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Rethinking Ethical Categories in the Age of Technology

Abstract: Over time, ethical judgments evolve, but so do the phenomena they are applied to. For example, plagiarism is a modern concept. Before the early eighteenth century, works did not generally have references or acknowledgments, and ideas were freely exchanged. As writing became an occupation, copying others’ words became “unethical.” As cut and paste, music mash‐up, and other technological forms of exchange make copying the works of others simple, the idea of plagiarism is eroding, and perhaps will eventually even be discarded. The same may be true with privacy. As with plagiarism, it was not really until the eighteenth century that our modern idea of privacy was established. To younger generations, raised on social media, online life is predicated on trading personal information for access. The undermining of former standards of privacy may suggest that privacy may also eventually become an outmoded concept.

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