Ethics Guide Ethics and Professional Responsibility

Ethics Guide Ethics and Professional Responsibility 150 150 Affordable Capstone Projects Written from Scratch

Q1-7 2027?


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At the start of this lesson you read about how technology is changing exponentially. Processing power, connectivity of devices, network speed, and data storage are increasing so rapidly that they fundamentally change the way we use technology every 10 years (Bell’s Law). Businesspeople need to be able to assess, evaluate, and apply emerging technology. They need to know how these changes affect businesses.

Ethics Guide Ethics and Professional Responsibility
Suppose you’re a young marketing professional who has just taken a new promotional campaign to market. The executive committee asks you to present a summary of the sales effect of the campaign, and you produce the graph shown in Figure 1. As shown, your campaign was just in the nick of time; sales were starting to fall the moment your campaign kicked in. After that, sales boomed.

But note the vertical axis has no quantitative labels. If you add quantities, as shown in Figure 2, the performance is less impressive. It appears that the substantial growth amounts to less than 20 units. Still the curve of the graph is impressive, and if no one does the arithmetic, your campaign will appear successful.

This impressive shape is only possible, however, because Figure 2 is not drawn to scale. If you draw it to scale, as shown in Figure 3, your campaign’s success is, well, problematic, at least for you.

Which of these graphs do you present to the committee? Each lesson of this text includes an Ethics Guide that explores ethical and responsible behavior in a variety of MIS-related contexts. In this lesson, we’ll examine the ethics of data and information.

Centuries of philosophical thought have addressed the question “What is right behavior?” and we can’t begin to discuss all of it here. You will learn much of it, however, in your business ethics class. For our purposes, we’ll use two of the major pillars in the philosophy of ethics. We introduce the first one here and the second in Lesson 2.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant defined the categorical imperative as the principle that one should behave only in a way that one would want the behavior to be a universal law. Stealing is not such behavior because if everyone steals, nothing can be owned. Stealing cannot be a universal law. Similarly, lying cannot be consistent with the categorical imperative because if everyone lies, words are useless.

When you ask whether a behavior is consistent with this principle, a good litmus test is “Are you willing to publish your behavior to the world? Are you willing to put it on your Facebook page? Are you willing to say what you’ve done to all the players involved?” If not, your behavior is not ethical, at least not in the sense of Kant’s categorical imperative.


Figure 1


Figure 2



Figure 3

Kant defined duty as the necessity to act in accordance with the categorical imperative. Perfect duty is behavior that must always be met. Not lying is a perfect duty. Imperfect duty is action that is praiseworthy but not required according to the categorical imperative. Giving to charity is an example of an imperfect duty.

Kant used the example of cultivating one’s own talent as an imperfect duty, and we can use that example as a way of defining professional responsibility. Business professionals have an imperfect duty to obtain the skills necessary to accomplish their jobs. We also have an imperfect duty to continue to develop our business skills and abilities throughout our careers.

We will apply these principles in the lessons that follow. For now, use them to assess your beliefs about Figures 1 through 3 by answering the following questions.


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Discussion Questions

  1. Restate Kant’s categorical imperative using your own words. Explain why cheating on exams is not consistent with the categorical imperative.
  2. While there is some difference of opinion, most scholars believe that the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”) is not equivalent to Kant’s categorical imperative. Justify this belief.
  3. Using the Bateson definition (discussed in Q1-5) that information is a difference that makes a difference:
    1. Explain how the features of the graph in Figure 1 influence the viewer to create information.
    2. Explain how the features of the graph in Figure 3 influence the viewer to create information.
    3. Which of these graphs is consistent with Kant’s categorical imperative?
  4. Suppose you created Figure 1 using Microsoft Excel. To do so, you keyed the data into Excel and clicked the Make Graph button (there is one, though it’s not called that). Voilà, Excel created Figure 1 without any labels and drawn out of scale as shown. Without further consideration, you put the result into your presentation.
    1. Is your behavior consistent with Kant’s categorical imperative? Why or why not?
    2. If Excel automatically produces graphs like Figure 1, is Microsoft’s behavior consistent with Kant’s categorical imperative? Why or why not?
  5. Change roles. Assume now you are a member of the executive committee. A junior marketing professional presents Figure 1 to the committee, and you object to the lack of labels and the scale. In response, the junior marketing professional says, “Sorry, I didn’t know. I just put the data into Excel and copied the resulting graph.” What conclusions do you, as an executive, make about the junior marketing professional in response to this statement?
  6. Is the junior marketing person’s response in question 5 a violation of a perfect duty? Of an imperfect duty? Of any duty? Explain your response.
  7. If you were the junior marketing professional, which graph would you present to the committee?
  8. According to Kant, lying is not consistent with the categorical imperative. Suppose you are invited to a seasonal barbeque at the department chair’s house. You are served a steak that is tough, overcooked, and so barely edible that you secretly feed it to the department chair’s dog (who appears to enjoy it). The chairperson asks you, “How is your steak?” and you respond, “Excellent, thank you.”
    1. Is your behavior consistent with Kant’s categorical imperative?
    2. The steak seemed to be excellent to the dog. Does that fact change your answer to part a?
    3. What conclusions do you draw from this example?

