Technology outpaces ethics

The Internet has brought countless benefits to mankind, but as we see now, it also creates incalculable potential for mischief: it amplifies the threats of schoolyard bullies, empowers terrorists and fringe groups, and opens up huge new spaces to technologically savvy criminals. Now that data can be shared, linked, and exploited with instantaneous ease, the risks entailed by publication of information mushroom out of all recognition; there is simply no way that an editor (of Der Spiegel, The New York Times, NRC Handelsblad), however well meaning, can make an informed judgement about the potential repercussions entailed by the release of vast amounts of confidential data by, for instance, Wikileaks. Will preaching restraint and wisdom have any merit? Or has technology outpaced the ethics? Will ethics ever be able to catch up again in the name of total information freedom? Or is this the 21st century, where the public needs to create an even playing field with the modern national security states that have at their disposal information technology and resources enabling  them to map and control our lives ? The culture of openness versus the culture of secrecy, whatever it means for our privacy?  Here is another interesting dilemma as a result of Mr. Assange’s leaks. There are more to come.

(Thank you Christian Caryl for formulating it the way you did in The New York Review of Books)

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