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Progressive ethics in the digital age

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Three challenges faced by ethical systems in the modern world, and four possible responses to these challenges. Presentation used by David Wood at an event at Newspeak House on 11th January 2017, advocating a technoprogessive approach. For more details of the event, see https://www.meetup.com/London-Futurists/events/235828492/. For a recording of a live video stream of the event, see https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=TThdPAkB68M.

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Progressive ethics in the digital age

  1. 1. Progressive ethics in the digital age A joint meetup with London Futurists and GlobalNet21 (21st Century Network) #LonFut Newspeak House Stephen Minger former Chief Scientist GE Healthcare Life Sciences James Lawford Davies Partner, Hempsons (Leading Health Care Lawyers) David Wood Chair, London Futurists Principal, Delta Wisdom
  2. 2. Progressive ethics in the digital age? Principal, Delta WisdomChair, London Futurists David Wood @dw2 londonfuturists.com deltawisdom.com 3 modern-day challenges for ethics 4 possible responses: bases for new ethics?
  3. 3. @dw2 Page 3 Ethics – a working definition • Agreed constraints on our freedom – Things we agree not to do, even though we have the ability (and maybe the desire) to do so – Things we agree to do, even though we might desire to stand back and not take action • Agreements with our society – And/or with our communities or partners – And/or with our (higher) self
  4. 4. @dw2 Page 4 3 modern-day challenges for ethics 1. Technology gives us options to do many more things than before, and we haven’t taken the time to figure out what new constraints we need 2. Constraints that made sense in the past may be unnecessary hindrances in the changed circumstances of the present and near-future 3. The principles underlying ethics are lost in the mists of time, frequently disrespected, but we risk “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”
  5. 5. @dw2 Page 5
  6. 6. @dw2 Page 6 http://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/why-does-uber-keep-breaking-the-law- because-theyre-disrupting-of-course.html “Why Does Uber Keep Breaking the Law? Because They're Disrupting, of Course”
  7. 7. @dw2 Page 7 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/07/drone-near-miss-passenger-plane-heathrow Drone ‘near miss’ with passenger plane close to Heathrow airport investigated Incident risk rating of A – the highest of five categories – defined as a “serious risk of collision”
  8. 8. @dw2 Page 8http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/10/camera-spy-drones-banned-sweden-highest-court/ “Sweden’s highest court bans drones with cameras” “Only cops and users with special filming permits can attach cams to drones”
  9. 9. @dw2 Page 9http://fbheron.org/2014/03/15/in-case-you-missed-it-investing-giving-for-good/ I liked it better when our bank was just a bank
  10. 10. @dw2 Page 10 http://www.fertility-docs.com/programs-and-services/gender-selection/select-the- gender-of-your-baby-using-pgd.php “Select the Gender of Your Next Baby” “Lowest base price of any U.S. PGD gender selection program”
  11. 11. @dw2 Page 11 UK Deaths each year http://visual.ons.gov.uk/birthsanddeaths/ 1918 • 1914-1918: World War 1: 17 million people killed – ~10 million military personnel and ~7 million civilians • 1918-1920: “Spanish Flu” – 50 million people killed (~100 million by some estimates) – Deliberately under-reported at the time in the media – “The greatest medical holocaust in history” • “Killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years” • “Killed more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic
  12. 12. @dw2 Page 12http://www.vox.com/2015/5/27/8660249/gates-flu-pandemic “The most predictable disaster in the history of the human race…” “A Spanish flu–like disease unleashed on the modern world would kill more than 33 million people in 250 days” Pathogens
  13. 13. @dw2 Page 13 https://www.stopkillerrobots.org/2016/07 /explosives-used-on-us-police-robot-to- kill/ “Explosives Used on US Police Robot to Kill” http://www.science20.com/the_conversation/laws_and_the_autonomy_ of_killer_robots-155088 LAWS: Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems
  14. 14. @dw2 Page 14 4 possible responses: bases for new ethics? 1. If it feels good, do it? (Respect “yuk” and “wow” feelings) – But our intuitions are far from complete guides to the future 2. Technolibertarian? (Get out of the way of new tech & entrepreneurs) – Keep your foot on the accelerator: trust future technology – But the outcomes could be horrific (Big Brother, terrorists with WMDs…) 3. Precautionary principle? (Risk avoidance) – Don’t develop new technology (e.g. GM food) until we’re sure it’s safe – Technoconservative: keep your foot on the brake (“take back control”) – But doing nothing is risky too! (Probably fatally risky) 4. Proactionary principle! (Risk management) – Calculate risks of both action and inaction – Take small steps, observe, rapidly learn, repeat – Technoprogressive: actively steer progress of new tech for common good Education; Knowledge Agility (not inertia) Powerful vision of the common goodVision of the role of humanity “First, do no harm”
  15. 15. @dw2 Page 15Cartoon by Patrick Hardin: https://funnytimes.com/19990203/ Self-directed human evolution?
  16. 16. @dw2 Page 16http://www.thenanoage.com/ Self-directed human evolution?
  17. 17. @dw2 Page 17 Self-directed human evolution? http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=363390110431587
  18. 18. @dw2 Page 18http://reasonandmeaning.com/transhumanism-part-1-living-forever/ Vision!
  19. 19. @dw2 Page 19 The post-scarcity vision • An abundance of clean energy (via next-gen greentech++) • An abundance of healthy food (via synthetic biotech++) • An abundance of material goods (via nanotech++) • An abundance of affordable health (via rejuvenation biotech++) • An abundance of all-round intelligence (via cognotech++) • An abundance of time for creativity (via automation++) • Supported by cooperative robots, value-aligned AI, better collabtech • Underpinned by wise use of accelerating technology – Enabled by directing and utilising beneficial positive feedback cycles Technoprogressive transhumanist vision
  20. 20. Progressive ethics in the digital age A joint meetup with London Futurists and GlobalNet21 (21st Century Network) #LonFut Newspeak House Stephen Minger former Chief Scientist GE Healthcare Life Sciences James Lawford Davies Partner, Hempsons (Leading Health Care Lawyers) David Wood Chair, London Futurists Principal, Delta Wisdom
  21. 21. Saturday, 21 Jan 2017, 2pm-4pm Effective Altruism: The future of doing good deeds #LonFut https://londonfuturists.com/ forthcoming-meetings/ Main building, room to-be-announced, Birkbeck College “How will current and future trends change the way we seek to do good in the world?” Sam Hilton, Founder of Effective Altruism London

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