Unedited audio transcript from Google Recorder.
Hi everyone. I'm Steven Downs. Welcome to another edition of ethics analytics, and the duty of care. Today, we're going to be looking at the study of meta ethics. Or as my old professor used to say metarothics, What meta-ethics are is the study of ethical reasoning itself, questioning where ethical theories come from, and how we evaluate them and how we apply them.
I guess that this up by putting this into a bit of context. And by posing a question, and the question is does might make right? Well, wikipedia says, might makes right or might is right is amafferism both on the origin of morality with both prescriptor. Let's try that again, might makes right or might is right, is an aphorism on the origin of morality with both descriptive and prescriptive senses.
And it's of course, the idea that you know, ethics is whatever the strongest person in the room says it is or, you know, the biggest bully on the block or the most powerful nation in the global community. And it's enough to make you a bit skeptical about the concept of ethics generally, isn't it?
Because the idea of might making, right? Kind of removes, the whole aspect of of, you know, moral reasoning and thinking about morality entirely in effect, you know what I'm horribly, paraphrasing, max fever here. And so forgive me, those of you who have studied his work, but we could say something like this study of morality really is the study of power that ultimately is what ethics gets down to.
We don't want to lose sight of that fact. And I'm going to call it a fact because I think that we we can't really ignore that aspect of ethics. When we're talking about ethics of course, the modern equivalent is the new golden role and the new golden rule is this, whoever has the gold makes the rules.
And again, this it's like another sort of power ethic position, right? I mean here, the might isn't expressed in terms of force or military power, but rather in the persuasive capacity of a lot of money and we see from the cartoon there on the slide, some people who belong to the 99% who've been laid off, we're losing their homes etc.
The politician who is getting their 99% of their campaign dollars from the top one percent, which is the reason, says the third person or the fourth person, why the 99% have zero chance? You might think it's kind of a cynical approach to ethics. You know, I kind of do, but at the same time, we actually see this instantiated pretty much on an everyday basis, baldly.
And in front of us, you've probably heard the expression voting with your dollars. And, you know, things like a boy cards or selective, purchasing, or, or even consumer activism, as a way to make a point. Generally an ethical plight but all that does is to concede. That whoever has the most dollars here is going to get the most votes.
And in fact, with the 1% having most of the money, not, not just more than everyone else. But most of the money that leaves the rest of us, effectively without a vote. So, you know, there's a there's a reality to the new golden roll. Well is that the case should that be the case?
There are different ways we can approach ethics when confronted with the reality of ethics, as it exists in the world, I'm going to describe three of them here which I've taken from a web page, but, you know, we can probably come up with a few more, but it gives you a sense of the range of thinking that's possible.
So, one type of ethic is descriptive ethics quoting from the, the learn religions web page. People tend to make decisions which bring pleasure and avoid paying. That's an example of descriptive ethics. What it's doing is it's taking a look at the world and describing what ethics actually are as seen in the actions of people in the world.
So when we express a principle like the new golden rule, whoever has the gold makes the rules. We could be describing the actual ethical state of affairs in the world but that doesn't intend the discussion. There's also normative ethics and by normative if we don't mean something. That is normal, what we mean is something that establishes what should be a norm.
So, the example here from the same source, the moral decision is that which enhances well-being and limits suffering. If we go out there in the world, we'll see a lot of people making decisions that they call ethical that don't address these at all. But what we're saying here is that what they should be basing, their ethics on is well-being and limit suffering, okay?
And then there's a third kind of ethics, which we could call analytic ethics, and it's more about understanding what the meaning of ethical talk is about and breaking down. You know, if we, we express an ethical principle. What does that mean? How does that cash out in terms of actual practice, etc?
So the example here is morality is simply a system for helping humans. Stay happy and alive. So we're not talking about the truth or falsity of it. We're not saying we should or shouldn't, but we're breaking down, what these statements are and expressing what they are in terms of meaning.
So again, these three don't eliminate all possible types of ethics. We would probably come up with a few more types of ethics, but they give you a sense that when we start talking ethics, it's not all going to be the same thing. So let's break that down. More the study of meta ethics.
And I've combined it into one word in the title, but a lot of the time you'll see it with a hyphen, just to make the two words, clearer is essentially, the study of what grounds and ethical argument. We're going to come back to the precise wording of that in a little bit.
