A responsibility ethics for audit expert systems

Journal of Business Ethics 30 (4):337 - 359 (2001)
To effectively pursue ethical action, the business community must recognize that the fundamental form of human association is not the "social contract" into which persons enter as atomic individuals, making partial commitments to each other for the purpose of gaining limited common ends or of satisfying certain laws. The fundamental form of human association is rather the face to face community in which ongoing commitments are the rule and in which aspects of every individual''s experience are conditioned by the continuing membership. The following discussion initiates a preliminary phase in the consideration of what constitutes ethical issues associated with the business applications of expert systems. The focus is on knowledge based expert system applications in public accounting, specifically in the audit domain. Prior research on the development and use of expert systems in auditing has focused on a limited set of ethical issues. Niebuhr''s theory of the "the responsible self" is used here to broaden the scope of what constitutes an ethical issue and provides a framework for identifying responsible action. Within this framework, an action is responsible if it takes into consideration ongoing relationships among the stakeholder groups affected. Actions prior to the development of the system along with the potential consequences for the system must be considered. The discursive requirements that provide the context and conditions necessary for implementing the proposed theoretical framework are presented and an illustration of how the responsibility ethic can be implemented in the audit expert system domain is developed.
Keywords expert systems  information technology  responsibility ethics  stakeholder committee  systems development
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