Ethical Guidebook

A discussion of the difference between our personal values and our public ethics, how mature citizens can support both, and why our love for public ethics must trump our love for personal and group values when they conflict in the public space. Ethics offers a guidebook for evaluating public issues and finding multilateral solutions to endless cycles of values centric conflicts and unilateral violence.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Robot Soldiers and Ethical Issues

A New York Times "Taking Orders' article makes very good points about how a robotic soldier might arguably be more ethically dispassionate than an angry or fearful all-too-human soldier lashing out in the heat of battle, but the article then proceeds to blur the terminology by saying that making an ethical robot will raise MORAL issues.

Wait a minute, there IS a difference, that's why there are DIFFERENT WORDS. The soldier shooting anybody who approaches to save their buddies - or even their buddies dead bodies - from the 'bad guys' (as happened in Mogadishu) might be said to be very moral (even a 'hero') within their self-justified home team values based frame of reference, but they are not being ethical.

The article says this well, and it quotes a research reference that is quite dramatic. But as long as folks keep mushing the terminology by using 'ethical', 'moral', and 'values' in the same sentence as though they are synonyms, it's going to remain impossible to get past the quite predicatable conclusion that every difficult contention (with or without robots) must necessarily degrade into a 'moral dilemma' of different self-serving values butting heads.

Unfortunately that values-constrained level of problem analysis often results in concluding there is no fair answer, just different values, pick your side, and ends up not really examining the ethics of conflict resolution that follow unbiased principles and multilateral processes (with or without force). Yikes! We can do better than '24', we don't need more self-justified judge-jury-torturer-executioners.

I wonder what Noam Chomsky would say about this? Is a linguistic problem with using 'morals' and 'ethics' interchangably, contributing to a major social problem with defining means for principled conflict resolution - with or without robots?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Vote for Ethics

Support for Obama from folks who might traditionally have voted for someone ‘more like themselves’ may reflect a deeper change going on in this nation than just setting racial schisms aside. Our decade long love affair with self-centered values based thinking has left this nation mired in a costly unilateral conflict and unregulated values-driven excess. There’s nothing wrong with having strong values, but values alone cannot define what’s right for a country and for the world. We are recognizing the need for ethics - the need for higher principles, fair play, and multilateral solutions to complex values-driven conflicts, shortages, and excesses. We are voting to put public ethics above personal values.