|Barbour, I. (1993). Human Values (Chapter 2, pp. 26-56). Ethics in an Age of Technology. New York: Harper Collins.|
October 2, 1997
Barbour (1993) developed a model for ethics that is based on science, philosophy, and religion. His examination into the factors which he believes influence ethics got me thinking as to whether a framework that is dependent upon social factors will exist in the future since we are becoming more and more a society of individuals. What do terms such as “social justice” mean to a population that is constantly becoming less interpersonal and more insulated?
As technology gets bigger, life becomes more complex and the choices we have available to us keep increasing. We are increasingly choosing to distance ourselves from other individuals. This is not happening en masse, but in small steps. Technology has enabled people to tele-commute to work and not even set foot in the office. It has enabled people to bring services and information into their homes, freeing them from venturing out to obtain them. Computers, telephones, faxes, television, and radios have created an environment where, for the most part, people do not have to interact with one another in order to live. However, those individuals are part of a larger community. They must peacefully coexist if they are to survive and they must maintain a common environment that will be available for future generations.
But what happens if we, as a society, become more and more individual? Our societies have been built through interactions with others. We helped each other for the common good of all. And now that we have the tools to provide so many individuals with the freedom to pursue individual interests in individual settings, what will happen to society? Will the values that have been instilled into today’s citizens be passed on to the next generation, even though those values and ethics were created, literally, in a different world?
I believe that we will see a greater spread between the rich and the poor with the continuing march of technological evolution. Ethics will essentially remain constant, with those individuals who have power and control finding ways to justify their status. Basic rights and wrongs have existed in society throughout history, be it as a result of religion, philosophy, or science. Throughout our history, as technologies progressed, we have maintained an ethical standard. It was necessary if humanity was to come this far. However, the rise of science and the diminuation of religion in the recent past may be altering the foundation upon which ethics were built.
Five hundred years from now, I wonder how a writer such as Barbour will
be examining the origin of future ethics and I wonder what he will be saying
about the role technology will have played in their development. Perhaps
the paradox that technology has created - that we are becoming more isolated,
yet more globally aware - will alter how we relate with others and our