10.1: Ethical Issues

Exam Board:

Eduqas / WJEC

Specification:

2016 + 

What are Ethical Issues?

'Ethics' relate to right and wrong. There have been many consequences from the rise of computer use and digital technology, bringing many benefits to individuals and society but also some unexpected issues.

Below are a number of ethical issues that have arisen due to recent technological advancements.

The Digital Divide

This term relates to the gap between those people who have access to modern digital technology (such as computers and the internet) and those who have limited access.


'Limited access' could be devices at home or shared devices or having lower-performance (cheaper) computers and low-speed internet connections.

The digital divide can be seen in different ways, such as:

  • People in cities vs. People in rural areas.

  • Younger people vs. Elderly people.

  • Developed countries vs. Developing countries.

The reason why the digital divide is an important ethical issue is because digital technologies have boosted growth, improved product delivery, enhanced communication and increased opportunities but this impact is uneven and these positive impacts are mostly occurring in technologically-advanced regions such as North America, Western Europe and Japan. Regions like Africa and Central Asia have limited digital infrastructure and government stability, leading to poor internet speeds, high costs and limited resources.

Discussion Points:

What do you think can be done to bridge the digital divide?

Whose job is it to bridge the gap?

Who will pay for the technology?

Drones

Uses of drones:

  • Filming and photography for television, movies and special events.

  • Monitoring pollution levels in the atmosphere.

  • Tracking and monitoring wildlife, such as rhino populations in Africa.

  • Disaster zone response, such as searching for survivors following an earthquake.

  • Delivery companies are developing drones to quickly deliver goods across cities. 

  • Drones are used by the military to target sites in other countries, such as American soldiers deploying surveillance drones in Syria.

Discussion Points:

Should you need a licence to buy and fly a drone?
Should drones be used to monitor the public? Like flying CCTV?

Should drones be used to deliver items? Like Amazon packages?

If a drone hits a plane and it crashes, what should the punishment be?

A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is remotely operated and can be used for a wide range of purposes.

Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars (also known as autonomous vehicles) are currently in the development and testing stage with companies like Tesla and Amazon. 

 

Benefits of self-driving cars include:

  • In theory, driving will be safer because cars are less likely to make mistakes that humans do and they can’t become distracted or tired.

  • Self-driving cars should be more fuel efficient because they take the most direct route to destinations and do not get lost.

  • ‘Drivers’ in the car can perform other tasks instead of driving, such as work or planning.

  • Autonomous vehicles could include trucks and vans to automate the delivery and freight industries. Trucks could drive overnight to deliver goods whereas currently human drivers must take breaks every few hours.

Drawbacks of self driving cars include:

  • Cars could still crash as code and software processes may fail.

  • The technology is still in development and will be very expensive for the first few years when self driving cars are available to purchase.

  • Jobs may be lost such as delivery and truck drivers whose vehicles are equipped with self driving technology. Other industries like motorway services and hotels may also be affected.

Discussion Points:

Would you trust a car to drive itself?

Who is to blame if a self-driving car crashes? The car maker? The people in the car? The software writers?

What should happen to the people whose jobs are taken by self-driving vehicles?

Artificial Intelligence

Benefits of AI include:

  • Processes are sped up as computers can analyse large amounts of data much quicker than a human.

  • AI can be used when a human is unavailable, such as using a symptom checker on the internet for a minor illness than booking and waiting for a doctor.

  • Repetitive or time consuming tasks can instead be completed by a computer, such as searching and sorting scientific data.

 

Drawbacks of AI include:

  • AI can store and process a lot of personal data, especially personal assistants like Alexa which are always listening for ‘wake words’. This data can be viewed by the company that develops it and could be hacked by attackers.

  • AI is programmed by humans and mistakes in code could have disastrous consequences if the AI is used to make important decisions, such as military deployment.

Discussion Points:

If a robot harms a human who is to blame? The robot? The programmer? The manufacturer? Us?

Would you trust a walking, talking robot assistant in your home?

Should AI make decisions for us?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the act of computers replacing humans to analyse data and make decisions. In recent years AI has become more common in the home and on devices like smartphones; assistants such as Siri and Alexa are prime examples of modern home AI. 

The weather today is cloudy.

Loss of Privacy & Hacking

There has been a lot of criticism in the last few years about how internet companies and governments are using personal data to invade privacy and track civilians. Facebook was involved in a scandal with using personal data for reasons that were not the original intention. In reverse, WhatsApp and Apple have been criticised for encrypting messages sent by terrorists that police have been unable to track and read.

Every week a new company seems to announce that its data has been hacked. Attackers are constantly using botnets and infected systems to crack poorly secured databases and attempting to phish individuals for usernames and passwords. In the past few years major hacking breaches include Sony, Yahoo and TalkTalk. 

Discussion Points:

Should the UK government be able to see the websites you have visited in the last year?

What should happen if a major company is hacked and bank details stolen? Should they be fined? Pay customers? Prison?

Should WhatsApp allow authorities to access encrypted messages? What if they know a terrorist is using it to communicate?

Should the UK debate privacy laws before they go into place?

10.1 - Ethical Issues:

1a. What is the digital divide[2]

1b. Describe 2 examples of how the digital divide can be seen. [2]

2a. What is a drone[1]

2b. Make a list of all of the positive impacts and the negative impacts of using drones. You should have at least 3 on each side. [6]

3. Describe 2 benefits of using self-driving cars and 2 negative consequences. [4]

4. Describe how artificial intelligence can be used for good. [2]

5. A hack on a major company has occurred. Describe what you think the impacts would be on the following groups of people:

    a. The customers.

    b. The company itself.

    c. The general public.        [6]

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