(Where did the morning go?)
1 Regarding Alexa the Feminist: I had said that I would wait for 20 comment before revealing my own answer to the recent Ethics Quiz, which asked readers whether it was ethical for Amazon to program its Artificial Intelligence-wielding personal assistant Alexa with the rhetoric and the sensibilities of a feminist. As usual, Ethics Alarms readers covered a full range of considerations, from the fact that consumers weren’t being forced to take a feminist robot into their homes, and could choose a non-woke personal assistant if they pleased, to the pithy,
“My screwdriver should not tell me it is a communist. My toothbrush should not tell me it is a Republican. My lamp should not tell me it is Hindu. My car should not tell me it likes polka music. My sunglasses should not ask me if I’ve heard the good news. My refrigerator should not tell me I should have more meat in my diet, and by no means should it be vegan.”.
I don’t trust the big tech companies, and the more I see them becoming involved in politics and culture, the less I trust them. It is unethical for Amazon to try to indoctrinate its customers into its values and political views, and if that isn’t what the feminist Alexa portends, it certainly opens the door. If there is a market for communist screwdrivers, however, there is nothing unethical about filling it.
As long as consumers have the power to reject AI-imbued tools with a tendency to proselytize, there seems to be no ethics foul in making them available. It’s creepy, and since these aren’t women but pieces of plastic and metal, it’s absurd, but in the end, so far at least, Alexa’s feminist grandstanding is “ick,” not unethical.
2. If you think that there was nothing wrong with Hillary’s surprise cameo at the Grammys, you’re hopeless.
The audience roared when Hillary showed up last night at the televised Grammy Awards, in a skit where celebrities were supposedly auditioning to be the reader on the audiobook of “Fire and Fury,” Michael Woolf’s dogs breakfast of rumors, gossip, lies and inside dope on what the Trump White House is like. Why was it ethically nauseating? Let us count the ways…
ONE…The Grammy Awards were dedicated this year—of course—to “Time’s Up,” the #MeToo follow on project dedicated to preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault. Yet one day earlier, before the audience roared, Hillary Clinton had cynically brushed off a New York Times report about how she has responded to the sexual harassment complaints of a female staffer by moving her out of her job while the harasser—Clinton’s “spiritual advisor” remained in his.—and, we have learned, continued to harass other women. When will it be “time up” for Clinton, who is the most famous and shameless enabler of male sexual misconduct in U.S. history? That the Grammys would trade the integrity of its concern for the victims of sexual abuse for a cheap joke to (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..) insulting the President tells us all we need to know about how serious the music industry is about making real change in its culture.
TWO…”Fire and Fury” has been thoroughly exposed as a dishonest and unreliable hit job, calculated to appeal to “the resistance”market by a serial hack journalist. Reading from it on the air was another example of gratuitous insults and hate aimed at the President of the United States, a pursuit both divisive, irresponsible, and harmful to the nation. Dredged up to defend this indefensible and repetitive activity at a music awards show was John Kerry’s former PR flack, who told Fox News this morning that since Trump wrote mean things about people on Twitter, it was fair for people to say mean things about him at the Grammy Awards.
This logic was devoid of ethics comprehension. She was evoking three closely related unethical rationalizations: #2. Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad,” #2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming,” #7. The “Tit for Tat” Excuse.
All of them embody what I call playground ethics, which is excusable in ten-year-olds, but which ethical adults are typical acculturated into discarding by the time they have mastered critical thought.The light typically switches on when Mom’s mass repetitions of “two wrongs don’t make a right” start to make sense.
THREE: How many other defeated Presidential candidates continued to make the equivalent of ugly faces and farting noises at the winner more than a year after going down to defeat? Only one, the single woman in the group. Nice role modelling there, Hillary! The pettiest, most bitter, most ungracious loser in Presidential history is the women. Some researchers say that girls are not taught sportsmanship as a values like boys are, handicapping women as the engage in competition and conflict as adults.
Well, handicapping some women anyway. Hillary embarrassed her gender, her party, the nation and herself last night.
3. A Day in the Life. The thing about being an ethicist is that you can’t stop thinking about ethics. More than a year ago, I was told by one of my CVS assistant pharmacists that he had never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I said I would get him a DVD, because he needed to see it. I promptly forgot about my promise until the 2o17 holidays, when I apologized and told him he would have his DVD before the New Year. I didn’t get to the CVS, though, until last week. There was my friend, handling the counter, and there I was, waiting to pick up some pills, and again without the DVD. (It’s somewhere in my house.) I looked around the CVS shelves and saw an interesting item, some “LED helicopters,” small flying whirligigs that lit up when you launched them into the air.
When I got to the front of the line, I apologized yet again, and checked out the pills and the toy. Then I handed the LED helicopters to him. “I got this for you, ” I said. “To keep you entertained until I bring the DVD.” To my surprise, the man beamed. “I love these things!” he said of my gift. “That is so thoughtful. You made my day!”
Those little spontaneous acts of care and kindness really do make the world a nicer place. Best ten dollars I ever spent.
Now I have to find that $!@*%! DVD…