Tag Archives: “Ick factor”

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/30/18: Going Out Like A Lamb

Good Morning!

It’s especially good because this is the last day of one of the worst Ethics Alarms months ever, with the lowest daily average of views for an April since 2013. I have no idea why, and I wouldn’t change anything anyway. I have my dark suspicions, though….

1 Pig brain ethics. Researchers at Yale University restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs, and kept the organs alive for several hours.  Now ethicists are wondering if this was ethical.

Hmmmm:

  • I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you asked the pig, he’d say that cutting his head off was more unethical than keeping his brain alive afterwards.
  • Like a lot of bioethics controversies, this is more “ick” than ethics.
  • Go on, make a “Futurama” joke.

2. Human brain ethics. Is we getting dumber? This Facebook quiz claims that “nobody” can get even 5 of these 10 questions right, and that if you get all ten right, you’re a genius. I hope that isn’t true. I would say that anyone who can’t get at least 8 of the 10 right is either under 15 or cognitively damaged. I really want to know what the average score is. If most Americans really can’t answer these, then we need to dismantle the public school system and start from scratch. And any teacher who can’t answer at least nine of the ten questions should be fired. Continue reading

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Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

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Ethics Quiz: Your Swedish Post-Mortem Avatar

Swedish scientists believe artificial intelligence can be used to make “fully conscious copies” of dead people, so a Swedish funeral home is currently looking for volunteers who are willing let the scientists use their dead relatives in their experiments. The scientists want to build robot replicas, and to try to approximate their personalities and knowledge base in their artificial “brains.”

For those of you who are fans of the Netflix series “Black Mirror,” there was an episode closely on point in which  grieving woman bought an AI -installed mechanical clone of her dead boyfriend. (This did not work out too well.)

I was about to discard objections to such “progress” as based on ick rather than ethics, when I wondered about the issues we already discussed in the posts here about zombie actors in movies and advertising. Is it ethical for someone else to program a virtual clone of me after I’m dead that will be close enough in resemblance to blur what I did in my life with what Jack 2.0 does using an approximation of my abilities, memories and personality?

I think I’m forced to vote “Unethical” on this one as a matter of consistency. Heck, I’ve written that it’s unethical for movies and novels to intentionally misrepresent the character of historical figures to such an extent that future generations can’t extract the fiction from the fact. (Other examples are here and here.) Respect for an individual has to extend to their reputation and how they wanted to present themselves when they were alive. Absent express consent, individuals should not have to worry that greedy or needy relatives, loved ones, artists or entrepreneurs will allow something that looks like, sounds like and sort of thinks like them to show up and do tricks after the eulogy.

I am not quite so certain about this branch of the issue, however, and am willing to be convinced otherwise. After all, pseudo Jack could stay inside, and only be programmed to do a nude Macarena while wearing a bikini for my wife, while no one else would be the wiser. Or nauseous. And after all, I’m dead. Why should I care? Well, the fact is I do care. For me, this is a Golden Rule issue.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Will the Swedes who elect to allow scientists to try to perfect Dad-in-a-Box for nostalgia, amusement, companionship  and to take out the garbage be unethical, betraying their departed loved ones’ dignity?

 

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/18: “Mrs. Miniver” Ethics, “Ick!,” And A Poll

Rugby in the morning

1 One of my favorite Hollywood ethics scenes. I watched “Mrs. Miniver” again last night, the 1942 WWII drama starring the magnificent Greer Garson. It has a wonderful ethics moment late in the film, when Lady Beldon, the wealthy town battleaxe (and the grandmother Mrs. Miniver’s recently minted daughter-in-law, soon to die tragically) presides over the English village’s annual flower show, in which she has won the coveted “Best Rose” prize every year. But beloved old stationmaster Mr. Ballard has developed a magnificent new rose (named after Garson’s character) and desperately wants to win as well. The Minivers tease their elderly relative about the near certainty that she will win as always regardless of the relative merits of her entry and “The Miniver” entered by Mr. Ballard, since the judges are terrified of her, and Lady Beldon has made it clear to all that she regards the annual prize as a virtual entitlement. After all, the prize is even called “The Beldon Challenge Cup.” Sure enough, the judges, who seemed to be having a harder time than usual concluding that Lady Beldon’s rose deserved the award, hand her a slip that places her rose in first place, and Mr. Ballard’s in second.

Lady Beldon shows the slip to Mrs. Miniver with an air of triumph.

MINIVER: This is really important to you, isn’t it?

LADY BELDON: Yes. It’s stupid of me, but there it is. I’ve won that cup for as long as I can remember.

MINIVER: Mr. Ballard’s terribly keen too.

BELDON: Well, he’s had his chance. Hasn’t he? You have such a way of looking at people. What do you expect me to do? Reverse the judges’ decision?

MINIVER: I wouldn’t put it past you. If you happened to disagree with it.

“But I don’t!” she harrumphs. She keeps looking at the two competing roses, though, and also at old Mr. Ballard (played by Henry Traverse, later to portray Clarence the Wingless Angel”in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” His look of anticipation and hope approximately mirrors the expression of a six-year-old on Christmas morning. And when it comes time to announce the winner, Lady Ballard pauses, looks at the two roses again, ponders,  crumples up the judges’ slip, and announces that “The Miniver” wins the prize.

