What are these tests practical question that has ethical implications can it be done Harm Beneficence Does it do less harm and more good than the alternatives This test is about the alternatives for all stakeholders Publicity Would I want this choice published in the newspaper This test is about what the decision would show about your character Reversibility Would I think this a good choice if I were among those affected by it
Harm/Beneficence Test terms of the benefit to harm ratio they are likely to produce We attempt to maximize this ratio Steps in Applying the Harm Beneficence Test Identify those who will be affected by your action Identify the impact your action will have on these people Determine whether this impact is harmful Does it produce physical or mental suffering impose financial or non financial costs deprive others of important or essential goods or beneficial does it increase safety quality of life health security etc Repeat these steps for the best available alternatives and compare them in terms of the benefit to harm ratio they produce Conclude by answering this question Which alternative produces the best ratio of benefit to harm Problems with the Harm Test Problem Students may be tempted to either stop too soon or go too far in their drawing out the consequences of an action Too much enquiry will produce a paralysis of analysis for the student and discourage him or her Too little may be an issue of a lack of moral imagination lack of motivation or a desire to support a predetermined decision Solution One approach is to emphasize the reasonable person standard or perhaps reasonable computer
Publicity Test about the character of the person Thus in this test the action is judged in terms of what it says about the person rather than on any effects that action may have Steps in Applying the Publicity Test Consider that the action you are about to perform provides a window through which others can see who you really are Then take the perspective of those others who are about to judge your character through your action Ask the following question Would others view you as a good person for what you are about to do Variation Consider the following list of virtues Responsibility Honesty Articulateness Perseverance Loyalty Cooperativeness Creative Imagination Habit of documenting work Civic Mindedness Courage Openness to Correction Commitment to Quality and Integrity Does your action manifest any of these Does it manifest the opposite i e vices such as cowardliness dishonesty etc Problems with the Publicity test Problem Many students reduce the publicity test to the harm test by considering only the consequences of making the action public For example blowing the whistle on your company for illegal dumping of toxic wastes would fail the publicity test under this misconception because the consequences of making this dumping public would be the loss of your job and the adverse publicity suffered by your company Remedy Any utilitarian calculation would include weighing the risk to your job and your company s image against the benefits brought to the public by revealing to them the illegal dumping But this is the job of the harm principle not the publicity principle The issue here is what your action reveals about you the agent What would people think about you if you passively went along with this illegal dumping Would they consider you a coward What would people think about you if
Reversibility Test Examples of rights Free and informed consent privacy freedom of conscience due process property freedom of expression Would I recommend that this action become a universal rule Am I treating others in this situation only as a means to my own ends one is allowed to treat others as means as in a business transaction but not only as means Problems with the Reversibility Test Problem Many students misapply the reversibility test in situations where they are being asked to comply with a morally questionable proposal Take the case of the supervisor ordering you to dump a drum of toxic chemicals in the field behind the plant A group of students might claim that this would fail the reversibility test because it upsets the supervisor if you changed places with her you would be upset when she refused to carry out your order Remedy There are several responses to this First would she really be upset that a subordinate refused to carry out an order that was illegal Second the issue in the reversibility test is not whether your action may upset someone but whether it treats those who will be affected by your action with respect Refusing to carry out your supervisor s illegal order is consistent with treating her with respect if in your refusal you make it clear that the grounds of your refusal is not your lack of respect but your concern about the illegality of the order in other words you are not objecting to the person but to the order Third an action may not be reversible with all stakeholders especially if stakeholder interests conflict with one another In this situation you must work to honor all the conflicting interests If this should prove impossible then you must honor those that have the highest
Code of Ethics Test code that are relevant to the case at hand Answer the following question Does your proposed course of action violate any of these provisions Check for any inconsistencies i e instances where an alternative satisfies some code provision but not others If there are inconsistencies look for priority rules Example many codes hold public health safety and welfare paramount Hint most codes can be divided into sections organized around relations between professionals and stakeholders of that profession Four key groups are public client peers and profession Be sure to check code requirements from the point of view of these stakeholder groups Problems with the Code of Ethics Test Problem The code says nothing specific about the particular set of actions you are considering Solution This is more a characteristic of codes of ethics than a problem in their application Codes are not about the answers to specific situations but more about principles that are valued by the profession Students will require some moral imagination to connect the principles to specific situations and even ethicists with lots of moral imagination may not find much in a code that applies specifically Encourage students to take the stakeholder approach listed in the hint
The feasibility test brings in a series of practical constraints by asking whether the selected alternative can be implemented given time, financial, legal, personal, and social constraints. By focusing the decision-maker on these constraints, the feasibility test helps to integrate ethical considerations with other aspects of a decision.