And, you know, I mean, and we look at where we are in the context of the current inquiry, looking at all the uses of uses of learning analytics and looking at the ethical issues that have been raised all of the ethical codes that we've looked at the ethical theories that may ground those codes of.
We don't really have a good mapping yet and actually exercise we could and probably should undertake assuming it's even possible. And I'm not sure that it is, but then we need to turn around and ask. What is the basis or the fundamental ground for one approach or another? You know, because we need to to choose between utilitarianism or deantic, ethics, or social contract model of some sort and on what basis do we make those choice choices.
I mean, it's not like, we're just going to put, you know, some paper, slips in a hat and pick one another. Oh yeah, that one. No, we, we need to have some basis for making these decisions, there isn't just one ethics that we can say. Yeah, this is it, you know, after all of our study, we've solved it.
There are many different approaches and many different flavors and if nothing else in this module you should have seen that. So okay, let's look at some of these breakdowns family. So one flavor of ethics can be called cognitivist ethics. Based on the principle a cognitive ism. Now, in this context cognitiveism is and I'm quoting here, the idea of that moral statements have the capability of being objectively, true or false, since they are descriptive of some external reality in the world.
Sorry about the type. Oh, on the slide there. So there's two things that are happening here. The first thing about three things actually, if we think about it, first of all, we have more statements propositions. If you will like, for example, killing people is wrong and these propositions are semantical in nature.
What I mean by that is as the other line says, they have the capacity of being true or false. In other words, we could say it is true that killing people is wrong, or we could say, it is false that killing people is wrong, and we'll have the usual training come by.
But the third thing about cognitiveism is that the truth or falsity of these statements is established in some way. Now they've glossed over a huge area of the systemology by saying descriptive of some external reality in the world for the somatics to actually apply. We need to say that they correspond to some external reality in the world or are consistent with descriptions of the external reality in the world or something like that.
They refer to some external reality in the world or different semantics for establishing the truth or false statements. But we're not going to worry about that. The idea here is that we're saying moral statements can be true or false. The opposite of that is non-cognitive non-cognitiveism tripping over that word.
They're a bit which views more discourse as a way to express attitudes towards certain actions and I might broaden it and say something like this. If we have more all statements then non-cognitivism is the attribution of other propositional attitudes to those moral statements. So sticking with the statement. Killing humans is wrong.
A non-cognitivist moral discourse might be and I feel that in my bones or the thought discussed me and you see how much different from saying that the statement is true. For the statement is false and it removes us from having to appeal to some kind of semantics in order to ground our moral discourse.
So the classic example will refer to him again, is David Hume, who assigns moral distinctions to affect or emotional appeal? Now, I want to be clear here. When we say cognitiveism, we're not really meaning cognitiveism in exactly the same sense that it's meant in theories of teaching. And learning.
Now, I've used an example from a BC campus publication teaching and a digital age, which actually looks at the cognitive domain. And, you know, we can think of it as say, part of balloons, taxonomy or whatever. And that's not exactly what's meant. But all the tools that we see in the cognitive domain evaluations synthesis analysis, application etc, along with even some of the minor concepts like data information, facts, concepts problems, etc.
All of those apply to cognitivism and I don't think it's a stretch to say that cognitiveism is probably the dominant approach in ethical thinking today. I don't think the stretch at all because cognitiveism is the dominant approach to pretty much everything today, women cognitivism but not necessarily with incognitoism and, you know, so the the diagram back at the beginning here, kind of represents it as though, it belongs, with cognitive reason is the idea of realism.
Now, I think real realism could also be a non-cognitive is perspective. But, you know, now we're not really looking at questions of semantics, so it gets a bit tricky, but the idea of realism is that moral ideas are true or false independently of what we think. In other words, there is some fact of morality, whatever it is.
So for example we look at a moral proposition such as it is morally wrong to torture and innocent child for fun. A moral realist would say this is objectively and independently, true, doesn't matter what we think about it? It is true and often the side of the slide here.
I've got an expression of what might be called, robust moral realism. So that's the idea that well, there are three conditions. First of all, the moral proposition is irreducibly, normative, it's not reduced to other facts about the world. For example, the way things are in nature or the way things are in society, the moral proposition is itself of basic fundamental fundamental truth and that's also objective.
