theory that determines the morality of a particular activity on the basis of its level of adherence to the rule or duty that is associated with the same. This theory does not consider the outcomes, consequences or virtues behind an act and solely considers the adherence to the guarding rule (Shakil, 2016).

This theory is applicable in the field of ICT as there are a number of guidelines and rules that are associated with this sector. For instance, in the project management there are a number of project management methodologies that are defined. Agile methodology says that the customer should be involved in each project phase whereas Waterfall model involves the customer only during the beginning and closure of the project. If a project is governed by the agile methodology and the customer is not involved after the end of a particular sprint, the act will be termed as morally incorrect on the basis of the theory of deontology. This is because as per the rules, the Project Manager or any other member of the project team must have asked for the review and comments from the customer.

Factor

Virtue Ethics

Rights

Relativism

Objectivism

Consequentialism

Deontology

Decision on the basis of

Character and happiness as the goal

Natural Rights

Society Norms

Adherence to the laws

Consequences and implications

Adherence to the rules and duty

Associated forms and principles

Eudaemonism, Ethics of Care and Agent Based theories

Primarily includes only one form

Primarily includes only one form

Primarily includes only one form

Utilitarianism and Hedonism

Primarily includes only one form

Application

Widely used and applied

Moderately applied

Largely applied

Largely applied

Widely used and applied

Moderate to wide application

Australian Computer Society (ACS) Code of Ethics

ACS Code of Ethics is based upon a number of society values such as the priority of public interest should be way above the personal interest, enhancement of the quality of life of those affected by the work should be of prime importance, honesty, competency, professional development and professionalism (www.acs.org.au, 2016).

Connection between code and ethical theories

 There are ethical theories that confirm to all of the principles that are present in the ACS Code of Ethics such as those of the theory of Consequentialism and Objectivism. However, the theory of Virtue Ethics does not adhere to the first principle of the ACS Code of Ethics which says that the personal interest should be kept secondary. As per the Virtue Ethics, it is okay to place the personal interest above the interest of the society or the community.

There are seven guiding principles that govern the Code of Ethics.

The resources in the field of ICT must keep the public interest above the personal interest

Theory of Objectivism

The interest of the client and employer should always be considered and amalgamated with the public interest

Professional standards and best practices must be followed in every single stage of the project timeline

The professional judgment should always include the elements of integrity and independence

An ethical approach shall be followed by the managers and leaders to manage and maintain the project activities

Integrity and reputation of the profession must be consistent with the interest of the public

Team spirit, collaboration and cooperation must be of high level and the fairness shall be maintained (Gotterbarn and Miller, 2016)

The ethical theories that have been discussed above adhere to these principles as every single theory supports that the best practices must be followed and the team spirit is also encouraged by all. There are theories such as those of Virtue ethics that put personal benefit above the public interest that varies from the principles of ACM and IEEE Computing.

Conclusion

There are a number of ethical theories that have been discussed which apply to the field of ICT. These theories have a great degree of correlation between the Code of Ethics that is followed in the professional world of ICT. These theories are based upon a number of different principles or values that are somewhat similar in some cases and largely differ in other cases. Theory of Deontology is based upon the adherence to the rule or duty that governs an action and the theory of Objectivism justifies an act on the level of adherence to the law which is a similar parameter. On the other hand, Virtue Ethics forms its judgment on the basis of the happiness and well being that is created by an act and the theory of Consequences judges the same on the basis of positive and negative implications of an act.

References

Baumeyer, K. (2016). Theories of Ethics: Rights & Natural Laws - Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com. [online] Study.com. Available at: https://study.com/academy/lesson/theories-of-ethics-rights-natural-laws.html [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

Biddle, C. (2016). What Is Objectivism? - The Objective Standard. [online] The Objective Standard. Available at: https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/what-is-objectivism/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

faculty.washington.edu, (2016). CONSEQUENTIALIST ETHICAL THEORIES. [online] Faculty.washington.edu. Available at: https://faculty.washington.edu/wtalbott/phil240/trconseq.htm [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

Gotterbarn, D. and Miller, K. (2016). Computer Society and ACM Approve Software Engineering Code of Ethics. [online] Available at: https://www.computer.org/cms/Publications/code-of-ethics.pdf [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

Shakil, A. (2016). Deontology - Kantian Duty-Based Ethics - Seven Pillars Institute. [online] Seven Pillars Institute. Available at: https://sevenpillarsinstitute.org/morality-101/kantian-duty-based-deontological-ethics [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

Velasquez, M. (2016). Ethical Relativism - Ethical Decision Making - Ethics Resources - Markkula Center for Applied Ethics - Santa Clara University. [online] Scu.edu. Available at: https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/ethical-relativism/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

www.acs.org.au, (2016). ACS Code of Ethics. [online] Available at: https://www.acs.org.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/7835/Code-of-Ethics.pdf [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

www.bbc.co.uk, (2016). BBC - Ethics - Introduction to ethics: Consequentialism. [online] Bbc.co.uk. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/consequentialism_1.shtml [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

www.philosophybasics.com, (2016). Virtue Ethics - By Branch / Doctrine - The Basics of Philosophy. [online] Philosophybasics.com. Available at: https://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_virtue_ethics.html [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

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