Questions to ask during discussions

Need some more things to talk about?

Here are just some of the possible questions to answer about any given case.

  • What is most ethical in this case if one is to
    • – “go by the rules” (deontologically)?
    • – focus on the results (consequentialism)?
  • Are the rules involved
    • logical and “natural”?
    • socially defined instead?
  • Are there any near-universally shared sentiments that shed light on this? This was Thomas Hume’s approach

And some more questions to discuss…

a) Was the resolution of the case ethically right or wrong?

b) Could there have been a better resolution?

c) How might the case be different if something like it occurred again some day?

d) Is whether the outcome is ethical determined by a rule that can be followed (“deontologically”), or by the fact that this was the outcome (“consequentially”)?

e) What would Thomas Hume say?


…and here are some additional questions to supplement the above…

1) Can you be bought? That is, if at no risk to yourself you were offered $1 to do the wrong thing, would you do it? How about $10? $100? $1,000? Etc. And what conclusions can we draw from this? (For example, the more unethical something is, the more $.)

2) If you were to apply some ethical principle(s) to the problem, what would it/they be? What would they imply as the solution? Why is the ethical principle an ethical principle?

3) Suppose rather than applying a principle without regard to the effect it would have, you decided to apply a utilitarian approach: what solution would have the best result?

4) Which is preferable, a principle-based approach or a utilitarian one? (And as always, why?)

5) Is the issue at hand specific to computing, or is it a computing manifestation of some more general ethical issue – truth, honesty, trustworthiness, and mutuality were mentioned to me, for example? More generally, what ethical issues arise in this case?

6) Here is a sequence of successively more in-depth questions. i) Is there an ethical issue in some case, and how much of an issue? ii) What, exactly is/are the ethical issue(s)? iii) How should it be dealt with?

7) Consider the people involved in a given case. What should they do? If you were in the shoes of the different people involved, what would you do?

8 ) Does anyone have a comment who has not yet commented?

9) Are ethics and the law the same here, or different?

10) Is the ethics here relative, or is there an absolute ethical conclusion?

11) Does anyone have an anecdote or know of any information that relates to this?

12) What ethical principles are conflicting here?

13) Can you generalize your ethical judgment about a given situation?

14) Intellectual property. Do the rules applied to the given case, or the outcome of that case, hit the optimal point so that society benefits maximally from the intellectual property? How can we improve the rules to maximize the benefit to society?

15) Societal issues. Is it ethical to buy imports but argue for buying American? This is an example of an general issue that comes up as a polemical point often in political “discourse.” Is there an IT version or example of this? Also…

16) Is it ethical because the constitution says it, or does the constitution say it because it is ethical? (Or neither?)

17) Robots. Do robots have free will? Do people? So what?


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