Technology is developing a series of new ethical dilemmas, whether that is with how business is executed or how law enforcement is carried out, for example.
The problem to be investigated is whether information technology demands a moral framework in relation to how it is used in modern society. While the societal repercussions of technology are far reaching, there are two major factors that could feel the most conflict between ethics and technology: law enforcement and the capitalist system. These two bodies are arguably the most important aspects of what we as a society hold dearest. They are the pillars that make the United States what it is. Without these anchors in our society, the U.S. could crumble, and the relation of technology and ethics would be the catalyst.
In the case of policing, technology is changing the way law enforcement conducts its business. Information technology is not only creating more ways for the public to break the law – and therefore more work for police – it is also helping officers fight against criminal activity. “Increased computer power, advances in data transmission and attractive and user-friendly graphic interfaces present law enforcement agencies with unprecedented capacity to collect, store, analyze and share data with stakeholders inside and outside of government,” (Robinson, 2001). Computers have certainly played a role in changing the way law is enforced. “As a singularly information-dependent profession, the field of law could hardly escape the impact of the Information Age,” (Marcus, 2008).
But technology and its role in policing goes much further than just computers. Evidence is being compiled from crime scenes that are from many decades ago, and what were cold cases are now leading to prosecution. They are also leading to people who have been in prison for many years now being proven innocent and let go. DNA evidence and similar science-based tools for investigation are changing the landscape of policing. There is a shift in the paradigm between science and policing. “This paradigm demands that the police adopt and advance evidence-based policy and that universities become active participants in the everyday world of police practice,” (Weisburd, 2011).
The co-evolution between crime and crime fighting is causing one party to try to keep up with the other. As criminals find ways to commit crimes through the use of technology, police have to ensure they are one step ahead. “New, adaptive and ordinary crimes emerge over time to create technology crime waves, the magnitude of which can theoretically be measured, compared and predicted,” (McQuade, 1996). Who wins the battle is yet to be seen, but as technology continues to evolve, the fight to eliminate illicit activity will go on.
Ethics comes in when police are challenged with observing the activities of the population. There is a higher apprehension rate of criminals when the police are able to observe the activities of each individual on their computer. Surveillance technology of all sorts is being used to monitor the activities of potential criminals. But these people don’t always have illicit intent. That is why there needs to be an ethical framework built around reasonable grounds. Currently, police need to have a warrant to monitor the activities of someone they suspect is involved in crime. This has been around for decades with the advent of “bugs” that can either record audio or visuals of a party police suspect is committing illegal acts. But a framework governed by a judge, or something similar to it, isn’t developed in the case of businesses, which will be the next topic of discussion.
Enbridge Inc., is right now trying to determine whether or not a pipeline from Alberta to the pacific coast is in the best interest of ethical reasoning. In building an ethical framework, the company should balance what is needed though Creative Destruction – a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter to describe the act of a company needing to reinvent itself periodically in order to keep up with the threat of more technologically savvy companies taking market share – and set the path for the company into the future, (Guiltinan, 2008). In order to meet the demands of an increasingly technologically savvy business environment, it has been brought to Enbridge’s senior staff’s attention through the company’s Board of Directors that they must strengthen their relations with the Asian markets in order to survive as a corporation. The company is facing increasing pressure from other companies that are increasingly technologically savvy. In developing an ethical framework, it is important to combine the demands of Creative Destruction to pave the way for the company to grow and to prosper, because without a route to the pacific, the company might not survive the competition, which is using technology to its advantage.
First of all, a detailed description of Creative Destruction is necessary to show how it applied to the fight between ethics and technology. Creative Destruction says that a company needs to keep up with an ever-changing landscape which is often influenced by technological developments. Many companies find that they need to change what they are doing business so that they can stay ahead of the competition. Companies get stuck in bounded rationality, which causes them to lose sight of the big picture. The CEOs of these companies find that they are stuck with ideas of the past. And this attitude of complacency extends throughout the staff at the company. These techniques have worked for them before and so they feel like there isn’t a need for change. However, what these managers often don’t consider is that there are people who are starting up new companies, and these new companies have an objective view, and possibly new technologies. These companies could be specialists in some area of business that would reshape the current way things are being done. For example, Apple took over the cellphone industry virtually overnight when it basically made the telecommunications providers at their heels. Nearly everyone in North America switched to a smartphone. Nearly every other phone company suffered massive losses. But bounded rationality isn’t confined to just one industry. It affects every industry. Competition is always looming and looking to execute something better than the company that currently has all the business. Creative destruction is one way of dealing with the constraints of bounded rationality, (Guiltinan, 2008).
