Horowitz said, “We have stronger opinions about our handheld devices than about the moral framework we should use to guide our decisions.” The obvious response is that technology-makers aren’t supposed to think about the morality of their products — they just build stuff and let other people worry about the ethics. But Horowitz pointed to the Manhattan Project, where physicists developed the nuclear bomb, as an obvious example where technologists should have thought carefully about the moral dimensions of their work. To put it another way, he argued that technology makers should be thinking as much about their “moral operating system” as their mobile operating system.
Then Horowitz launched into a whirlwind tour of how different philosophers have tried to evaluate morality. At one point, he contrasted Mill, who argued that actions should be judged on the basis of whether they maximized pleasure and minimized pain, with Kant, who argued that there are actions that are intrinsically wrong, regardless of their results.
The point wasn’t to deliver everything you need to know about ethics in 15 minutes. Instead, Horowitz said he wanted to show that philosophers have been wrestling with these questions for thousands of years.
“Ethics is hard,” Horowitz said. “Ethics requires thinking.”
But that kind of ethical thinking is what we require of “every sane person,” he added. Horowitz quoted writer Hannah Arendt, who, in writing about Nazi Adolf Eichmann, argued that most of the evil in the world comes not from bad intentions, but rather from “not thinking.”
Google’s in-house Philosopher: “Technologists Need a Moral Operating System”
February 10, 2014 | 0 Comments