Two press releases came in today and demonstrated to me that the biggest problem we have in this world right now is a lack of ethics.
In one a business research group, Info-Tech, is asking us to ban eBay's Skype from corporate system, saying the software is dangerous. In the other, the Electronic Fronter Foundation basically wants us to boycott Sony CDs because they're secretly installing malware disguised as a DRM that keeps people from fairly using what they thought they bought.
What these stories share is an assumption, a very dangerous assumption in an interconnected world.
The assumption is a lack of ethics by all. Sony is treating all its customers like criminals, and acting in a criminal manner in response. Info-Tech is assuming that Skype, along with other "peer to peer technologies" such as "IM," (as noted in their press release) is dangerous and must be outlawed from corporate networks.
We can speculate over why this has happened, but a fish rots from the top. CEOs get the big money because they're responsible. So in the case of Sony Corp., it rots from Howard Stringer. In the case of Skype, it rots from eBay CEO Meg Whitman. If we can't assume good ethics in their products, nothing their employees do matters much.
It's one thing for large institutions to be on guard against consumers or employees, to take precautions against theft. It's quite another for them to take the law into their own hands, or to take on the characters of a police state in response, to assume by their actions that everyone is a thief.
Once that line is crossed, all bets are off and the market becomes a war of all against all.
This assumption that the other side, so-called, has evil intent is rampant throughout the society. In the past, however, we assumed that most people were ethical and treated them as such. We assumed, as employers, that most employees were on our team. We assumed, as vendors, that most consumers weren't stealing.
The assumption of evil intent is binary thinking in an analog world. It's all absolutes to each of us, but real life isn't like that. What began in politics is now poisoning the market, getting sand in its gears, slowing it down.
It's when our markets fail that the true evil-doers prevail. In the case of the technology markets, we have truly met the enemy in the mirror.
Until we get ethics, starting at the top of our corporate and political pyramids, ethics based on an assumption of goodwill, our markets and our society can't go forward, only backward. That means going backward in time, building a bridge to the 14th century. It's one we all build by our actions, and one whose construction all people of goodwill should condemn absolutely, not just by saying nice things but by behaving ethically, behaving as though everything we say and do is being televised and shown to our mothers.