Technology, including its byproducts, is most likely value-neutral. By itself, it seems unable to commit any wrongdoing. And yet, we find so many scenarios in which technology provides a breeding ground for nurturing a wrongful act, as if luring people to take advantage of it. Features offering anonymity, as in the case of e-currency, offer confidentiality assurance. But they could also mask illegitimate or illegal transactions. Bitcoin can neither prevent, nor should it promote, illegal use of its currency system. But then, once the system is open for everyone’s use, who would guard against morally or legally improper use of the system? Apparently, technology appears to be a weak partner in the process of prevention or detection of moral compromises, but this may change in the future.
Remoteness from the locus of impact of a transaction seems to embolden actors, even when they know that they are acting illegally. We know well how people abuse technology, but we do not have good insights as to why people would indulge in such acts. Broad answers include people’s greed, poor reward systems and attitude. These may or may not be the drivers of immorality, and even if they are, they do not offer a good understanding of why humans lean toward the abuse of technology.
And yet, there is some good news. Automated systems with direct interfaces to, for example, train travelers can be expected to diffuse bribery and generate more robust environment to nurture moral acts. Empowering people with technology may not be easy, but when done right, it is capable of producing significant behavioral change.
What do you think? I am particularly interested in known or possible reasons as to why technology seems to be the culprit in individual or organizational wrongdoing.
Read Vasant Raval’s recent Journal column:
“Information Ethics: Is Information Technology Responsible for Corporate Crises?,” ISACA Journal, volume 2, 2016.