Digital Morality
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Thread: Digital Morality

  1. #1
    King Tutorial-ankhamun
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    Digital Morality

    Iím big into computers and philosophy, and one aspect of philosophy Iím into is ethics. The following is an abstract of an essay I'm writing, please let me know your thoughts on the subject:

    Because of some recent events Iíve been thinking on the subject of morality in the digital world. Iíve noticed a willingness in myself to do things with computers that I would find immoral to do in the common world. For example, it would be an extreme set of circumstances that would lead me to break into someoneís physical mail box, but reading their e-mail with out them knowing about it I might do with little thought. A second example would be music, I would not shop lift a CD, but pirating music using Kazaa or E-mule gives me little moral pause. I know some would put forward the idea that the record labels get enough money, or have unfair business practice which may very well be true. However, I do not NEED the music. I could easily do without it and by using P2P to get an mp3 the people who did the work to get the music recorded receive nothing. Both of these examples show how I might do something in the digital world and have no qualms about it, while I would find it morally wrong to do the common world equivalent.

    The question is why do I feel ok to cross moral boundaries in the digital world that I would not cross in the common world? Donít expect much of an answer in this essay, just a general discussion of the topic. I still donít know the answers myself with any certainty.

    One aspect is the lack of physicality, a piece of data does not seem the same as a material object. By pirating a movie or other media via a digital copy I am not depriving someone of a physical object or the ability to use it. However, Iím also not helping in the creation of new content as none of my works (in this case money, a measure of the work I do in economic terms) go to support it. In the case of seeing data that I should not see (e-mail, private data and the like) the lack of physicality seems to make it less real to me. The same phenomenon can be seen on message boards where people who are normally tolerable become complete *******s once they get some sense of annomonity.

    Another aspect is my Nietzscheian sense of morality when it comes to the digital realm. Power corrupts, and I feel that I have far more power in the digital realm then I do in the mundane world. I have to ability to do deviant things and get away with it in. Iím using my ďWill to powerĒ to shape things they way I wish them to be. Perhaps subconsciously I feel that ďKnowledge makes rightĒ when it comes to technology.

    I think Iíll post this as is and modify it more once Iíve given it more thought and have received otherís ideas.

  2. #2
    Also, and I think this is key -- No one's looking.

    Second, people find ways to justify it in their own minds. "<Insert company> charges too much anyway."

    Third, <insert company> makes kagillions of dollars, so one piece of software upaid for won't hurt them. They'll never notice.

    Fourth, the lamest but likely most common of all -- Everyone else is doing it!

  3. #3
    Banned
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    What usually comes first is a weighing of the risk-factor: "what's the chance I get caught?"
    The opportunity makes the thief, and the opportunity definitely is there: it's never been easier to steal, and the chance to get caught is extremely low.

    The fact that most people come up with dozens of excuses ("They make more than enough money", "I'm not depriving anyone from the stolen stuff", "they charge too much",...) shows that most people know that what they're doing isn't moral, it shows that most people do have moral problems with it. If not, they wouldn't need an excuse...

  4. #4
    AO Soccer Mom debwalin's Avatar
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    An interesting essay...I have always justified my pirating music because I never take more than one or two songs off of an album, if I do, I purchase the album. However, I wouldn't consider shoplifting a single from a store. I think knowing that you're one of millions who are doing something, and no one else is (really) getting caught for it makes you bolder, and more likely to continue doing whatever the action is. I know that the music industry has started prosecuting people for dl'ing music...but my feeling is that I'm extremely unlikely to be one of the people doing it, because I may dl one song a month. I don't do it much. It doesn't, in all reality, make it any less wrong because I do it less often than others do it, or in less quantities than others do it, but that is my justification for it. Or maybe my thought process would be a better way to phrase it, as there is no justification, aside from the fact that I feel it unfair to ask me to purchase a $20 CD when I want one song off of it.
    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.

  5. #5
    Regal Making Handler
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    Hacking someones email is one thing.
    Pirating, which to me means making money is in the same catagory.

    Downloading and sharing is. To my mind no different than borrowing a book or cd from a friend. I think all of us has done one or the other.

    To me, its the content that belongs to the author, not the book of cd it's self. That is mine, to do with as i see fit. As long as i am not using the content for gain.
    What happens if a big asteroid hits the Earth? Judging from realistic simulations involving a sledge hammer and a common laboratory frog, we can assume it will be pretty bad. - Dave Barry

  6. #6
    That's how it was with VHS recordings of tv programs and copied casette tapes. Giving them away was legal, but selling illegal.

    To play devil's advocate, I suppose it could be argued this way: If I have made an OS and sell it for $400, then you make copies to give to your four friends, I've lost the $2,000 I would've made had they bought it for themselves.

  7. #7
    Regal Making Handler
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    To play devil's advocate, I suppose it could be argued this way: If I have made an OS and sell it for $400, then you make copies to give to your four friends, I've lost the $2,000 I would've made had they bought it for themselves.
    That is the argument that the software developers use *cough* m$. I think it is a flawed argument. Who is to say that the four friends would have brought it. Lets say none of them because they thought it sucked from what they had been told. However two of them actualy like it. They then go and by a copy of the next upgraded version cuz they liked it that much. End result $800 up.

    Thats the only reason i have paintshop pro

    By the way Angelic if you gave copies to four of your friends asuming you purchased the original it should be $1600.

    That's what is called an off by one mistake and is a common security risk in programming.
    What happens if a big asteroid hits the Earth? Judging from realistic simulations involving a sledge hammer and a common laboratory frog, we can assume it will be pretty bad. - Dave Barry

  8. #8
    That's a good argument. I suppose there's a degree of subjectivity then, since some wouldn't buy it, but others probably would have? Hmm...dunno...

    Yeah, I forgot how to do simple math after Cal II killed the last of brain cells.

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