The idea here in robust moral realism, is that the truth of the proposition is independent of our existing attitudes whether or not we believe that it's morally wrong to torture. An innocent child for fun, it is independently morally wrong to torture and innocent child for fun. And then the third thing is that it's optimistic.
It actually kind of lines up with what our deepest moral beliefs are and and in fact we could say that perhaps through moral intuition or more apprehension. We are seeing into these deep truths directly much. The way, we know what a triangle is just by thinking what a triangle is or just the way.
We know what the properties of space and time must be just by thinking about the properties of space and time. Similarly, just by thinking of the concept of morality, we can see directly that this proposition is objectively true. And there's, you know, there's that really a chord which was a lot of people's intuitive thinking about morality and it doesn't matter what you say, torturing children for fun is wrong and there's nothing that could make that, right?
So we can come up with slightly less, stringent definitions of moral realism. For example we could require that, we actually know the principle. The cat be more principles that are objectively true out there in world that we don't know about you know or we could say something like these truths are true by definition.
I suppose to true by fact or whatever different flavors of this idea. But it is the idea that there are fundamental moral truths, this leads sometimes to an idea of moral universalism. Well, I've talked about this a few times in this course. And I'm going to come back to it again a moral.
You universalism is the idea that there is Well, a universal set of moral principles or, you know, to be a little less precise, perhaps a universal morality Again. There are two ways to approach this. We could even make it three ways if we added analytic, but really we have descriptive moral universalism.
And that is the idea that there is one universal morality shared by all cultures. Now I personally think that that proposition is descriptively false. And here we have a diagram of some examinations of different types of cultures and some examinations of their attitude toward moral virtues. And if there was moral universalism descriptively, then all those bars would be the same length, and we can just see by looking at the diagram.
They're not all the same life So there are differences in morality between cultures and some quite significant ones, you know, especially with respect to property especially with respect to, you know, deference to authority or reciprocity etc descriptive, or prescriptive moral universalism would say, even if there isn't actually a universal morality there should be, we can base that on several grounds.
We can base it on. As I said, moral realism, but we can also base it on something like a moral pragmatism, you know, life would be a lot easier. If we all had the same beliefs, we see that kind of thinking, expressed a lot in the technical world, right?
The way to move forward is for all of us to have a shared, common standard of whatever. And we see this working its way through to ethical discussions where people say and mean it quite literally, we should have one ethical standard that applies to all instances of AI or analytics and learning.
I'm not just one should standard, but are shared vocabulary. The set of shared methods a set of shared tests, etc. That's more on universal.
Against universalism is relativism. And again, there are different flavors of rather relativism, but you get the idea relative ism is the idea of that one way or another. There are no universal moral truths that there are ways and which ethics and morality can vary. And the three types here are three ways where that we can think of them.
Varying, one of them is descriptive and I actually happen to adhere to this that we can observe different moral norms. We can observe different systems of ethics out there in the world and especially from a historical perspective. We look back and what people believed, you know, 20 years ago, a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago that certainly seems to be true.
But also, I've observed, you know, that the moral basis for ethics from one society to the next is quite different. There's also a meta ethical relative and that's the idea that there are no universal or extra cultural moral truths. So it kind of allows for a moral universality within a culture.
So everybody living in the culture is governed under the universal morality, but but it doesn't extend beyond it. And then normative relativism is the practical application of relativism in the world and essentially, it's the affirmation of the expression live in that live, right? We have different moral principles and nothing is going to be gained by going and having a fight over them.
You follow your ethics. I'll follow mine at a view that bothers a lot of people and I find that interesting. It's an interesting characteristic of ethics people and I don't really have a slide for this, but, you know, we can think of ethics as something inherently personal as a way of guiding our own life.
But people very rarely stop there. And they believe that, whatever their principle of ethics is, it's something that should apply to the community around them. And then the size of that community can vary from, you know, a set of ethics held within a family to a set of ethics held within a village or a town to a set of ethics held within a country or a religion, or a culture to maybe even a global set of ethics.
So people resist the idea of living that live and find that a violation of their own personal ethics is a good reason to take action, whether advocacy or force on someone else and not often returns us back to the principal of, you know, ethics according to whoever is the most powerful now, as soon as you begin to apply your ethics to other people and anything more than just a, you know, I really think you should kind of avoid.
