Employers in the tech industry have a duty to listen to the concerns of their employees regarding how the products of their companies are used (Jonker and Ghosh). Tech companies provide products and services that are meant for users throughout the world. They are not expected to side with any particular state or agency that can use the technology for warfare or intelligence gathering (Valacich and Schneider). Allowing some of the customers to use tech products to bring harm on others such as warfare, spying or blackmail can ruin the global image of a tech company (O’Shea). The workers in a tech company have deep knowledge regarding the functions and capabilities of the software and hardware produced by the company. This knowledge makes them aware of the extent to which the technology can be used for good and the potential of misuse of the product to bring harm to others.
Artificial intelligence has been the trend in the tech industry in the recent past. It holds possibilities that are yet to be comprehended fully even by the developers themselves. Many controversies abide regarding the application of artificial intelligence in the future, with some believing that it might usurp and bring about the extinction of humanity. Artificial technology has the ability to evolve, thanks to machine learning. This means that once it has become operational, the original developer has little control over what the technology can do (Jonker and Ghosh). Artificial intelligence has the capacity to cause a lot of damage when used in defense and warfare (O’Shea). It can put the users at a great advantage while making the other side very vulnerable when used during warfare. In the context of a conflict, both parties are likely consumers of technology from the tech companies. It is unethical for the tech companies to offer advantages to some of their customers while putting the rest in danger.
The war frontier has changed with improvements in computing and communication technology. Traditionally, war was understood as a physical confrontation using weapons such as fighter jets, missiles and roadside bombs. However, countries such as Russia and china are now waging wars on other countries in cyberspace. Cyberspace war entails the use of malicious software and code to harm the information system of the intended target or to gain classified information (Valacich and Schneider). The most crucial amenities in the developed countries such as the electric grid, transport systems, water systems, communication and logistics are managed using information systems. A coordinated attack on these information systems has the potential of crippling a country without using soldiers or the conventional weapons of war.
Technologists of hardware and software developers have a moral and ethical duty to ensure that their products are not used to advance warfare (Jonker and Ghosh). This is because they use their knowledge to aid in the progress of humankind and, given their global appeal, they ought to promote peace. Russia and North Korea have been credited with the sanctioning of cyber attacks on systems in perceived enemy states. the US and Israel are also credited with the creation of Stuxnet, a cyberweapon that targeted the nuclear program in Iran (Jonker and Ghosh). Most governments are not willing to consider cyberattacks as acts of war. Despite the controversy on whether cyber attacks are acts of war or otherwise, they have the capacity to cause devastating damage in countries that are heavily reliant on information systems (Valacich and Schneider). The conventional weapons such as missiles and fighter jets have progressively integrated information systems in their controls to improve their precision and effectiveness. Evolution in software and hardware has made it possible to have unmanned aircrafts that can cause a lot of damage to the enemies.
The tech companies have developed hardware and software that has made surveillance easier. It is also possible to attack enemies without having to place soldiers on their soil. At the same time, the technology developed by these entities has connected humans in a manner never witnessed before (Jonker and Ghosh). Communication is much easier and cultural exchange is at its peak. Isolationism of nations that used to exist in the past is no longer possible. The tech companies have made persons from different nationalities to become interdependent. This interdependence is a source of present and future business for the tech companies. Waging war of whichever kind is likely to disrupt this market system. Hence, hardware technologists and software developers have a right to prevent their products from being used to wage wars due to their own business interests in addition to altruism.
Just like other corporations, tech companies need to make profits from their inventions. Innovation is mostly driven by the curiosity and creativity of the workers in these companies. The innovations are mostly driven by a need to make work easier or to give technology additional capabilities in the natural world. Technology in can be assumed to be amoral when not controlled by a human. Technology has a capacity to be used for good or evil. Before developing a hardware or software, the tech company should consider the likely impacts of the product on the society (Campbell). The customer of the product also needs to be vetted well to determine their intentions with the innovation. For example, facial recognition software is in demand in the law enforcement agencies in the US. However, this software has proved to have errors in the recognition of faces of people of color (Campbell). Tech companies should not sell this product if it has the likelihood of misidentifying people. Innocent persons might suffer if law enforcement is allowed to use this software.
The developers of tech products need to anticipate the possible uses of the product once it is in the hands of the consumers. Introspection can reveal the possible misuse of such products and help in coming up with mitigation measures (Valacich and Schneider). The most profitable ventures that can be undertaken by a tech company involve winning contracts to work with government agencies. However, these contracts might entail helping improve the warfare capability of the military, surveillance of the users of the technology, and use of code to identify potential terrorists. The tech companies do not have a mandate to assist the government agencies in their work. They are independent corporations that should strive to achieve the maximum good for humanity. The line between profitability and morality is very vague. The workers in the companies have deeper insights regarding the capacities of the products developed (Campbell). Therefore, they are in the best position to advise the management on the moral implications of the decisions made by the tech company.
Campbell, Alexia Fernández. “How Tech Employees Are Pushing Silicon Valley To Put Ethics Before Profit.” Vox. N.p., 2018. Web. 7 Feb. 2019. https://www.vox.com/technology/2018/10/18/17989482/google-amazon-employee-ethics-contracts
Jonker, Julian, and Dipayan Ghosh. “Can Employees Change The Ethics Of Tech Firms? – Knowledge@Wharton.” Knowledge@Wharton. N.p., 2018. Web. 7 Feb. 2019. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/can-tech-employees-change-the-ethics-of-their-firms/
O’Shea, Lizzie. “Tech Has No Moral Code. It Is Everyone’S Job Now To Fight For One | Lizzie O’Shea.” The Guardian. N.p., 2018. Web. 7 Feb. 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/25/tech-no-moral-code-racist-ads-cambridge-analytica-technology-ethical-deficit
Valacich, Joseph S, and Christoph Schneider. Information Systems Today: Managing In The Digital World. 8th ed. NY: Pearson, 2014. Print.