BY TOM COOPER

 

Imagine being able to project 70mm feature length movies in your living room. That was the full sound and image immersion that the approximately 1,800 attendees at the 37th annual conference of the Pacific Telecommunications Council experienced at the first Hawai’ian demonstration of “Super Hi-Vision.”

Of course such impressive demonstrations are not the reason why “ethicists” attend PTC. There are many important ethical issues which attract us instead. Nevertheless, technologies of increasing verisimilitude amplify the possibility of confusing the “real world” and the “reel world” and of substituting enhanced “likenesses” for real people in numerous situations (courtrooms, hospitals, classrooms, etc.)—all of which have attendant ethical concerns similar to those generated by holographic “virtual reality.”

On January 18, 19, 20 and 21, 2015, professional communicators, regulators, academics, and others from more than 70 countries gathered in Honolulu to consider the conference theme, “Networked Planet,” as well as to interact with each other and to observe new technologies.

Ethical and related regulatory, policy, and legal issues were featured at this PTC meeting. Robert Crinks, President of 89 Degree Networks, interviewed Nils Puhlmann, the co-founder of Cloud Security Alliance, about ongoing security and privacy issues related to cloud computing. Focusing upon issues such as spectrum allocation and Internet governance, David Lassner, President of the University of Hawai’i, moderated a panel entitled “Policy and Governance—What Actually Matters,” featuring Kyoshi Mori, Director General, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (Japan); Jun Murai, Dean and Professor, Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, Keio University (Japan); Patricia Paoletta, Partner, law firm of Harris, Wilshire & Grannis; Robert Pepper, Vice President for Global Technology Policy, Cisco Systems; and Xiao Zhang, Director, Information Resources Division, Bureau of Information Development, Cyberspace Administration of China.

One panel seemed potentially important to global peace—a topic of continuing interest to ethicists and humans in general. “China—U. S. Cyber Security Dialogue: Is there A Way Forward?” focused upon Confidence Building Measures, an instrument of interstate relations used during the cold war, to see if it might be applied to curtail the ongoing “cyberwar” between the United States and China, as well as relations with if not other countries. Asia-Pacific EMC consultant Mark Hukill hosted this panel discussion, which featured Lan Tang, Deputy Director of the Institute of Information and Social Development Studies at the China Institution of Contemporary International Relations, and Motohiro Tsuchiya, Visiting Scholar at the East-West Center (Hawai’i) and Professor at Keio University (Japan). The ethical issues included not only the obvious security, privacy, and state secrecy issues, but also comparison of the ethical values of two vastly different countries.

Sherrese Smith of the law firm of Paul Hastings LLP moderated a key panel which focused upon the legal and policy sides of ethical issues including the role of governments in protecting citizens from the often avaricious aims of service providers and content producers. Related issues involving national and international regulation were considered by Paul Abfalter, General Counsel, Telstra International Group (Hong Kong); Ron Box, Regulator, Telecommunications and Radiocommunications Regulators (Vanuatu); Rob Frieden, Pioneers Chair & Professor of Telecommunications and Law, The Pennsylvania State University; and Jeffrey Yan, Director, Technology Policy, Microsoft Corporation, Singapore.

One of the most engaging “Executive Insight Roundtables” this year discussed the ethics of “cyber threats” to corporate and national stability. The increasing number and types of “cyber attacks” has spawned debate about their motivations, implications, and remedies. There is also the question of to what degree one may bend the law and ethical practices in order to detect and apprehend those who already bend the law and ignore ethical best practices.

Discussants of the ethical issues pertaining to “cyber-battles” were Yurie Ito, Director, Global Coordination Division, Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center; Nir Kshetri, Professor, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; and Jae Chul Sir, Senior Fellow, (South) Korean Internet & Security Agency.

A new and expanding subject, in which cybersecurity, privacy, and property rights are discussed and debated, is called the ‘Internet of Things” (IoT). Moderated by Robert Crinks, the IoT panel included Andrew Haire, Chairman and Founder of AJH Communications, and Jill Singer, Partner (and former CIO) at Deep Water Point.

One of the more important questions explored at PTC dealt with responsibility for governance of the Internet. To what extent should stake-holders police themselves and to what extent must “neutral” referees be introduced? Can such referees ever indeed be “neutral”? Steven Smith, Associate Vice President and Deputy CIO at the University of Hawai’i, moderated a panel consisting of David Conrad, CTO, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN); John Curran, CEO, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and Paul Wilson, Director General, Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).