Then we've moved ethics, from one domain to a different domain. We've moved it. For example, from the domain of rationality to the domain of politics, and sometimes, even to the domain of geopolitics. And that's something we need to be aware of. It's one thing to be justified in our own morality.
It's quite another to be justified in extending that morality to other people and that's one of the bases behind relativism. The idea that there is in no ground for asserting either descriptively or normatively that other people should follow the same ethic that you do. In fact, we can take it even further in people have and actually talk about moral skepticism and moral skepticism.
It's more of an epistemological position that is it's more based in the philosophy of knowledge that it is an ethical position. But ultimately, it's the assertion that we cannot know about morality one way or another. So, again, you know, it's philosophy. So, we're gonna break down into a whole bunch of categories, right?
So we could actually make it an epistemological argument. We could actually argue that. There is no moral knowledge, we can't acquire it. There are no justified moral beliefs. We may think we can justify moral beliefs, but if we apply the skeptical argument to them. Imagining, for example, that the opposite of our belief is true and finding there's no contradiction.
We can't justify our moral beliefs. Similarly, we could be dogmatically skeptical and simply assert that, you know, we can't be certain about moral knowledge or justified moral beliefs. We can even though beyond that and talk about the abness or the relevance of moral discourse, whether it is even made sense to apply, moral judgments in cases.
And give you an example. Is this, just my interpretation of moral optimists, right? But you know, I have a badge here, I could drop it or I could continue to hold it. In fact, I dropped it so it was that right or wrong. Well, doesn't even make sense to us.
The question, does it and similarly, in a lot of our actions and maybe all of our actions? It doesn't really make sense to ask the question was, it was it writer? Was it wrong? We we can ask about other things like, say, should we punish that act and clearly know, right?
I mean, I don't think it was a punishable offense to drop my badge. It might be a punishable a fence for me to give my badge to a Russian agent but some different story. So even if there's moral reality you know it just doesn't enter into our judgments about the absence of moral statements and so on, right, there are many ways we can be skeptical about ethics and morality.
There are many ways in effect, probably an infinite number of ways we can undermine our knowledge of the truth of a particular moral statement, You know, it's hard enough to be sure about a simple truth. Like here is a pen and there were long involved arguments to be the effect that I cannot know.
That here is a pen is true and that's what's respect to a pen that I can actually see in the hold and, you know, open and and I guess it's not really a pen, but and right thing to with etc and moral truths are a lot more ethereal than pants and, you know, it's not like we can hold one in our hands very easily.
So there are really good grounds for moral skepticism and even more to the point. The way ethics is often set up and indeed even the way it's been set up in this course. And I did that a little bit deliberately because majesty is the standard way, ethics is presented.
It's of some sort of moral choice and you all. I was going to use this, but you all know the picture, right? Of the person with the, the good and the evil on their shoulder, and they have to choose between one of them, and it's always presented, ethics is always presented to us in the form of making some kind of decision, making the right choice, picking the, the morally, good action.
Even developing the the morally good virtue or signing a morally valuable contract, but we could ask whether we even make more decisions, whether we can, whether it's practical, whether morality, even and ethics, even present themselves as the sort of things where we make choices. All right, I don't know why we got this this, buffet model of ethics.
It's almost like the buffet model of educational theories, right? And we sit back and say, well, I'll pick this 30, right? And, you know, and first year philosophy, students are famous for that, right? They'll take their ethical course. And at the end of the ethical course, though, they'll write a paper in these, they'll say out of all the possibilities, I will choose utilitarianism because and having made that choice.
Now, they're committed for the rest of their life because of the fallacy of some cost. They'll forever be defending the decision about what ethical theory to follow when they were they made when they were 18. But it's not so simple. As I've a lot of these choices are imposed on us.
A lot of these choices are hobbs and choice of our no good, right answers. A lot of these choices are choices. We may think we're making but we've actually somehow been influenced into making, you know, we often participate in a practice of what can be called moral rationalization. And here's a little study that I found.
And one of the plus journals where, what they did is they took a bunch of moral statement and then they revised them. So that the statement expressed the opposite of what it said. And what happened was when they actually applied these statements to people, ask them to, you know, indicate whether they agreed with or disagreed with the statement, they found that people were or agreeing with something that was the exact opposite of something that they agreed to not 20 minutes ago.
And in the discussions of these choices, they would offer elaborate argument arguments in favor of the choices that they had made, even though these arguments again were contradictory to each other. So the wording of these moral choices, the way these things are presented to, you can influence whether or not you believe you support them.
