Categorization Ethics: Questions about Lying, Moral Truth, Privacy and Big Data

Joseph Busch


Categorization is a common human behavior and it has many social implications. While categorization helps us make sense of the world around us, it also affects how we perceive the world, what we like and dislike, who we feel comfortable with and who we fear. Categorization is affected by our family, culture and education. But we can take responsibility for our own perceptions, misperceptions can be pointed out and sometimes changed. But what about categorization imposed outside of us that affects us. Should that be allowed? How is that determined? How can it be changed? These are difficult issues. For information aggregators and information analyzers, the guidelines for appropriate behavior are not always clear, nor is the responsibility for outcomes as a result of errors, bias and worse … When errors and bias are commonly held, this can be reflected in the information ecology. The tipping point need not be a majority, truth or based on ethics. It’s easy enough to identify cases of mis-categorization, but when do you do something about it? What can you do about it?