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View Full Version : Do ethics change with technology?


Advocate
30th April 2003, 09:56 AM
I was reading an article written by Larry Niven, one of my favorite Science Fiction writers. He listed several of his own "laws" - observations about life and the universe. Some of them are very witty and IMHO true such as "Mother Nature doesn't care if you're having fun." and "Any damn fool can predict the past." But one struck me as very odd and I wonder what other people think of this one: "Ethics change with technology."

IMHO ethics do not change, however our understanding of them may, since issues that may never have been noticed previously now need to be addressed. What do you think?

Thanz
30th April 2003, 10:13 AM
Ethics most certainly do change - at least when you are talking about specifics. I just don't know if it is technology that drives the changes. Did Niven give any sort of context or example?

Advocate
30th April 2003, 10:17 AM
Originally posted by Thanz
Ethics most certainly do change - at least when you are talking about specifics. I just don't know if it is technology that drives the changes. Did Niven give any sort of context or example?

Unfortunately in this case he did not. At least not in the versions I have read. (There are multiple revisions floating around.) He gives examples for some of his quotes, but not this one. If you are interested, one version is available online here (http://www.larryniven.org/stories/nivens_laws.htm).

Nyarlathotep
30th April 2003, 11:56 AM
I think technology changes ethics, but not directly. Instead, technology creates changes in a culture which results in changes to that cultures ethics.

For example, if I walked around making disparaging remarks about other natinalities, most (not all, but most) people would think me a bigot. A hundred years ago or more, that wouldn't be the case. I think that is largely due to the fact that travel and communications technology has made people more able to meet people fromothr nationalities and see that they are people too. In this case technology has rendered a formerly acceptable action unacceptable

c4ts
30th April 2003, 12:05 PM
Nah, technology doesn't really change ethics. What it does do is get all the religious people angry because sometimes it opposes what they think ethics are.

plindboe
30th April 2003, 01:09 PM
Many people today consider genetic engineering unethical. I'm sure as science progresses the boundries of ethics will be pushed as well, and in 100 years genetical engineering is an accepted part of everyone's life. So I'm sure that technology will change ethics indirectly.

Peter :)

Sundog
30th April 2003, 03:46 PM
I dunno. File sharing has made many of us into criminals who no longer recognize that stealing music is immoral. That's a good example, I think.

Another: Many more DVD players are being stolen than was the case 20 years ago.