On CyberEthics and CyberPeace

EthicsWith the September 2015 launch of IEEE Collabratec™  came many exciting new opportunities for technology practitioners to share their thoughts and ideas on wide array of different subjects. One of these newly created communities, the CyberEthics and CyberPeace community, is an extension of a new IEEE initiative, launched by the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) and IEEE Computer Society (CS). This open community aims to facilitate the building of a broadly acceptable Code of ‪CyberEthics,‬ in a collaborative way, between organizations, society and governments around the world. Jim Isaak, 2015 Vice President of IEEE SSIT and former IEEE CS President, discusses the origins of this community, and its goals for influencing the technologies of today and the future.

On the creation of the CyberEthics and CyberPeace community:

The community is an outgrowth of the “eGovernment” area.  Any significant issue involving “eWhatever” raises (or should raise) questions about security and privacy. The result is that we come back to questions and challenges in these areas, as well as other aspects of cyber-activity, with every new announcement or emerging issue.  Ethics is a way to step above the immediate issues and technology – and provide guidance, ideally before the issues arise.

Aspects of our emerging globally-connected environment warrant a look at the broader ethical concepts to see what might be added. IEEE is in an excellent position to facilitate understanding here in professional education, policy, and the public in general. This consideration has led to the creation of both an IEEE Collabratec™ private group (to develop the basic concepts) and a much larger Collabratec community to discuss these as well as application and issues as they arise.

On relating ethics and peace in creating the community:

CyberPeace is one logical expansion of CyberEthics.  With an understanding, sufficiently broad awareness, and worldwide acceptance of CyberEthics, we will have a basis for avoiding some of the areas of conflict in cyberspace.  While cyberwarfare is one area we might hope to influence, there are many levels of conflict below it.  Some of these involve communities that are not nation-state based, but where our professions and the public will be better served if we can avoid conflict among these as well.

On the community’s relevance to today’s technology and future technologies:

For better or worse, issues in these areas are regular occurrences on the front pages of our (virtual) newspapers.  Software that may alter emissions/performance tradeoffs in automobiles; robots or cell phones that may be ‘listening’ to our conversations for various purposes; and, tracking/spoofing social network channels to influence public opinions/elections are all current challenges that warrant ethical considerations.  With the Internet of Things, the range of challenges will increase geometrically. This next year will see Barbie dolls connected to AI systems that talk to our children, cars that drive themselves and may be subject to “hacking” for various purposes, and no doubt many other opportunities for creative uses and abuses of technology – which should involve ethical consideration and education.

On the partnership of peace and justice in the cyber world:

For better or worse, [peace and justice] are quite independent elements.  We can influence worldwide professionals by encouraging them to embrace a foundation of ethics, but this will not assure CyberPeace. The impact on justice will be a greater challenge, although perceived injustice can undermine peace in many ways.

There is a critical concept underlying all of these considerations: our fields of technology are no longer in the back room, the game room, or the glass room.  Technologists are making decisions that affect the public in very significant ways, and on a massive scale.  This is not something we learned in university, nor something fully appreciated by professionals.  Oddly, the public is more aware of questions about “cyber-addition,” security, privacy, and other challenges than the challenges facing the engineers developing the technologies.

On the overall goal of the community:

Our initial goal is to engage a diverse core of experts, from IEEE, ACM, and other organizations, to help develop some draft ethics concepts.  Then we intend to vet these with a larger community of interested professionals, and finally move to advocacy for some specific concepts in educational, professional, and other contexts.

For more information, visit the IEEE CyberEthics and CyberPeace community on IEEE Collabratec™. Sign up is free using your IEEE account.

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