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The Moral Limits of Technology
The breakneck speed of technological innovation often means that innovators find themselves in uncharted moral territory. This can be both exciting and dangerous at the same time. As the fictional Dr. Ian Malcolm said in the movie Jurassic Park, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The concerns of social critics, politicians, and the public are often pushed to the wayside.
Philosophers and ethicists distinguish between the descriptive (what we can do) and the prescriptive (what we should do). This is sometimes called the “is-ought” gap. One does not imply the other: just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.
For this week’s assignment, you will conduct research into technologies that currently are in “uncharted moral territory.”
The first section should be a brief description of the technology you have identified. What is it, and how does it work?
The second section should be the main focus. You will answer the following questions:
· What are two distinct moral questions that it raises? (think of the concepts covered in the lesson)
· How have the experts tried to answer them?
· Are their answers acceptable?
· Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of this technology?
By way of example, you might write about autonomous vehicle technology and the decision-making procedure a computer is programmed to take when it runs into conflicts involving different human lives.
Make sure that you justify your answers. Do not just give your opinion.
Here are some other examples you might consider:
· “Smart” assistants (e.g. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri)
· “Smart” devices (e.g. Apple Watch, Smart glasses, RFID body implants)
· Reproductive technology (e.g. “transitioning” for transgender individuals)
· Human genetic engineering / GMOs / Genetically engineered animals
· DNA ancestry testing (e.g. 23andMe, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage)
You are free to pick your own example, but it must be something that is currently in “moral limbo.”
For your submission, you will need to provide your own thoughts on the assignment, but in third person.
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