Monthly Archives: June 2013

The ethical corrosion of moral absolutes

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to briefly discuss a topic that Pilar brought to light when she commented on my post On “Moral Absolutism”: specifically the difference between morality and ethics.
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Filed under Philosophy

Moral theorems, archetypes, and standards

Last post, I discussed the problems with measuring moral absolutism against the standards commonly used for measuring the natural absolutes described by science and mathematics. However, as Jon pointed out in an excellent comment on that post, this may not rule out the fact that moral absolutes exist, merely our ability to understand and relate them in non-axiomatic terms. So, let’s dig a little deeper.
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Filed under Philosophy, Religion

On “Moral Absolutism”

It is one thing to fight for one’s beliefs. It is quite another to be compelled to fight for some subjective concept of the moral absolute. Yet, those who profess to the concept of “moral objectivity” like to point to certain widely held moral beliefs as proof of the existence of Moral Absolutism: the belief in the existence of absolute standards against which everyone can be judged “right” or “wrong.” I myself have noted that if such things exist, it is probably at the intersection of human theologies, a la the story of “The Blind Men and the Elephant.”
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Filed under Philosophy, Religion

Graceful degradation and the fault tolerant society

Graceful degradation is an engineering concept by which complex systems are designed such that they can still perform their core functions even while sustaining significant damage, albeit at a reduced capacity. Although often treated as equivalent to fault tolerance, the fundamental difference is that fault tolerant systems are designed such that a backup component or system can quickly be brought back on line to maintain full system capability, while the goal of graceful degradation is to support reduced functionality so as to prevent catastrophic failure. A lot of times, they are used together to maintain maximum reliability: for example, the battery backup system of a computer server room that may temporarily shut down non-critical servers on a power outage so as to maximize battery life (graceful degradation) until a backup generator can be brought on line (fault tolerance).
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Filed under Climate Change, Riding the Curve, Technology

Luddism, or just survival?

Paul Krugman makes a cogent argument today in the New York Times with respect to technology which few who regularly read this blog will be surprised to know I wholeheartedly agree. But I’m not sure he needs to bring Luddism, with all its anti-technology baggage, into the argument.
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Filed under General Grunting, Technology

Absolute power corrupts

For once, Peggy Noonan makes an exceptionally lucid and compelling argument (with a modicum of debunking by Charles Pierce), with respect to the ever-growing “surveillance state” and the often false choice between our security as a nation, and the civil rights upon which it was arguably founded. But I think this is less about technology, and more about human nature; specifically the historically well-documented corrosive effects of absolute power.
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Filed under Fear, General Grunting, History

The robot road to hell

Although I often disagree with their ideology, I have no doubt that most researchers in the robotics and AI industries are highly moral people who have good intentions at heart. But then we all know what they say about good intentions.
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Filed under Robots, Technology