Ethics and Innovation

The murky history of innovation that engulfs the future of mankind in a dark gloomy haze

Have ethics and innovation always been at odds with each other? I hope not. I would like to believe that valuing processes and a bottom line over human beings is something we started doing not something we’ve always done.

The issue here is that if you choose to wait for laws and ethical issues to be fleshed out before you innovate, you probably will never get to innovate. Necessity is the mother of invention. If necessity is doomed to change, then waiting to innovate on a specific issue would mean that by the time you got the green light, there would no longer be a need to create what you intended to create.

If you waited for ethical and legal aspects to be sorted out before you innovated, you would have no guarantee that others would do the same. If this doesn’t affect me or those important to me, does it matter what the consequences are?

Ethics can be viewed from different perspectives, namely, Virtue Ethics, Deontology, Utilitarianism, and African Ethics. On all of these metrics, one cannot justify tech related innovation because it often conflicts with the principles of each of these belief systems.

If we consider Virtue ethics, automating people out of the job violates justice. Is it rational to allow machines, who don’t have dependents (they can kind of have feelings, but never do unless we create them that way) to compete with human beings for the same jobs, when humans have feelings and dependents?

If we consider Deontology, freedom to act rationally is one of its pillars. Could reducing human autonomy, by decreasing the pool of available jobs, ever be justified?

If we consider Utilitarianism, do we weigh the happiness of machines that haven’t been created as having the same weight as the happiness of humans? How would we even count machines? If one machine takes many jobs, doesn’t that mean that we’ve minimized the good for the humans involved?

If we consider African Ethics, it is centered around dignity of humans. Is it not shameful to take away someone’s ability to provide for their family? Will they feel dignified if they can’t meet that basic requirement?

If we’ve exhausted all the ethical systems that we, as mankind, have defined, the questions I want to ask are:

“Is innovation ethical??”
“If not, should this stop us from innovating??”
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