ETHICS OF TECHNOLOGYEthics in today’s technologyBENITO T. VILLAREAL III
What is Ethics andWhat is Ethics andTechnology?Technology?
• Derived from the Greek word “ethos”, whichmeans “custom”, “habit”, and “way of living”• Definition: "the discipline andpractice of applying value tohuman behavior, resulting inmeaningful conduct.“
G.E. MOORE, Principia EthicaIn the vast majority of cases, where wemake statements involving any of theterms ‘virtue,’ ‘vice,’ ‘duty,’ ‘ought,’‘good,’ ‘bad,’ we are making ethicaljudgments; and if we wish to discusstheir truth, we shall be discussing apoint of Ethics.
• It is a power over matter, over life on earth, and overman himself; and it keeps growing at an acceleratingpace.
In his book "The Imperative ofResponsibility," published in 1979, theGerman philosopher Hans Jonas pleadsfor the extreme emergency to giveourselves an ethics for technologicalcivilization based on "the imperative ofresponsibility." His theory starts from thefinding that the promise of moderntechnology has turned into a threatof disaster: science confers to manpreviously unknown forces, the economyconstantly pushes forward in anunbridled impulse.
Are there philosophical aspects totechnology?Can ethics outstand technology?
• Of course there are and yes. – Jonascomments that "modern technologytouches on almost everything vital tomans existence" and therefore, ifthere are philosophies of science,language, history, art, ethics, politicsetc., then how can there not be aphilosophy of technology, since itplays such an integral role in all ofthese.
Hans Jonas develops his ethics ofHans Jonas develops his ethics oftechnological responsibility alongtechnological responsibility alongfive tenets (pp. ix, x):five tenets (pp. ix, x):1. The altered, always enlarged nature of humanaction, with the magnitude and novelty of itsworks and their impact on mans global future,"raises new moral issues. A new reflection onethical principles is required.
2. The lengthened reach of our deedsmoves responsibility into the centerof the ethical stage...responsibility isa correlate of power." Therefore ourresponsibility must be proportional tothe scope of the power of technology.This means that "we need lengthenedforesight, that is, a scientificfuturology."
3. Even the best predictions will fall short.Consequently, we must apply a "heuristic of fear,replacing former predictions of hope" which must"tell us what is possibly at stake and what wemust beware of.“
4. "What we must avoid at all costs isdetermined by what we must avoid atall costs." As religion that gave us thefoundations for this thought is "ineclipse" today, a philosophy of natureis to serve as a guide to our"environmental morality."Technology exponentially increasesmans drain on natures resources
5. This thinking has to lead us to stepsto limit technology to "ensure thesurvival and humanity of man."These tenets are useful as yardsticksfor thinking about and evaluatingtechnologies, especially before theirwidespread use.
He notes the tainting of this aspect bythe manipulation of our utopian dreamby the people who stand to makemoney off of it.
Problem / Need Technology as Solution ConsequencesFood preservation, temperaturecontrol: nontoxic, nonflammablerefrigerantChlorofluorocarbons (CFC)Stratospheric OzoneDepletionDestruction of crops, illness due to"pests": agent to kill insectsSynthetic insecticidesAdverse effects on birdsand mammalsEnergy for consumer and industryuse: cheap and readily availablesourceWood, coalDeforestation, globalclimate changeIncreased food supply: agent toaid crop growthNitrogen and phosphorusfertilizersLake eutrophicationTable shows examples of past problems, technological "solutions,"and the long term consequences from continued practice of thattechnology. Graedel, T. and B.R. Allenby, Industrial Ecology, Prentice-Hall, 1995. Page 9)
• He also says that it is of noconsequence whether this started asa drive in technology or whether ourlearning of its possibilities hasproduced a reaction to this effect,either way it is still a driving force intechnology.
• Jonasevaluates thechances ofcontrollingtechnologicaldangers andthe aptitude ofthe politicalsystems of histime to preventa disaster forhumankindcaused by thedomination ofthetechnologicalthrust.
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