In order to win out over the companies that are ready to take over, businesses like Enbridge need to reinvent themselves, with new ideas. This could include a new line of product, or it could include finding new customers, which is the case in this essay. In order to stay ahead of the competition, Enbridge needs to expand to the B.C. coast. But the question is whether Creative Destruction and ethics can be used in combination in the case of oil drilling. As companies fight an ever-increasing number of technologically savvy companies looking to take over, they are often blindly aiming to increase profits through Creative Destruction, which could be at the expense of ethics.
The pressures in the current economic environment require companies to be constantly looking at reinventing themselves, and the principles of Creative Destruction are perhaps needed the most. Enbridge has reached near its limit of providing oil to its current North American market. It is no longer an option – if the company wants to continue to increase profits – to remain only in this continent. While the profits at the company are huge, there is a desire among the Board of Directors and top executives to expand. The company also has close friends in the government who tout the project for the tax revenue that would result and the jobs creation, (Oosterom, 2012).
While the environment plays an important role in building this ethical framework, it should also be considered that 7,000 full-time employees at the company. Enbridge has a market cap of over $31 billion, and the top executives are making over a million. These executives would obviously like to increase the income at the company, and increase their own pay, and this is perhaps a guiding factor in considering the ethical framework. Year-over-year from 2010 to 2011, the company increased revenue by about $4.3 billion, or around 27 per cent. This says the company is doing well, despite the new corporate environment that calls for Creative Destruction.
While expansion to the Asian market is important for the company’s prosperity, if there is a chance of a tragedy, such as the one that struck the Gulf of Mexico during the British Petroleum oil leak, then this plan should be scrapped. This is why there needs to be a considerable investment into the safety of the pipeline. Without a guarantee that a spill isn’t possible, it would not fit within any logical ethical framework to move forward with the plans. Enbridge is working very closely with the Province of Alberta and the Province of British Columbia on this project and we will also be doing our own environmental analysis. However, while the project has been approved by the Alberta government, it is still going through hearings with B.C. In the meantime, this framework will require the efforts of the company’s own engineers and environmental researchers to determine the environmental impact that this project would have.
In making the decision of whether or not to expand to the coast of B.C., it should be noted that now might be the best time to do such a thing. This is because the economy is recovering and it is unknown when it may crash again. Right now, profits have increased substantially year-over-year and the company wants to take advantage of that increase in revenue and put the capital into an expansion project for the coast of B.C. If the company waits too long, they may be faced with the prospect of having to make this type of investment when they don’t have as much capital.
In taking into consideration Creative Destruction and how it is applied to the Northern Gateway Pipeline, there is a problem with moving forward with the project. The only way for the company to survive, according to the Creative Destruction framework, is to be innovative. However, the company is already taking in billions of dollars. The top executives are making millions per year. There is no need to make this decision based on the fact that the company wants to survive. There is no indication that the company is suffering financially and needs to be innovative in order to squash the competition before they have a chance to start up. In taking this into consideration, it would be extremely unethical to move forward with the Northern Gateway Pipeline, despite what Creative Destruction might say about the need to stay ahead of technology.
Creative Destruction, while it might provide a framework for companies to stay prosperous into the future, doesn’t take into consideration moral duty. Furthermore, in modern times, a business plan that doesn’t consider the impact on the environment won’t gain the approval of the public. In the oil business, this isn’t much of a concern, because the company isn’t selling directly to individuals, but to other companies. And that is a scary proposition for the world, because if people don’t stop buying from these companies that are blindly following Creative Destruction, the only thing that will be destroyed is the environment. While Creative Destruction would be responsible, it is the need to blindly move forward, and away from the threat of technology that drives these companies.
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