Wednesday 13 April 2016

Information ethics and corporations

In Luciano Floridi's Information Ethics (IE), the basic ethical unit is an informational entity.
[A]ll informational entities have an intrinsic moral value, although possibly quite minimal and overridable, and hence … qualify as moral patients subject to some (possibly equally minimal) degree of moral respect

(Luciano Floridi, “The Ethics of Information”, OUP, Oxford 2013, p109)
Some informational entities are also agents and potentially accountable and may or may not be responsible. Humans, for example, are informational agents which are accountable and responsible.

A drone is an (artificial) informational agent which is accountable, though whether it is responsible remains in dispute. Artificial agents are not restricted to technological agents but can also be social agents such as corporations.

And this gets me to the piece in The Washington Post that was the motivation for this blog post:
Corporations are people, except when it comes time to go to jail

Corporations sure like to be people, what with all the rights and privileges that people get in this country. Why, the word corporate practically MEANS body. But sometimes they don’t like it so very much: when it’s PUNISHMENT time!

Here and here are two stories on the recent Goldman deal. “’Today’s settlement is another example of the department’s resolve to hold accountable those whose illegal conduct resulted in the financial crisis of 2008,’ Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s civil division, said in a statement.”

‘Those who’??? Read these stories as many times as you like, and the ‘those who’ referred to are very hard to identify. All of a sudden, the ‘who’ morphs into ‘it.’ “Goldman did not alert investors who were buying the bonds it was packaging.” “it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail.” “it sold packages of shoddy mortgages.” “Goldman Sachs repeatedly discovered problems with the mortgages it was selling to investors but didn’t tell investors.” Just try to put a pair of handcuffs on that ‘it.’...

Tom Toles, Washington Post, April 12

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