Tomorrow’s ethics and today’s response: An investigation into the ways information systems professionals perceive and address emerging ethical issues
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This paper explores the question of how foresight and futures research can identify and address ethical issues in the field of Information Systems (IS). Starting from the premise that such IS are part of socio-technical systems, the interaction between technology and human actors raise ethical concerns. Early recognition of these concerns can address ethical issues and improve the use of the technology for a range of social and organisational goals. This paper discusses research conducted in two futures research projects. Both projects investigated emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs) and ethics. The first project established approaches for identifying future technologies and their related ethical concerns. This led to the identification of 11 emerging ICTs and their associated ethical concerns. The second project took these general ethical concerns and focused on their role in IS. Specifically, how IS professionals view future emerging technologies, their associated ethical concerns, and how they think these concerns could be addressed. The key findings are that IS professionals are primarily interested in the job at hand and less so in the ethical concerns that the job might bring; ethics is a concern that is best left for others to deal with. This paper considers the implications of research on ethics in emerging ICTs and draws general conclusions about the relevance of future technologies research in IS.
KeywordsEmerging technologies Ethical issues IS professionals
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreements n° 230318 (ETICA). The paper provides a starting point of the question for why and how responsible research innovation (RRI) is to be implemented in privately funded research that is investigated in detail in the Responsible-Industry project, grant agreement no 609817.
The IDEGOV project was funded by the CIGREF foundation.
This research benefited from the activities undertaken in the project “Framework for Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT,” EPSRC reference EP/J000019/1.
The ETICA project was the starting point of the paper. The IDEGOV project was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Namur. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of Philippe Goujon and Laurence Mascalet to the project.
We would also like to acknowledge Sara Wilford who was instrumental in the IDEGOV project.
The paper has benefited much from discussions with colleagues in the Framework for Responsible Research & Innovation in ICT (FRRIICT) project, which have shaped the thinking with regards to RRI. Thanks are due to Marina Jirotka, Grace Eden, Catherine Flick and Job Timmermans.
The authors would like to thank the members of the consortia for these projects.
Finally, we would like to thank Sarah Lee for her invaluable support in bringing this manuscript to a publishable state.
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