Let’s take a guess at technology in the year 2027. Of course, we won’t have perfect insight, and, in fact, these guesses will probably seem ludicrous to the person who finds this book for sale for a dollar at a Goodwill store in 2027. But let’s exercise our minds in that direction.

Would you use your smartphone differently if it had a gigabyte network connection, an exabyte of data storage, and a battery that lasted a month on a single charge? What if it could connect to every device in your home, car, and office—and control them remotely? With this new device you could store every book, song, and movie ever created. You could capture, store, and stream 8K of UHD video with no delay at all.

On the other hand, maybe smartphones will fade away. Large tech companies are investing tremendous resources into mixed-reality devices like HoloLens, Meta, and Magic Leap that can create virtual objects within the real world (see Lesson 4). It’s possible that changes in technology will make these devices commonplace. People didn’t always carry a phone around with them. But now they’re in nearly every pocket.

How would these new devices change your everyday life? Well, you wouldn’t have to fight over the TV remote control any more. Everyone wearing a Microsoft HoloLens could sit on the couch and watch a different show at the same time. In fact, you might not have a two-dimensional TV hanging on the wall at all. 3D Holographic entertainment would take place in the center of the room, not on the walls.16

Your mixed-reality devices would also have gesture and voice control. That means you could turn your smart lightbulbs on or off by simply pointing to them. You could even see inside your smart refrigerator without leaving the couch! Nice. Also, thanks to increases in connectivity, all of your new smart devices could talk to each other. Imagine waking up in the morning and your smart home turning the lights on automatically. Your smart home then starts reading off your daily schedule (from your Internet-based calendar), starts your coffee pot, and tells your self-driving car to check for traffic delays.

Advances in technology will undoubtedly have a profound impact on your personal life. But what about the impact of these advances on business? How will they change the way you work? What new types of jobs will be created? What new companies will form to support these advances?

In 2013, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer required her employees to come to work and earned the disdain of many. She said important work gets done in informal meetings around the coffee pot. But what if you could virtually remote into work using a holographic interface and stay at home physically? You could still interact with your boss face-to-face and chat with coworkers at the coffee pot.17 But you could live anywhere, skip the commute, and work for multiple companies at the same time.

These changes may improve the way you work, but they’ll also change the type of work you do. People with the ability to effectively experiment will be able to adapt to changes in technology required by their employer. Companies that adapt more quickly will gain a competitive advantage, at least temporarily. For example, an innovative automaker may switch from using desktop computers and traditional CAD design software to using mixed reality devices and 3D printing to shorten design time.

Systems thinking will also be important because of the need to predict changes caused by interconnected smart devices. For example, medical data (i.e., calories burned, heart rate, etc.) from your smart pacemaker and smartwatch could be integrated into other systems. It could be sent to your doctor, athletic trainer, and insurance company. Your doctor could know you’re having a heart attack, call an ambulance, and forward your insurance information to the hospital before you even realize what’s happening.

Advances in technology have a downside too. By 2027, privacy may be increasingly difficult to maintain. Your data will be collected by new kinds of apps, flowing through the cloud, and be packaged for sale by companies providing “free” services. Social relationships may suffer as well. We may become less connected to people as we become more connected to systems. Just look around at your family staring into their tiny phone screens at holiday parties. What will happen when they can watch a high-definition 3D holographic football game without anyone knowing?

We’ll take a 2027 look at the end of each lesson. For now, just realize one certainty: Knowledge of information systems and their use in business will be more important, not less.

Security Guide Passwords and Password Etiquette
Many forms of computer security use passwords to control access to systems and data. Most likely, you have a university account that you access with a username and password. When you set up that account, you were probably advised to use a “strong password.” That’s good advice, but what is a strong password? Probably not “sesame,” but what then?

Microsoft, a company that has many reasons to promote effective security, provides the following guidelines for creating a strong password. A strong password should:

  • Have at least 12 characters; 14 is even better
  • Not contain your username, real name, or company name
  • Not contain a complete dictionary word in any language
  • Be different from previous passwords you have used
  • Contain both upper-and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (such as ~ ! @; # $ % ^ &; * () _+; =; { } | [] \: “; ‘ <; >;?,./)

Examples of good passwords are:

  • Qw37^T1bb?at
  • 3B47qq<3>5!7b

The problem with such passwords is that they are nearly impossible to remember. And the last thing you want to do is write your password on a piece of paper and keep it near the device where you use it. Never do that!

