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From computer ethics and the ethics of AI towards an ethics of digital ecosystems

Stahl, Bernd Carsten

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Ethical, social and human rights aspects of computing technologies have been discussed since the inception of these technologies. In the 1980s, this led to the development of a discourse often referred to as computer ethics. More recently, since the middle of the 2010s, a highly visible discourse on the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) has developed. This paper discusses the relationship between these two discourses and compares their scopes, the topics and issues they cover, their theoretical basis and reference disciplines, the solutions and mitigations options they propose and their societal impact. The paper argues that an understanding of the similarities and differences of the discourses can benefit the respective discourses individually. More importantly, by reviewing them, one can draw conclusions about relevant features of the next discourse, the one we can reasonably expect to follow after the ethics of AI. The paper suggests that instead of focusing on a technical artefact such as computers or AI, one should focus on the fact that ethical and related issues arise in the context of socio-technical systems. Drawing on the metaphor of ecosystems which is widely applied to digital technologies, it suggests preparing for a discussion of the ethics of digital ecosystems. Such a discussion can build on and benefit from a more detailed understanding of its predecessors in computer ethics and the ethics of AI.


Stahl, B. C. (2022). From computer ethics and the ethics of AI towards an ethics of digital ecosystems. AI and Ethics, 2(1), 65-77.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 1, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 31, 2021
Publication Date 2022-02
Deposit Date Dec 31, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 11, 2023
Journal AI and Ethics
Electronic ISSN 2730-5961
Publisher Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Issue 1
Pages 65-77
Keywords General Earth and Planetary Sciences
Public URL
Publisher URL


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