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Information Ethics and Emerging Technologies
Jamais Cascio, 29 Oct 03
Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder, at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, have just released an interesting essay on the intersection of models of ethics and molecular nanotechnology. Although the piece focuses on a specifically on nanotech, the ideas presented apply to a broad range of distributed systems. I don't entirely agree with their conclusions, but I do think that they've put forward a solid argument.

The essay explores three different forms of organizational ethics: "Guardian Ethics," which focus on security; "Commercial Ethics," which focus on trade; and "Information Ethics," which focus on creation. In a world where new bio-, nano-, or info- technologies can bring both tremendous social good and frightening devastation, how can a global society responsibly manage their development and distribution? Each of the three ethical forms provides a different answer to that question.

Ultimately, Phoenix and Treder argue for a combination of Information Ethics and a bit of Guardian Ethics, where distribution of (and access to) the technology is largely unrestricted, but the uses of the tech itself are controlled. This is probably the most reasonable approach in the near-term, but (for reasons I'll explore here soon), would lead to longer-term problems of security and stability.

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