What Are Ethics For An It Professional?


This is an interesting question in the sense that it’s a clear application of the problem of asymmetry of information, understanding, and power, in the control of a utility (a commons).

In any niche where one has power and influence over others, because of an asymmetry of knowledge of a common resource that the others cannot  understand without extraordinary personal investment, and where he possesses power over others’ use of a common resource, we encounter the challenges of:

(a) Free-riding: pretending to work in exchange for payment, while not providing market-value in return, because one is not subject to competition which would discover and cure one’s free-riding.

(b) Corruption : seeking favors or privileges by granting favors or privileges.

(c) Privatization : obtaining personal benefit from a common resource that could be consumed by others.

(d) Punishment : deliberately punishing individuals and groups by virtue of one’s control over the provision of the common resource.

(e) Harm : Deliberately causing the failure of individuals or groups by virtue of one’s control over the function of the common resource.

(f) Functioning As An Agent: allowing one’s self to be used to free ride, engage in corruption, privatization punishment or harm.

Take no personal benefit, give no favors, do no harm, preserve ethical independence from agency,  and make decisions at all times by the business value of the work to be performed.

Ethical Challenges

Political hierarchies exist by in all bureaucracies, whether private or public, which operate independently from market competition, which constantly discovers inefficiencies (corruption).

While one an usually adhere to (a) thru (e) in one’s job, it is very hard in a bureaucracy not to be pressured into (f) (Agency) in a bureaucracy. In fact, the trading of such favors (corruption) is the currency that forms the economy of bureaucracies that are insulated from the market.

Historical Influences
In the 20th century, ethical pragmatism (outcome-based ethics)  has replaced ethical absolutism (rule-based ethics) due to the constant pressure of left intellectuals’ attack on western high-trust ethics.  This has allowed the ethical pragmatism of lower trust polities to spread in western culture.  As such it is difficult to operate ethically in private life, commercial life and public life, because such unethical action is beneficial to the individual while harmful to society. 

This is why westerners are the only people to develop high trust societies. It’s very hard.


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