Dame May Witty, one of the best character actors England ever produced, shows us with her face that she realizes she did the right thing as soon as she sees Ballard’s reaction to winning. And the assembled crowd gives her an even louder ovation than they give the winner. They didn’t even have to see the slip like the Minivers: they know what she did. And she knows they know.

I had a Lady Beldon moment many years ago, before I had even seen the movie. Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2018: Alexa, Hillary, The Grammys, And The LED Rocket Copters

Good afternoon.

(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. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/17/18: Have You Heard About The Adulterous Governor?

Good Morning!

Just one issue to warm-up with today, but a juicy one, with sex, lies, and tape! Two kinds of tape, in fact…

I find it peculiar that the travails of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens have received such light coverage in the news media; after all, this is great chance to embarrass a Republican. If you missed the story, it goes like this:

During his campaign later during his first year in office as Missouri’s Governor (he began his term a year ago), Eric Greitens proclaimed himself a family values guy. During his campaign announcement, he stated: “I’m Eric Greitens, I’m a Navy SEAL, native Missourian and most importantly, a proud husband and father.” Rumors of past extra-marital dalliances surfaced, and the Governor denied them.

An un-named lover’s ex-husband,however, blew the whistle to the news media, providing an incriminating tape in which the woman said she had a single sexual encouter with Grietens  and that he tried to blackmail her to ensure her silence.  “He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail. There is no worse person,” the ex-husband told reporters. There are also allegation that Grietens slapped her. The woman  has not made an on-the-record comment about the story.

In a recording released by CBS News, the unnamed woman is heard saying,

“I knew he was being sexual and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don’t know what it was and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me. He stepped back and I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said you’re never going to mention my name, otherwise, there will be pictures of me everywhere….He tried kissing my stomach and tried to kiss me down there but didn’t quite get there because I flipped out and I said you need to stop.”

Last week, the Governor and his wife released this statement:

“A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately. While we never would have wished for this pain in our marriage, or the pain that this has caused others, with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger. We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive – but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers.” 

Sheena Greitens added:

“We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God. I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.” 

The allegations of blackmail and now of battery are being investigated. Some lawmakers from both parties are calling on the Governor to resign.

Last week, an attorney for Governor Greitens released the following statement:

“We have been asked repeatedly by reputable news outlets why we believe this nearly three-year-old news story is coming out now. The latest reporting has finally disclosed that the reporting was being driven by a “source” who is the former Democrat state party chairman and who apparently has not spoken to the person in question. This goes a long way to explaining what is going on – this is a political hit piece.

This is and remains an almost three-year-old private matter with no matter of public interest at stake. Eric and Sheena have worked through those issues long ago and I think that Sheena put it best: ‘We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God. I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.’ Now we know who has been peddling that gossip.”

Thoughts: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, Christmas Eve 2017: I TRIED To Find Upbeat, Inspirational Items Today, Santa, I Really Did…

Goooood MORNING!

1  I believe the correct term is “rude”...Social norms are necessary to maintain ethical standards, and they need to move quickly when conduct begins to resemble the “broken windows” that trigger urban decay. Years ago there was much complaining about solo diners talking on cell phones in restaurants, a gripe based on “ick” and not ethics. A diner’s table is his or her domain, and if one chooses to talk to a friend who is physically present or one who is elsewhere, that’s no other diner’s business unless the conversation breaks the sound barrier. However, walking around a store while having a loud, endless conversation via earpiece and phone is obnoxious in the extreme. That’s a public place, and the market is an important traditional locus for social interaction and community bonding. Technology is creating toxic social habits that are creating isolation and the deterioration in social skills, including basic respect for the human beings with whom we share existence. I almost confronted a young woman at the CVS last night who was cruising the aisles, laughing and dishing with a friend over her phone,  sometimes bumping into other shoppers in the process.

I wish I had. Next time.

2. I hadn’t thought of this, but it’s obviously a problem of longstanding. Local school boards are traditional gateways to public service and politics, but the previously typical citizens who become involved often have no experience or understanding regarding the basic ethics principle of public office. In San Antonio, for example, a jury acquitted San Antonio Independent School District trustee Olga Hernandez of conspiracy to commit honest service wire fraud and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes, the result was dictated by her utter cluelessness rather than any doubts about what she did. Testimony revealed an inner-city school district where vendors and board members developed relationships that created conflicts of interest and compromised judgment. The vendors knew what was going on, but the school board members may not have.

Hernandez, for example, testified that she considered the plane tickets, complimentary hotel stays, jewelry, meals and campaign contributions she received from those connected with a local insurance brokerage firm doing business with the school district as favors and gifts from friends. Coincidentally, none of them had been her friends before she was in a position to help them make money.

The beginning of careers in public service is when ethics training is most crucial, not later. How many school board members are required to attend a basic ethics seminar regarding government ethics? I would love to know. Continue reading

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