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

Unethical Quote Of The Week, Olympics Division: Hope Solo

"Jim Kaat, meet Hope Solo. Hope...Jim."

“Jim Kaat, meet Hope Solo. Hope…Jim.”

“I thought that we played a courageous game. I thought that we had many opportunities on goal. I think we showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down; I’m very proud of this team. I also think we played a bunch of cowards. But, you know, the best team did not win today; I strongly, firmly believe that. I think you saw America’s heart. You saw us give everything that we had today. Unfortunately the better team didn’t win.”

—-U.S. women’s soccer team goalie Hope Solo,after the Swedish team eliminated the United States from the Olympic women’s soccer tournament in a penalty shootout Friday.

Diagnosis: Jerk.

I remember the first time I ever heard a representative of a losing team use the old “the best team didn’t win today” line.

It was 1967, the best summer of my life, when I spent my last carefree teenage school break following the greatest pennant race in baseball history. My team, the Boston Red Sox, were the surprise underdog in an amazing, see-saw four team race that had its outcome in doubt until the bitter end. The Sox, led by MVP and Triple Crown winner Carl Yasrtzemski, entered the final series at home against the first place Minnesota trailing by a single game. It was a two game series. If the Red Sox won both, they would be American League Champions after nearly 20 years of losing.

They did win both. I was at one of the games, among the most hopeful, raucous, joyous baseball crowd I have ever had the honor to be part of. Both games were hard fought, with surprising twists and turns like the whole season. Still, the Sox won. I was so proud of that gutsy young team, which I had rooted for through every nail-biting inning—the team was nicknamed “The Cardiac Kids”—of their 162 games, and never more happy going to bed after enduring a crucial, nerve-wracking contest.

The next day, I read in the sports pages a post-game statement by Twins pitcher Jim Kaat, who had started the game I attended. He said, “We’ve got to give Boston credit,but I think the best team and the best fans will be watching the Series on television.”

I thought it was an astonishingly  graceless and obnoxious quote by a losing athlete, the epitome of bad sportsmanship, and stupid to boot. If the Twins were so damn great, why were they ending the season tied (with the Tigers) for second place? By definition, the team that ends a season with the best record is the best team, and the team that loses the decisive game has proven that it is not the better team.

Solo’s statement was worse. Continue reading