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Always interested in offers/projects/new ideas. Eclectic experience in fields like: numerical computing; Python web; Java enterprise; functional languages; GPGPU; SQL databases; etc. Based in Santiago, Chile; telecommute worldwide. CV; email.

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Hueristics and Ethics

From: "andrew cooke" <andrew@...>

Date: Sat, 19 Jul 2008 15:18:17 -0400 (CLT)

I have been worrying recently about how one makes ethical decisions with
little knowledge, or in situations so complex that analysis does not give
anything that is useful and consistent (ie sensitivity to initial
assumptions).

It's tempting in such cases to rely on gut instinct.

A much stronger, that I think it very likely true: gut instinct is the
dominant factor in many decisions.

A correlation of this is that most ethical discussions (outside of what
you might call academic examples) seem to be aimed more at defending a
point of view than at reaching any kind of informed position.  Unless,
perhaps, the informed position is that we are powerless and free from
moral responsibility.  A position I would like to avoid (but whose
avoidance I cannot justify).

[An aside: Since it seems that almost any position can be questioned,
while defense is hard, the best rhetorical tactic is therefore not to
defend your own position, but to attack the opposing party.]

The trouble with relying on "gut instinct" is that it is worryingly close
to the justification for all kinds of abhorrent group think - anything
from nimby to fascism.

Taking things to extremes, one wonders about Eichmann.  The problem being,
I think, that it is both hard to separate ones own ideas from what is
perceived as the current culture, and that the current culture may be
pretty fucked up in itself.

So I have started to consider "moral heuristics".  A google search turned
up this paper - http://csweb.cs.bgsu.edu/maner/heuristics/maner.pdf -
which is interesting, but doesn't seem to get much beyond relating the
decision to the wider community.  That doesn't help with the problem
above.

One heuristic from my own experience: question power/authority.

Andrew

Good Paper Against Heuristics

From: "andrew cooke" <andrew@...>

Date: Sat, 19 Jul 2008 15:22:24 -0400 (CLT)

This is a very good paper - http://www.caseplace.org/d.asp?d=1275 - in the
sense that it demolishes several "bad" heuristics.  It doesn't address,
however, what to do in cases where you need heuristics.  Perhaps the
author doesn't think such cases exist?

Andrew

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