Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking and creating an ethical framework

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 14, 2011

In a fundamental sense, I find myself writing this blog posting in response to the ongoing flow of recent news. But I do not include this under my In the News category as the issues I write of here are ongoing and in ways that transcend any sense of immediate or current. I start this posting by citing a definition as found in Wikipedia:

Ethics – “also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice, etc.” Morality, in turn is defined there as “a sense of behavioral conduct that differentiates intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and bad (or wrong).”

And I start this posting thinking about an expression too: “do as I say, not as I do.”

My point here is very simple, at least in principle. Many, and perhaps most organizations develop at least a loosely formulated and codified moral and ethical code and these codes can be very far-reaching, inclusive and positive as stated in the abstract. Legal systems often have codes of this sort built into their foundations, and every major religion does. Many groups of all sorts do. But then all too often these codes-in-principle, collide with their explanations, justifications, rationalizations and manifestations in day to day practice, and “us versus them” enters this picture.

Shiite and Sunni are both Muslim and both worship the same god and conception of god, and from the same core religious teaching, the Koran, as coming to them through the same prophet, Mohammed. They also divide from each other and deny each other the right to claim the same moral and ethical code, or the right to behavior that would stem from it that they would expect from members of their own group – because they see the differences more than they do the underlying commonality. Christians, Jews and Muslims of all denominations, sects and varieties all worship the same god and at least nominally share a broad based underlying commonality from that. Yet history shows more “us versus them” as based upon religious justification than from anything else. And bottom line, I only cite religious differences and the intolerance that they engender as one collective manifestation of this still larger historical phenomenon. We tend to see the differences more than the similarities and we act upon our perception of those differences, turning them into chasms that separate, and we use that to justify ethical and moral double standards.

I have been writing postings to this blog about social networking and about how we are all effectively gaining access to everywhere and at least potentially, anyone from anywhere to anywhere and at any time – ubiquitous computing and communications. This gives is each, individually a reach that is global, and an equally global ability to be reached. And that increasingly forces upon us, and upon all of us a very particular moral and ethical imperative.

• Ultimately, there can be no “us versus them” as ultimately we are all collectively a single Us. And as we all come together as readily and immediately connected into a single, same interactive global network, we loose the seeming luxury of pretending otherwise.

History will judge those who live by the “us versus them” and who violate their own moral and ethical codes as they would expect within their particular groups when dealing with those they would see as outsiders and different. But more immediately and perhaps more compellingly, the increasingly ubiquitous here and now of current news and opinion will so judge too. I have at least briefly touched on this set of issues here before, with for example my posting Social Networking as an Ethical Imperative. I am sure to come back to this again, in further postings. Meanwhile, I leave this note with a single, simple thought.

If our increasingly ubiquitous capabilities to compute and communicate are to bring us together rather than tear us apart, we need to build and implement them and join in on them from a shared ethical and moral framework. That does not mean we all have to agree on everything, in some bland homogeneous uniformity, or even that we have to all agree on most any particular detail of opinion, thought or belief. It just means that we have to find a way to afford each other the same moral and ethical status as we would demand others of our own most dearly held groups to afford us. We need to move beyond the seeming luxury of allowing ourselves to hold to double and even multiple standards of behavior.

Tomorrow I will be posting my 700th entry in this blog and I post this now with that in mind – I will be writing about how this blog all fits together and I will be explicitly writing about my overarching goals in writing and assembling it as a publically shared document and resource.

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