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Deontology

Discuss about the Ethical Theories Related to ACM for Deontology.

The technical and communication industry is gaining mass over the recent times. Starting from commercial to government industries, from professional to personal lives, the role of computers and the computing machineries has proven to be a necessity in the recent times. However, it requires the personal discretion of a human mind and ethics that these technicalities are used up to its correct utilities other than causing direct or indirect harm to others (Vitak, Shilton and Ashktorab 2016). It is essential that personal space or data is unharmed and kept private according to consensual ethics. Although, there are examples of ethical issues that requires a vivid range of human action and judgement like intervening into personal space with the use of computers by hacking (Chien 2017). This report would thus discuss the ethical theories related to the Association for Computer Machinery and the comparison with the theories. The report would further include the professional codes of ethics, the theories, and the codes of ethics that are relatable with each other.

The ethical theories found in the Association for Computer Machinery or ACM are philosophical approaches in the technical world for doing the right thing; what complies with the morals of a human being (Davis, 2014). The ethical theories in ACM are listed as below:

Deontology: This theory states that people take up ethical work because of their subconscious sense of doing the right thing, however, staying true to ethics is tough given the course of work, as it may be possible that due to situational demands unethical works are conducted to result into an ethical outcome.

Utilitarianism: This theory gives the idea that sense of fairness is beneficial at the inception of any task in ACM. However, adhering to it might cause difficulty to progress. Prospering in a task according to this theory may be asynchronous to the human virtue at first.

Virtue Ethics: According to this theory, the human virtue may inspire people in doing the right thing however; in the professional world, the right outcomes do not necessarily gain attention.

Consequentialism: Consequentialism theory states that the virtue of an act is measured on the scale of right or wrong depending on the state of affairs.

Contractualism: This is a theory that obviates the other theories of moral ethics. It states that the sense of right or wrong is induced due to the societal norms even if it seems implied or instinctive.

Utilitarianism

Ethical Rights: As per the Ethical theories of software professional rights, any professional can report to the higher authorities about any unethical work being done in the organization or within his or her knowledge even if it involves reporting about his supervisors.

Relativism: The Ethical theory of relativism requires that software professionals be morally correct and true to their own conscience. A major responsibility of software professionals is to assess all the judgements taken only for the support of human values.

Objectivism: However, in the other Ethical theory of objectivism for a software professional, it is stated that software professionals must abide by their own moral values and perform any task accordingly that delivers happiness to their own soul. This theory has a much more philosophical approach amongst the theories of ethical values in ACM.

Every theory in this regard is somewhat similar to each other as all of them focuses on the fact that whether a decision taken could be termed as an ethical one or an unethical one. The concept of consequentialism is what we witness in our daily lives because of any action (Braude and Bernstein 2016). For instance, the effect any phony news has on a human mind results to ill-informed decisions taken. Therefore, it can be said that any wrong decision is based on misinformation. The perspective of contractualism, on the other hand helps in determining the next step towards each arrangement in the technical world without a review. This is something a professional has to develop before delivering a product as this depends on a human intellect, whether introduction of a particular product will be ethical throughout (Hill 2018). Utilitarianism is a theory that states the fact that amongst all the decisions taken in the career of the software professionals, ethical is the one that has utilized more gains, whether it is in terms of money or client acceptance. The theory of deontology is of the opinion that duty is the only virtue in humankind, whether it demands the human mind of compassion and other similar emotions (Burgess 2017). For instance, if a duty claims the extortion of poor people and aids the rich, it is ethical that a professional should abide by the assigned duties. However, the most different form of theory amongst all is virtue ethics. This states that instead of following duties that may or may not be consensual to a human conscience, ethical task is the one that satisfies the subconscious virtue of a human being. Therefore, when all the theories are compared, it is seen that virtue ethics holds a different point of view from the rest.

Virtue Ethics

The professional code of ethics contains eight Principles in total that are related to the behavioural practices and the decision-making capability of typical software professional. These include software practitioners, supervisors, managers, educators and policy makers. Trainees and students of software are also not exempted from this rule (Lurie and Mark 2016). The principles are essentially constructed to incorporate the ethical relationships of a software professional in the industry to ensure that no misconduct is taking place in the professional area. However, this is not just a responsibility of the professionals only; the preamble of ethics and laws for ACM states the consensus to make the public aware of the ethical obligations as well (Stahl, Timmermans and Mittelstadt 2016). Below is the description of a professional code of ethics and laws:

Principle 1: This particular code focuses more on the behaviour of a software professional towards the public. It states that, a software professional should accept the responsibilities of their actions (McDermid 2015). The software professional should consider the usability purpose from all the ends of employers, clients and users. It is the responsibility of the professional to approve software for usage only if it meets the requirements, is protected, maintains quality of life, passes the relevant tests, and does not cause harm to the environment.

