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The Progression of Ethics

The Progression of Ethics

Our consideration of ethics begins with self. At some point, we feel connected with others, usually family or close friends, and we become willing to extend some level of importance beyond self. As we grow in awareness and intelligence, we become more able to empathize with others, to feel connected with them, and continue to extend our consideration of ethics outward in a series of concentric circles.

An ethical consideration involves analyzing two or more potential courses of action to decide which one offers more “rightness” than the others. The simplest way to define rightness is in terms of survival. That which improves the ability to survive is “right”. But when that definition is applied across different parts of the concentric circles, conflicts appear and complexity is introduced. When one choice of action promotes survival for self, but diminishes it for a group of others, while another choice of action diminishes self and promotes others, balancing which choice is more right is not easy.

A set of coefficients can be defined to provide weighting for the analysis and a filter based on morals and principles can be applied. These factors will change the ethical determination in many cases. But they don’t change the idea that ethical analysis is applied across layers of concentric circles with self at the center and that increased attention to detail and accuracy of weighting schemes will improve quality of results.

Our ability to perform ethical analysis improves as our intelligence grows and as our sense of connection outward across the circles increases. It is clear that during the ten thousand year (more or less) history of human civilization, both our intelligence and our ability to connect with others have steadily increased. This offers us a baseline of ethical progression, at least for humans in our circumstances. There has been a steady progression from self outward across the concentric circles and there has been an increasing focus on detail and accuracy.

We can extrapolate this into our future. Our intelligence and connectivity will continue to increase. We will feel more connection and empathy with others and will expand our ethical consideration outward. We will become more aware of the importance of ethics and more skilled at finding ethical solutions that gracefully avoid conflicts among levels. We will use advanced computing to perform sophisticated analysis and offer detailed and accurate ethical advice.

We should also be able to apply an understanding of this progression to civilizations based on extra-human intelligence. Differences in the weighting scheme might be expected, but once these are understood, the state of expanding across the circles should be discernible and the position in the progression should be detectable. Since intelligence and ethics are necessarily paired, we can determine either to some extent by measuring the other.

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