And I think, you know, I mean, that's surveyors know that that's true in general, and it's also true in ethics and it's, especially true in ethics. When we start analyzing the meanings of moral words, themselves, right? Are you for freedom or are you against other anarchy? You know, I mean, we can use different words to express different positions or use different words to express the same position where you support it.
And when it's in some opposing another well known phenomena, that doesn't mean people are utterly clueless about ethics and morality effect. I don't think that's true at all. I think, even young and know about ethics and morale, just asking me, child of something was fair and they'll tell you so, but I think that the idea of presenting ethics as choices putting it into words or principles and then saying, pick one leads us to really bad understanding of what ethics actually are.
And what people actually believe about ethics was kind of takes us over to the non-cognitiveist approach to ethics immorality. Now, as I said earlier, non-cognitiveism expresses or describes attitudes to moral statements, Now again, these could be descriptive attitudes, right? People find rotting flesh, disgusting or they could be normative attitudes.
People should find writing, flesh, disgusting, and they break down. Non-cognitiveist approaches breakdown into several categories, three of which are emotivism. They're just expressing a moral judgment. It's wrong. They're not saying that the statement, you know, eating cats is wrong, is true or false. They're just saying eating taxes wrong, nothing?
More than that, or it could be prescriptiveism. You shouldn't eat cats, right? I'm not saying it's right or wrong or I'm not saying that it's true or false that even cats is wrong. I'm just saying you shouldn't do it. You see the distinction that right? Or, it's can, it could be expressive.
I find the idea of eating cats, distasteful. So here, instead of expressing a semantical value, true or false, I'm expressing a feeling or a sentiment such as a feeling of disgust. So these are non-cognitivist approaches to morality. And what's important here is that there aren't the sort of things that respond well to our arguments, right?
How are you going to argue about non-cognitivism? You feel, it's disgusting. Well, and what that does is to significant degree, it makes more and ethical judgments subjective. And I think a lot of people believe this at the same time they believe moral universalism. So go figure and what they mean here.
What we mean here is that ethical truth. Whatever it is depends on a perspective or point of view. Now there are there are many would different ways of describing perspective or point of view. It doesn't just mean from the point of view of, I the subject, right? It could be, that could be individually subjective.
And that's, that's the kind of subjectivism. We normally think of in North America, but could also be culturally subjective. So a culture might not have an opinion about whether something is right or wrong properly, so-called certainly not some argued about, but in that culture, just it's wrong, you know, and we can all think of specific ethical values in different cultures that that seem to be culturally subjective.
You know, killing cows in India, for example, is wrong, typically taken to be wrong, right? Facts and ethically, or a culturally subjectivist principle of morale here in North America, it's big business. See the difference? We can also have subject subjectivism in the form of an ideal observer. No, that's what rolls did when he came up with his theory of justice.
And in particular, the original position that we described in the previous video instead of actually taking real existing subjects. We take an idealized version of a subject and say, well from their point of view, what would it be? And, and a lot of ethical theorizing works that way pretty much any thought experiment will work that way.
Philip, foot's, famous, trolley problem, kind of puts us in the position of an ideal observer. What would an ideal observer do if a trolley was coming along and by pulling the pulley, they could save one person but by not or sorry they could kill drive that again by pulling the pulley.
They could kill one person but in so doing say five or by not pulling the pulley, they condemn five people to die. But the one person they would have killed stays alive. Now, that's an ideal observer theory almost by definition because it's a counterfection. Nobody faces that particular problem, but it's subject to some of the week.
This is of the ideal observer theory and that is how do you know what the ideal observer would do? And, you know, a lot of people accuse roles of this, you know, he sets up these ideal observers who just happened to believe the same ethical theory. He happens to believe him.
How handy is that? And then, finally, the subjecting question could be God or, or God's depending on your religion, or even, you know, the way you know, the, the reality behind reality, as in the Dallas principles, something like a demo a divine command theory. And and raises a question.
Certainly for religious people is something more all because God decided that it is or because it independently is in. The hypothetical question is, if there were no God, would it still be wrong to kill another person? And if you don't like that phrasing, put it this way. Do you refrain from killing people?