Software professionals are barred to unintentionally use software that is illegally or unethically obtained. They are advised to use a client or an employee property only with consent. The professional should check the authenticity of all the documents used for the approval of the software, and if any evidence of inauthentic documentation is found, then it is their responsibility to inform the employers and the clients with proper substantiation (Diochon and Nizet 2015). The client and the employer should be taken as a primary concern unless a major ethical concern is being compromised. In addition, software professionals must never compromise with the product quality, maintaining highest standards with acceptable product costing. This could be a matter of discomfort. Before delivering the software product to a client, all the aspects of tradeoffs are to be made clear to the client with proper consent (Giorgini et al. 2015). Documentation of the development of the products must be properly done with testing, reviewing and debugging of the software. The possibility of the affected stakeholder’s privacy should be maintained in case of any software hazard. Data integrity is also a responsibility for the professionals (Stahl, Timmermans and Mittelstadt 2016). The documents created shall either be prepared under their supervision or within their knowledge and agreement. It is strictly prohibited to engage in any unethical financial practices. It is stated in the codes that there should be complete transparency between the organization and the clients and the professionals are advised not to engage into any groups, committee or body that promotes secrecy of products to the clients. The code also calls for self-development of the software professionals. It is advised that self-improvement is very necessary from every aspect including development, management and proper documentation (Vitak, Shilton and Ashktorab 2016). One should possess and improve his or her proficiency for creating safe and reliable software and prohibit from delivering unfair treatment to anyone. It is also ethically correct for software professionals not to influence someone’s decision (Brinkman et al, 2016). Unjust attitude towards all these codes disqualifies software professionals in being ethical and proper.

Consequentialism

The point of connectivity between the ethical theories and codes utters the idea of behaviour that any software professional should possess in their career. The codes and ethics both state the idea of ethical and just behaviour (Brinkman et al. 2016). However, it is not confined to individual careers, but towards the public, clients, employers, company, colleagues, and self as well. Ethical guidelines provide vision to a software professional into performing their allocated duties, the only exception being the theory of Virtue Ethics. This is the only theory that provides the suggestion that declining any task that is not consensual to the moral values of an individual is acceptable as ethical. Other than that, the ethical codes and theories run hand in hand.

Therefore, it can be concluded from the above discussion that ethical values and codes both have the same context of making the software professionals ethically correct in the tasks they perform. There is however, difference between the ethical theories and the ethical codes of conduct for software professionals. The primary objective of the ethical codes and theories is to make the software professionals more productive without violating any behavioural ethical implications. The ethical codes train a professional into reforming their behavioural attitude to benefit to the organizational environment, colleagues, public, employers, client, and to self as well. The ethical theories have the same opinion as well except for the theory of Virtue Ethics. The theory of Virtue Ethics state that, it is not ethical to follow the assigned duties every time; rather it is ethical when a task done is synchronous to the moral values of an individual. Therefore, according to the ethical codes of conduct and the ethical theory, it is necessary that a software professional abide by their own moral intellect to perform any task, which does not result into the discomfort of the people around him or her. Except for the theory of Virtual Ethics, all the ethical theories and codes serve the same values in the career of any software professional.

Reference

Brinkman, B., Gotterbarn, D., Miller, K. and Wolf, M.J., 2016. Making a positive impact: updating the ACM code of ethics. Communications of the ACM, 59(12), pp.7-13.

Brinkman, B., Gotterbarn, D., Miller, K.W. and Wolf, M.J., 2016. All hands on deck for ACM Ethics: updating the Code, revising enforcement, promoting integrity. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 46(3), pp.5-8.

Stahl, B.C., Timmermans, J. and Mittelstadt, B.D., 2016. The ethics of computing: A survey of the computing-oriented literature. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR), 48(4), p.55.

Davis, M., 2014. Professional ethics without moral theory: A practical guide for the perplexed non-philosopher. Journal of Applied Ethics and Philosophy, 6, pp.1-9.

Giorgini, V., Mecca, J.T., Gibson, C., Medeiros, K., Mumford, M.D., Connelly, S. and Devenport, L.D., 2015. Researcher perceptions of ethical guidelines and codes of conduct. Accountability in research, 22(3), pp.123-138.

Lurie, Y. and Mark, S., 2016. Professional Ethics of Software Engineers: An Ethical Framework. Science and engineering ethics, 22(2), pp.417-434.

Diochon, P.F. and Nizet, J., 2015. Ethical codes and executive coaches: One size does not fit all. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 51(2), pp.277-301.

Braude, E.J. and Bernstein, M.E., 2016. Software engineering: modern approaches. Waveland Press.

Stahl, B.C., Timmermans, J. and Mittelstadt, B.D., 2016. The ethics of computing: A survey of the computing-oriented literature. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR), 48(4), p.55.

Burgess, R., 2017. The Different Source of Codes Ethics and the Implications of these Origins. Journal of the Texas Tech University Ethics Center, 1(1).

Chien, A.A., 2017. Computing is a profession. Communications of the ACM, 60(10), pp.5-5.

Hill, R., 2018. Ethical Theories Spotted in Silicon Valley. [online] Cacm.acm.org. Available at: https://cacm.acm.org/blogs/blog-cacm/214615-ethical-theories-spotted-in-silicon-valley/fulltext [Accessed 26 Mar. 2018].

McDermid, D., 2015. Ethics in ICT: an Australian perspective. Pearson Higher Education AU.

Vitak, J., Shilton, K. and Ashktorab, Z., 2016, February. Beyond the Belmont principles: Ethical challenges, practices, and beliefs in the online data research community. In Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 941-953). ACM.

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