Ethical Reflections
By
Netiva Caftori
Professor of Computer Science and Women Studies
Northeastern Illinois University
Director on the board of
Computer Professionals for Social responsibility
EEI21 Conference
Electronic Ethics in the 21st Century
University of Memphis
October 19, 2001

Ethics according to the dictionary is

1.  study of morality's effect on conduct:  the study of moral standards and how they affect conduct.  Also called moral philosophy 
2.  code of morality:  a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct for an individual or group. 

In My Position Intellectuelle Professor Stephen Almagno has shared his convictions and experience teaching information ethics in the past eleven years, being a trailblazer in this venture and opening the path for others to follow.  This paper is a motivat
ional exercise that succeeds in awakening in the reader/listener the desire to learn more about ethics and philosophy and pass it on to disciples and students.
Before reading Ma Position Intellectuelle I thought of myself pretty knowledgeable in the matter of ethics, being an ethical person, having read much in the subject, and having participated in numerous related conferences.  I thought that having written a
 few papers and edited a newsletter dedicated to ethics in computing made me an expert on the topic.  This assurance was well shaken by the wealth of material Stephen Almagno has presented us.  In his paper he shows me how much more I have to read and dig
est before I am ready to guide novices into the subject matter.  This paper has stimulated me to read and learn from the proposed readings and share them with future students.  Almagno had paved the road in preparing a curriculum for me to follow in my fi
rst course of ethics 
The question that Almagno poses is not "Can ethics be taught?" but "Who can teach ethics?"  He finds the answer in Rilke's writings:  Anyone who loves the questions, and listens can teach.  The answers will come on their own.
According to Almagno, one is ready to engage in ethical reflection and moral action only when one sees the other the same as one-self.
In his paper Almagno enumerates authors who influenced his thinking and ideas.  For instance, the idea of teaching ethics in many schools is analogous to giving half a loaf to students.  The job is poorly done.  He laments the death of the book, which was
 caused by the birth of e-books and the like.
Among several other readings suggested, Almagno stresses the reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN, 1948, which is largely unknown, but a must know.
Almagno recounts the history of the Information School of Ethics where he has been teaching from its inception in 1990, to today, his planned retirement.  Almagno ponders the sad state of affairs where little attention is given to information ethics by in
formation professionals.  He laments the lack of schools that dedicate an entire course to ethics.  He deplores the majority rule, which may be often wrong when answers are received to ethical/moral dilemmas posed to a class.  He also criticizes ALA (Amer
ican Library Association) code of ethics and the Library Bill of Rights but does not detail their shortcomings.

In previous presentations in this conference I talked about the role of informatics in educating the world youth in ethical practices such as non-violence.  I talked about privacy that is a well-valued right in the United States, but not necessarily throu
ghout the world.  I mentioned many ethical issues professionals encounter in their daily lives such as gender differences.  However, today in the aftermath of 9/11, I am left with many questions I do not know the answers to.  Using Almagno's prescription 
to asking questions, let us also attempt a few answers:
	Shall we use "an eye for an eye" in our press to revenge for the killings of more than 6000 people in NY and Washington, DC?
	Shall we tend "the other cheek" and do nothing?
	Shall we try to appease all those angry at us so such acts will not be repeated?
	Knowing that US association with Israel may have contributed to the events of 9/11 shall the US dissociate from its old friend?
	Shall we give up our civil liberties to preserve our security?
	Is peace ever possible? And if not shall we keep trying?

All answers to the above questions are maybe obviously NO, except the last one.  Even if the last answer is a NO I believe it is in our interest to believe that peace is possible and to attempt to reach for it.  We could turn our swords into plowshares if
 we only trusted each other.  The key word is Trust.  Unfortunately, trust is not transitive, according to Phil Zimmerman, and not associative according to Ed Gerck, (if I trust you, and you trust him, then I can trust him.  See http://www.mcg.org.br/trus
tdef.htm) therefore divine peace cannot be achieved.  Trust has several layers.  We need to learn to trust one another on all levels in order to facilitate transitivity.  We need to agree to disagree and not impose our truth on others.  Much work is ahead
 of us.  
How do we create trust without becoming vulnerable?  Can we afford to be vulnerable in the face of threats to our security?  According to Einar Stefferud (see www.neiu.edu/~ncaftori/Pardigms-sept2000.ppt) we have passed through a new paradigm shift each d
ecade since 1950:
	Computers;
	Inter-computer Communication;
	Networks of Computers;
	Internets of computers (Networks of Networks); and
	Application Layer Information Object Interchange (MIME).
	And now; for the New Millennium, we have: Inter-User Trust Induction Across the Internet.
Would the Internet help create trust among people and thus nations?  This is yet to be seen.  For the moment we witness the proliferation of hate groups.  Maybe we need to go from one extreme to get to the other.
I'd like to end with a quote from Vikram Singh,Colombo, Sri Lanka,
 September 12, 2001:
"The United States remains the greatest hope for the concept of mutual accommodation and tolerance. With many hiccups, we generally live together in tolerance and even celebration of diversity. We allow all people the pursuit of happiness. As the United S
tates chooses a path after Tuesday's tragic loss, may the leaders find the wisdom to seek out justice, not vengeance, and to take any retaliatory action with care. May Americans remember to keep one hand ready for positive action if the other is striking 
destruction. May we confront enemies with strength and with kindness and avoid today's global patterns in which one wrong makes a wrong makes a wrong makes a wrong.
May we realize the need to re-engage the world. The stakes cannot be higher."