Thinking Ethics was a project launched in Geneva to foster the debate about ethics. A few friends, fed up with only reading about abuses in the media, decided to hold a forward-looking seminar on five subjects: ethics and performance, ethics and knowledge, ethics and consciousness, ethics and disobedience and ethics in real time. If moral has to do with right and wrong, then ethics is its application in society. We believe that people need to talk about the subject to determine the level of ethics they want. The book Thinking Ethics, a result of the seminar, is to start the discussion. This blog is a contribution to the conversation. :
Many scientists claim to be agnostic - they can't find the facts to base religion on. And now that CERN has found evidence of the Higgs bozon, which will shed light on the birth of the universe, a definitive split might be happening. However some scientists are trying to maintain a dialog between science and religion concerning the Big Bang. So CERN hosted a seminar between philosophers and physicists to debate the findings. The fact that the two sides are talking is interesting. More here on the BBC site on News- Science and the Environment - Big Bang: is there room for God - by Victoria Gill.
There is a saying in French that one's freedom stops where somebody else's freedom starts. And so the debate going on about freedom of speech vs protection of values is particularly interesting. The outrage caused by the crummy video insulting the Prophet is hard for us in the West to understand. How can we explain that this is not a political statement or a wide held belief but just some strange person's interpretation that he is allowed to air?
About a year ago I found this article by Kyle W on Care2 about how California was creating 2 new classes of corporations to empower social entrepreneurs: Benefit Corporations and Flexible Purpose Corporations. Well I am all for empowering social entrepreneurs, so now that several months have passed I began trolling around to see how successful these forms of corporations have become. Apparently, 7 States have adopted legislation to register B corporations and to date 603 companies have gone for it!
There seems to be one major organization that promotes them called, what else, B Corporation. From their website, here is the definition of B Corporations:
Meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards;
Meet higher legal accountability standards;
Build business constituency for public policies that support sustainable business.
California also passed legislation for the Flexible Purpose Corporation which allows companies to state one other purpose besides maximizing shareholder value. This mean that directors can maximize stakeholder value and can't be sued for not maximizing profit. I believe California is the only State which has adopted this type.
Bradley C. Birkenfeld, the UBS whistle-blower who just received 104 million US dollars from the IRS, must be rather pleased with himself. If you missed the beginning of the story - here is a recap in The New York Time article.
I really believe that whistle-blowing is important, and that people who raise the alarm need to be protected. I am just concerned that the financial reward will create a stampede - which will have nothing to do with right or wrong - but will be based on trying to cash in what the IRS is offering: i.e. up to 30% of the fines or unpaid taxes recovered.
The US has a long tradition with bounty hunters going back to the wild west days. Other cultures less so. In some countries whistle-blowers are not always right - but are doing it to settle scores or create unpleasantness for colleagues they don't like. Even if these colleagues survive the audit - they remain somehow tainted (the no smoke without fire maxim).
My other issue with the financial reward for whistle-blowing is that employees will skip internal communication to go immediately for the money. An employee who spots something wrong should first try to correct things from the inside - by talking to their boss, the human resource department or even their boss's boss. And only if no one is listening, only then go into whistle-blowing mode. Exaggerated a bit - no one will care about doing the right thing - only reporting the wrong thing. Could be a worrying side effect...
A while ago I received a message from Professor Sebastian Genvo, a Professor of communication sciences at the University of Metz, France (Centre de REcherche sur les Médiations - CREM). He develops research and Master courses on the aesthetic, cultural and economic aspects of video games (and has written several books in French about these topics and some articles in English).
He is also a game designer and has developed "Keys of a Gamespace", where you can dive into someone else's life and explore his psychological/cultural/social problems. You will be able to experience his/her ethical and moral dilemmas and face the consequences that occur in such a situation. The game only works on PC - and as a Mac user - I have not yet tried it - but it sounds intriguing.
OK - not quite ethics, but politically correct... There is a new game app to fight against Malaria that is being launched by World Vision. Besides swatting mosquitos while avoiding the ladybugs, you can donate 5 CHF - about 5 US $ - to buy a mosquito net in Senegal or Tanzania. Bye Bye Mosiquito, can be downloaded to your phone. Also available in the App Store and on Android.
What is real anymore? Performances from drug taking athletes, college test scores, pre-taped fireworks (last Olympics in Beijing), photo retouching... what you see is not necessarily real. And now - there is this debate going on in the media about submitting quotes to sources for approval or correction (gasp!) before publication. Read this interesting and controversial debate on the subject by people in the media industry in Ethics Newsline, "Quote Approval".
Some of us go around bemoaning the loss of civility in society. I found this article in Ethics Newsline entitled "The link between Civility and Ethical Behavior" by Ed Collins interesting, in view of the fact that he suggests ways of doing something about it. We then should all stand up and protest - let our views be know.
So, for the all the bashing in politics - call or write your congressperson. In a public debate, stand up and protest to the Chair. In entertainment - start a boycott (good luck with that one!), and last but not least - educate your kids to be respectful. I am all for these actions - but hope a critical mass forms soon to have an impact, otherwise, it is a losing battle. On the other hand, look what has happened to acceptance of smoking.... there might be a reversal on the civility front too!