Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Ethical Principals Must Guide Technology

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Ethical Principals Must Guide Technology

Article excerpt

The following is an excerpt from President William Jefferson Clinton's commencement address at Morgan State University May 18, 1997. President Clinton was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws.

The past half-century has seen mankind split the atom, splice genes create the microchip, explore the heavens. We enter the next century propelled by new and stunning developments.

Thirty-six years ago President Kennedy looked to the heavens and proclaimed that the flag of peace and democracy, not war and tyranny, must be the first to be planted on the moon. He gave us a goal of reaching the moon, and we achieved it--ahead of time.

Let us today set a new national goal for science in the age of biology. Today, let us commit ourselves to developing an AIDS vaccine within the next decade.

Science often moves faster than our ability to understand its implications, leaving a maze of moral and ethical questions in its wake. The Internet can be a new town square or a new Tower of Babel. The same computer that can put the Library of Congress at our fingertips can also he used by purveyors of hate to spread blueprints for bombs. The same knowledge that is developing new life-saving drugs can be used to create poisons of mass destruction.

Science has no soul of its own. It is up to us to determine whether it will he used as a force for good or evil. We must do nothing to stifle our basic quest for knowledge. After all, it has propelled us from field to factory to cyberspace. But how we use the fruits of science and how we apply it to human endeavors is not properly the domain of science alone or of scientists alone. The answers to these questions require the application of ethical and moral principles that have guided our great democracy toward a more perfect union for more than 200 years now. As such, they are the province of every American citizen.

We must decide together how to apply these principles to the dazzling new discoveries of science. Here are four guideposts.

First, science and its benefits must be directed toward making life better for all Americans -- never just a privileged few. Their opportunities and benefits should be available to all. Science must not create a new line of separation between the haves and the have-nots, those with and those without the tools and understanding to learn and use technology.

In the twenty-first century a child in a school that does not have a link to the Internet or the student who does not have access to a computer will he like the nineteenth century child without school books. …

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