THINKING PROFESSIONALLY: The continual evolution of interest in computing ethics


March 2018 marked the first reported pedestrian death from a self-driving car [10]. The possibility of such events caused by significant technological advances has stimulated interest in ethical issues. Many people think of these situations as brand-new problems requiring unique solutions. The truth is we have been here before, many times. Each technological change has created ethical challenges—should we use remote-controlled technology to take lives? Should we allow computers to decide our medical treatment? Do we want unethical people to have access to computer power? The difficulty and complexity of each new technical advance’s ethical problems distract each generation from the fact that these problems are just different species of a common problem, namely the problem of ethically managing the interaction of technology with humanity. The rising interest in ethics is positive, but the belief that these issues are brand new or unique to a specific sector is potentially harmful.

ACM Inroads