Only because God says it's wrong and that feels like you know, a kind of a not very good foundation for a morality, you know? I mean indeed the whole concept of you do it because God told you to do it and if you don't do what God tells you to do, you're gonna go to hell.
It sounds like, you know, religious version of egoism. And, you know, you ask people about egoism. Those don't know. It's very wrong for a subject of. And yet divine, command theory is subjective indeed and exactly the same way. So there are some interesting problems here that can be posed from the perspective of subjectivism we come back to him and the basis for a lot of our responses to these questions and human takes an explicitly anti-rationalist approach to ethics.
That is to say an approach that is not based on argument and reason and truth and falsity. And there are a couple of principles here and I've pulled out. Well, there humans and complex are meant arguing out of which, I've pulled a couple of principles. One of them is that reason alone cannot persuade us to act human rights.
Famously reason is and ought to only to be the slave of the passions. So we have both a descriptive and normative force in that sentence. And, you know, descriptively, I think there's a thought to be said for it. You can provide a completely 100% airtight argument, that something is wrong and people will go do it anyways.
Because they feel like and that's what human has observed. And he's also observed that again, people have a sense of right and wrong even though they have not reasoned about it or a thought about it. Now, this doesn't necessarily apply to animals. Although, you know, we could argue about that, but it does seem to apply to children as I pointed out.
Who have this sense of fairness that haven't actually sat down a workout, the reasons for it, but they're certainly making these ethical judgments. And then here's second argument. Is truth is disputable not taste. What exists in the nature of things is the standard of our judgment. What each man feels within himself, is the standard of sentiment.
So if we're going to make statements about, cause and effect, and natural laws and you know what exists, and what does it then? We look out into the world. But that doesn't tell us about morality the way we feel the way we respond. Perhaps we are mirroring neurons flare up or our empathy kicks in or revolving kicks in.
That is the standard of ethics and morality the standard of sentiment. And humor is that we actually do have this sentiment or sense of morality. Just like, we have a sense of sight or a sense of balance, we have a sense of rightness or wrongness and, you know, it's no more reliable or no less reliable than any of our other senses.
But it's that sense. That is, what is the basis for our morality, our ethics, and it is that sense. Plus the combination of what we know to be true out there in the world. That provides us with the reason to act or to not act. I think there's a lot of sense to be made over that.
And certainly a good part of the rest of this course, is going to be devoted to drawing out many of the implications of that idea. When we think about moral sentiment, we can think about investigating more all sentiment and and investigating not just what the sentiments are, but how they change and not just the sentiments of one person like myself or yourself but of people in general and I've got a link to a paper here that does this.
And basically does text-based analyzes to examine changes of moral sentiment in the public. These you know what's not a constant thing and why would we expect that? It is so we can make queries of the text, we can find positive sentiments or negative sentiments being expressed in the text.
And then from that we can find specific statements about things like care, fairness, purity or harm cheating and good degradation, etc. Now, how closely these words correspond to the actual human feeling? That is sentiment is hard to say, right? There's the question of the accuracy or the reliability of sentiment detection, but remember all the way back to module 1, we can do sentiment detection with AI.
So the question is, can we get at what human sentiments are through some kind of process using AI or using some sort of analysis? And I think that's an important question. I think certainly people will say that it can be done in my evidence for that is here's a case.
For someone has said, it can be done, and I think the, the argument can be made that sentiment is the basis for morality and therefore, what we find as actual sentiments, are the bases for actual statements from morality out there in the world. But it's not so simple as that.
And I'm going to throw in, in my last slide, the final twist in our story and that is who owns this. And by who owns this, I don't mean it in an economic sense. Although, you know, there's certainly a sense of this being data sentiment. Be a sentiment data being data that can be commodified and monetized but I mean something a bit deeper than that.
Who gets to say what someone's sentiment is now, we would think that in the first instance, each person gets to say what their own sentiment is. But we already know that not everybody has the same capacity to make a statement, how we already know that the statements, that individuals make need to be interpreted in some way.
And we already know that the statements people make can actually be influenced by the questions that they're asked or the problems that opposed or just the context in which they find themselves. And we've seen over the years, different ways of if you will mining the sentiments of people and converting them into something like an ethics, We'll call it ethics mining.
I don't know if anyone's created that before but it works for here. So we've seen this explicitly and the philosophy of science where there are certain scientific virtues like simplicity and personally right? Well there's no reason why say simplicity is a reason to choose one scientific principle over another Because the fact that the principle is simple, in no way bears upon the fact of whether or not it's true.
