Ethics and morality as delimitable concepts form the guard rails for our shaping of the future. An action is seen as morally correct if it is regarded by all as correct or just. It must now be defined who “all” are. A different evaluation by different cultural circles of “future topics” leads to different standards of values and thus to accelerated or slowing trends in the introduction of “future topics”.
How do morality and ethics differ?
Ethics and morality as delimitable concepts form the guard rails for our shaping of the future. First a differentiation between the two terms is necessary before we consider how these guard rails apply to the respective context and thus directly influence our future.
Ethics is derived from the Greek word ēthos . Translated, this means character or sense. Morality comes from Latin and means translated custom. Ethics is therefore the higher authority and illuminates various morals and considers them from a philosophical point of view. Morality is the practical application of ethics. Morality is the practising or practical ethics.
What is ethically correct now?
An action is regarded as morally correct if it is regarded by all as correct or fair. Now it has to be defined who “all” are. In the context of globalisation and the ever closer intermeshing of cultures and economies, this is not so easy. In our European culture, ethical values are determined by questions like:
- Is that natural?
- Is that normal?
- Is it human?
In other regions, such as the Silicon Valley or often in Asia, demand is high:
- Is that causing damage?
- Is that useful?
- Does it have a side effect?
This diversity is already empirically underpinned at Hofstede with the cultural dimension “uncertainty avoidance”, as explained in my article International Project Portfolio Management, taking cultural differences into account. Germany has a value of 65 for uncertainty avoidance, in contrast to China with 40 and the USA with 46, for example. The other two cultural groups are therefore rated as much more daring in comparison to Germany.
Ethical diversity and inhomogeneity of cultural groups
As written in my article “Project manager in 2030” over a year ago there will be “in 500 weeks … robots support the care of old people.” Is this natural, normal or even human? The majority of Europeans will say no.
In the USA or Asia, the illumination of this aspect on harm, benefit and side effect will be a very different answer to the ethical question. For through these communities will be put forward: The shortage of caregivers will become more and more apparent and then the benefit of a robot in elderly care will certainly be greater than potential damage. On the contrary, it will be argued that damage will be avoided because the elderly to be cared for do not “lie down” in bed due to the amount of lying down and the constant need to change beds. Does it have any negative side effects? Certainly not, because instead of the staff doing lifting and cleaning, the staff will be able to take care of communication and personal care. Depending on the cultural context, these ethical considerations may differ. The consideration of the thesis from the same article “In 500 weeks we will eat meat bred in laboratories” can be illuminated analogously and the same discrepancy of the approach will be found.
In addition to diversity, the inhomogeneity of cultural circles must also be noted. Within each culture there will be adherents of both forms, which is now ethical. On the one hand followers with the focus on testing for naturalness and humanity vs. followers who rather focus on damage and benefit evaluations.
Effects on the development of future trends
This fundamentally different evaluation of “future topics” leads to different standards of values and thus to accelerated or slowing trends in the introduction of “future topics”. Therefore, will we in Europe lag behind in the new trends and will be other regions be a pulse generator?
I think it depends a lot on the topics. In the field of “immortality”, i.e. DNA replications and changes in the first steps, Asian research laboratories and companies are already a long way ahead in concrete research into immortality. In the field of autonomous driving, there is likely to be a certain dominance in the scientific field in Europe, but this has already neutralised itself in the commercial field. In the blockchain sector, Germany has fortunately established a good basis of start-ups that are internationally competitive.
Do future trends need new regulations?
Now the question arises whether regulations are already necessary for these trends. These are established for topics such as social media (already established commodity products such as Facebook). On the subject of autonomous driving, there are worldwide prototypes of regulations that are used as limited regulations and have been temporarily established by politics on an experimental basis. Here, German policymakers must succeed in adapting these in good time in order not to slow down these new trends in our region in comparison to other regions. Here, key industries such as the German automotive industry are hanging by a thread and could fall behind due to a lame legislation. For it will not be decisive who has completed the first and best autonomous journeys in realistic environments on which test site, but who can and has demonstrated this to the masses. It is already the case today that autonomous systems can drive safer than any human driver (in most environments). The only future trend area I know for which even the world’s greatest visionaries want clear regulations is the field of artificial intelligence. Here, limitations should be set early on so that man, as then the second most intelligent creature after AI, does not become a servant of AI. Fears in this area are not completely unfounded but extremely complex to regulate. Exciting times.