Ethics and the Speed of Tech Improvement

Our technology is improving quickly and the rate of that improvement is steadily increasing. Technology always amplifies human effort. If the effort has been aligned ethically, the amplified end product will be amplified goodness. If the effort is not ethical, the amplified end product will be amplified badness or even evil.

It seems like we are already struggling with the task of keeping our ethics improving as rapidly as our technology is improving. We currently have no way to measure how these two curves should be correlated. Without developing further guidance, we can assume that our ethics should improve at least as fast as our technology if not faster.

We measure the advancement of our technology in terms of the number of advances in the underlying science, the significance of those advances, and the capabilities of the technology that they produce. We note that the capacity of semiconductor chips is doubling every two years. But that may not map directly to chip performance and it’s even more difficult to map chip improvement to improvements in productivity in the workplace because software improvements, and user training, and implementation issues are also involved.

We could design a scale of ethics capacity that measures our ability to consider a certain number of factors in a certain amount of time at a certain complexity level when analyzing ethical scenarios. We’d also need to consider accuracy and that can vary with differing moral standards or other considerations. Assuming we can overcome these issues and compose a widely agreed upon scale of ethics, we also must consider how well the ethical judgments are used.

It seems unlikely if some technological factor doubles in performance, that we can follow that with a doubling in either our understanding of ethics or the way we apply ethics. But when the increase is in computing power, we can direct that increase toward doubling our ability to calculate complex ethical scenarios and ramifications of decisions.

It’s not enough to just increase our ethical consideration of the USE of technology. We must also find ways to apply the advances in technology to increasing our ability to perform ethical analysis. With advances in computing, communications, knowledge management, artificial intelligence, and other areas that apply directly to information and knowledge processing, it’s obvious that we can use those advances to increase our ethics capability also. We will need to find ways to use advances in robotics, nanotechnology, energy, and bio-genetics that also increase our ability to analyze and understand ethical considerations.

SEE ALSO:
Human Potential
Ethics is the Best Measure of Civilization
Evolving Intelligence is a Knife’s Edge Balance
Virtue in Intelligence

Comments are closed.