The world just might be really complicated, but scientists prefer simple principles so much so that simplicity is of virtue when it comes to selecting scientific explanations. We really love things like equals MC squared but things that take four, five ten pages to write. Not so much. There are other properties of models, we won't get into the details here, there are properties of models and properties are ways in which we create models that have basically given us and ethics of science.
And and indeed, when I sit on research ethics boards, I'm not thinking just about the moral principles of a scientific inquiry. I'm also asking whether the inquiry follows the scientific virtues whether it's a useful inquiry, whether it's asking a real question whether it's standards of evidence are of a certain quality etc all of these playing into the ethics of science and have been pretty much come have pretty much come to defying, ethics of science.
Similarly, in business, ethics, business, ethics isn't concerned about ethics business? Ethics is concerned, about quote, real concerns and real-world problems of the vast. Majority of managers puts them right into that context. Puts them into an environment where making money is required by law. Which is odd. Is that sounds actually is the case, it's called fiduciary duty.
You've heard me mention it a few times and that is the, you know, if you have shareholders, you have a responsibility to your shareholders, to maximize their return. You can't just turn around and give away the assets of your company. And so business ethics is looked at in that context.
So, again, have this idea of business, ethics feeding back into the concept of ethics. Generally, in fact, that's what's been happening with a lot of these ethical codes. We talked about AI, we talk about ethics, and we look at the different issues. And then, the way they're addressed is to go through a process of creating an ethical code much like scientific ethics, much like business ethics, and then that ethics will define ethics and and make it universal doesn't matter whether it's real is just it applies.
And we're saying this in Silicon Valley as well and Metcalf moss. And boy have talked about this, talk about owning ethics and corporate logic and the institutionalization of ethics writing broader writing about broader and longer standing industry commitments to meritocracy, technological, solutionism and market fundamentalism. Now, we can take each of these three things Mayors autocracy, solutionism, and funding market, fundamentalism, and go back, and identify the different places in the different, ethical theories that they've been drawn from.
There's no method to the way they've been drawn right? Meritocracy, just sort of picked out a virtue ethics market. Fundamentalism is just picked out of social contract theory and technological. Solutionism, I think is probably has its origins in utilitarianism. There's no requirement of consistency or cohesiveness. A lot of it is just whatever work for Silicon Valley, that's the ethics that will use, Whatever, justifies the work that we're doing in Silicon Valley.
That's the work that we'll do. And that's why I worry a lot about discussions of analytics, AI, and ethics, being a dressed by people who work in the field of AI in analytics. It becomes very circular and you sometimes think there is only one ethic and it's a universal ethic and everybody believes in it and it's something like, oh, I don't know, equity fairness non-biasedness, etc.
But that's one particular perspective and it's an owned perspective in that, it doesn't reflect in any real sense, the ethics of the broader population. In fact, there has been no real effort to integrate the of the broader population into this calculation. And so, I mean, as curl segment, coral, segment, famously asked at the end of cosmos who speaks for earth, who speaks for us who actually owns the definition or definitions of ethics and that takes us back to might makes right.
And whoever has the most gold, makes the rules, and that's what's actually happening in the field of the ethics of AI and analytics. They actually are being defined by the people who have the money to pose the question and to hire the people to offer an answer and mostly the people that they're hiring to offer and answer are the people who think like they do.
And so we have a problem here. I think we have a problem in the sense that we haven't dealt with the the grounding or the basis for the ethics that are currently being adopted in analytics and AI. And we're sort of falling into this point of view, the scientific slash business slash silicon valley, point of view about what counts as ethically good without really asking.
How do they know this? What is their justification for this? Beyond the answer that? Well, they have the power and they have the money to make it. So, so that's my discussion of meta ethics of a little bit more to say about ethics before we move on to the next module.
And a video, I'll call the end of ethics. But I hope you enjoyed this discussion of meta ethics and I'll see you next time. I'm Steven Downs.
- Course Outline
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- -1. Getting Ready
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Applications of Learning Analytics
- 3. Ethical Issues in Learning Analytics
- 4. Ethical Codes
- 5. Approaches to Ethics
- 6. The Duty of Care
- 7. The Decisions We Make
- 8. Ethical Practices in Learning Analytics
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