The technology industry needs a set of professional ethics

By Adil E. Shamoo

March 8, 2018


In response to the proliferation of fake news and Russian meddling on American social media, schools that groom the next generation of technology specialists — including premier colleges such as Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford — are offering new courses on computer ethics.

It’s about time.

I have taught science in medical and graduate schools for 46 years, and ethics in science for the past 23 years — ethics are essential for any scientific endeavor. In medical sciences, for example, we have ethics in research to deal with ensuring the integrity of the process. Human volunteers must be shielded from harm in clinical trials as much as possible, and the protective measures used reflect attempts to work from an ethical framework.

Methods utilized in producing the data in support of a drug license also must be ethical. The data must not be falsified or misleading; it must be whole and not selective. In a narrow view, the purpose of these principles within our scientific endeavors is safety. Our methods attempt to ensure safe drugs, food, bridges and cars. In a wider view, using an ethical framework in scientific enterprise disperses ethical principles throughout society; patients and consumers adopt these ethical standards and come to expect and even extend these standards to other endeavors.

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