Is Technology Making Us Less Ethical?

Ariel Guersenzvaig | David Casacuberta

Lionel M. Vead Jr. works for First Castle Credit Union in Louisiana, one of many companies that offer loans to people who, for different reasons, have difficulties getting them from a bank. Vead’s company is known for providing low-interest credit to by cars on the condition that the client allows them to insert a device that immobilises the car should they fail to pay the stipulated repayments. Mr Vead has an app on his mobile that allows him to do this remotely and at any time. “Once I disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart”, Vead excitedly told a journalist from the New York Times.

Let us stop for a moment to think about the implications of a system such as Mr Vead’s. The first thing that comes to mind is the injustice of the debtor being unable to defend his case. Can’t make your repayments on time? Well, you’ve got no car, and no chance to appeal to an authority to give your case or try to negotiate your debt. Even if there’s been no delay in repayments and it’s just a company mistake.

In a country like the United States, whose public transport system leaves something to be desired, leaving someone of little means without a car practically means condemning them to poverty.

And let’s consider the physical dangers this system entails. People have come close to being killed on more than one occasion when the car they were driving down the highway was blocked.

It’s easy to accuse Mr Vead and his company of immoral behaviour. We could also reflect upon the virulence of American capitalism; but we should not forget a detail that likely affects the readers of this book: someone had to design that app which Mr Vead has so proudly installed on his mobile. The app is probably the work of a small development team; an interface designer and programmer supervised by a project leader.

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