One technique for creating memorable, strong passwords is to base them on the first letter of the words in a phrase. The phrase could be the title of a song or the first line of a poem or one based on some fact about your life. For example, you might take the phrase “I was born in Rome, New York, before 2000.” Using the first letters from that phrase and substituting the character < for the word before, you create the password IwbiR,NY<2000. That’s an acceptable password, but it would be better if all of the numbers were not placed on the end. So, you might try the phrase, “I was born at 3:00 AM in Rome, New York.” That phrase yields the password Iwba3:00AMiR,NY which is a strong password that is easily remembered.

Once you have a strong password you want to avoid reusing the same password at every site you visit. Not all sites provide the same level of protection for your data. In fact, sometimes they lose your password to hackers. Then hackers can use those passwords to access other sites that you regularly use. Password variety is your friend. Never use the same password for less important sites (e.g., social networking) that you’d use to access more important sites (e.g., online banking).

You also need to protect your password with proper behavior. Never write down your password, do not share it with others, and never ask others for their passwords. Occasionally, an attacker will pretend to be an administrator and ask users for their passwords. You’ll never have to give your password to a real administrator. He or she doesn’t need it and won’t ask for it. He or she already has full access to all corporate computers and systems.


Source: iQoncept/Fotolia

But what if you need someone else’s password? Suppose, for example, you ask someone to help you with a problem on your computer. You sign on to an information system, and for some reason, you need to enter that other person’s password. In this case, say to the other person, “We need your password,” and then get out of your chair, offer your keyboard to the other person, and look away while she enters the password. Among professionals working in organizations that take security seriously, this little “do-si-do” move—one person getting out of the way so another person can enter her password—is common and accepted.

If someone asks for your password, do not give it out. Instead, get up, go over to that person’s machine, and enter your own password yourself. Stay present while your password is in use, and ensure that your account is logged out at the end of the activity. No one should mind or be offended in any way when you do this. It is the mark of a professional.

Discussion Questions

  1. Here is a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in its petty pace.” Explain how to use these lines to create a password. How could you add numbers and special characters to the password in a way that you will be able to remember?
  2. List two different phrases that you can use to create a strong password. Show the password created by each.
  3. One of the problems of life in the cyberworld is that we all are required to have multiple passwords—one for work or school, one for bank accounts, another for eBay or other auction sites, and so forth. Of course, it is better to use different passwords for each. But in that case you have to remember three or four different passwords. Think of different phrases you can use to create a memorable, strong password for each of these different accounts. Relate the phrase to the purpose of the account. Show the passwords for each.
  4. Explain proper behavior when you are using your computer and you need to enter, for some valid reason, another person’s password.
  5. Explain proper behavior when someone else is using her computer and that person needs to enter, for some valid reason, your password.

Career Guide Five-Component Careers
Some years, even some decades, students can wait until their last semester to think seriously about jobs. They can pick a major, take the required classes, and prepare to graduate, all the while assuming that job recruiters will be on campus, loaded with good jobs, sometime during their senior year. Alas, today is not one of those periods.

In the current employment situation, you need to be proactive and aggressive in your job search. Think about it: You will be spending one-third of your waking life in your job. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to begin to think seriously about your career prospects now. You don’t want to find yourself working as a barista after 4 years of business school, unless, of course, you’re planning on starting the next Starbucks.

So, start here. Are you interested in a career in MIS? At this point, you don’t know enough to know, but Figure 1-6 and Figure 1-7 should catch your attention. With job growth like that, in a category of jobs that is net of outsourcing, you should at least ponder whether there is a career for you in IS and related services.

But what does that mean? If you go to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can find that there are more than a million computer programmers in the United States today and more than 600,000 systems analysts. You probably have some notion of what a programmer does, but you don’t yet know what a systems analyst is. Examine the five components in Figure 1-8, however, and you can glean some idea. Programmers work primarily with the software component, while systems analysts work with the entire system, with all five components. So, as a systems analyst, you work with system users to determine what the organizational requirements are and then with technical people (and others) to help develop that system. You work as a cultural broker: translating the culture of technology into the culture of business, and the reverse.

Fortunately for you, many interesting jobs are not captured by the bureau’s data. Why fortunate? Because you can use what you’re learning in this course to identify and obtain jobs that other students may not think about or even know about. If so, you’ve gained a competitive advantage.

The chart on the next page provides a framework for thinking about careers in an unconventional way. As you can see, there are technical jobs in MIS but fascinating, challenging, high-paying, nontechnical ones as well. Consider, for example, professional sales. Suppose you have the job of selling enterprise-class software to the Mayo Clinic. You will sell to intelligent, highly motivated professionals with tens of millions of dollars to spend. Or suppose you work for the Mayo Clinic on the receiving end of that sales pitch. How will you spend your tens of millions? You will need knowledge of your business, and you will need to understand enough technology to ask intelligent questions and interpret the responses.


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Give this some thought by answering the questions that follow, even if they aren’t assigned for a grade!



Discussion Questions

and Kryder’s Law are changing how digital devices are used. State how business professionals should relate to emerging information technology.