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Anticipatory Ethics for a Future Internet: Analyzing Values During the Design of an Internet Infrastructure

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The technical details of Internet architecture affect social debates about privacy and autonomy, intellectual property, cybersecurity, and the basic performance and reliability of Internet services. This paper explores one method for practicing anticipatory ethics in order to understand how a new infrastructure for the Internet might impact these social debates. This paper systematically examines values expressed by an Internet architecture engineering team—the Named Data Networking project—based on data gathered from publications and internal documents. Networking engineers making technical choices also weigh non-technical values when working on Internet infrastructure. Analysis of the team’s documents reveals both values invoked in response to technical constraints and possibilities, such as efficiency and dynamism, as well as values, including privacy, security and anonymity, which stem from a concern for personal liberties. More peripheral communitarian values espoused by the engineers include democratization and trust. The paper considers the contextual and social origins of these values, and then uses them as a method of practicing anticipatory ethics: considering the impact such priorities may have on a future Internet.

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Many thanks to colleagues Jeff Burke, Jes Koepfler, Amalia Levy, and James Neal for discussions and feedback on drafts of this paper, and especially to James for assistance with data coding. Thanks also to colleagues who attended the 2013 iConference Research Paper Development Roundtable, and in particular Dr. Michael Zimmer, for invaluable feedback on earlier drafts. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant # CNS-1040868.

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Shilton, K. Anticipatory Ethics for a Future Internet: Analyzing Values During the Design of an Internet Infrastructure. Sci Eng Ethics 21, 1–18 (2015).

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