This integration of the ethical and the social is a central point of the ImpactCS approach to computer ethics. It is also an important issue for whether or not we can hold a person responsible for an action. The more an action is infeasible, the less one may have an obligation to do it. There are hard cases where this is not true (where, for instance, one may be require to try to do something, knowing it may fail).
Steps in Applying the Feasibility Test
Consider each of the following practical constraints that might bear on the proposed action:
Time: Is there a deadline within which your solution has to be enacted? Is this deadline fixed or is it negotiable?
Financial: Are there cost constraints on your solution? Are these fixed or are they negotiable?
Legal: Does your proposed alternative violate any laws or regulations? Are the legal constraints in line with the results of your ethical evaluation? If not, what can you do to align them?
Personal: Do the personalities of the people involved offer any constraints? For example, would your supervisor be open to persuasion, negotiation, or compromise? Or is he or she a dogmatic, close-minded, and inflexible person?
Social, Cultural, or Political: Consider where your solution is being implemented. How would its impact be viewed through the social, cultural, and political milieu in which it is being enacted? Think of these issues using the several levels of analysis in the ImpactCs framework.
Problems with the Feasibility Test
Problem: Students think that the legal requirements trump ethical ones.
Solution: Often, student fall into this trap because of a lack of moral imagination. That is, they see the legal rule and simply say "Well, there's your answer." This may be used when wanting to follow a course of action that is shady in ethical terms, but "perfectly legal." This is done as a way of ending the search rather than beginning it. There are two things you can try in this case. First, emphasize the other tests and what they say, independent of the legal test. These tests are way to determine if a law is unjust. Second, ask students if they can think of an instance where a legal rule was clearly morally wrong (e.g. slavery in the US). hard cases where this is not true where for instance one may be require to try to do something knowing it may fail Steps in Applying the Feasibility Test Consider each of the following practical constraints that might bear on the proposed action Time Is there a deadline within which your solution has to be enacted Is this deadline fixed or is it negotiable Financial Are there cost constraints on your solution Are these fixed or are they negotiable Legal Does your proposed alternative violate any laws or regulations Are the legal constraints in line with the results of your ethical evaluation If not what can you do to align them Personal Do the personalities of the people involved offer any constraints For example would your supervisor be open to persuasion negotiation or compromise Or is he or she a dogmatic close minded and inflexible person Social Cultural or Political Consider where your solution is being implemented How would its impact be viewed through the social cultural and political milieu in which it is being enacted Think of these issues using the several levels of analysis in the ImpactCs framework Problems with the Feasibility Test Problem Students think that the
Some general practical problems with the tests accounts of the same phenomena As a result they will employ only one ethical test usually the harm test reasoning that it is best suited to the situation and then assume that a different test would lead to a different even contradictory conclusion Remedy Ethical approaches are more like different perspectives on a multi dimensional object than mutually exclusive accounts of the same phenomena Instead of contradicting one another they complement each other each compensates for the limitations of the others An analogy will help here When we go to buy a house and the view from the outside perspective is different from the view from the inside perspective we don t conclude that one view contradicts the other rather we seek to synthesize the two different partial views into a complete and comprehensive view of the whole house It is the same when we turn to ethical approaches Each approach offers a view of a different aspect of the action reversibility focuses on the internal dimension of the action the formal characteristics of consistency reversibility and universality harm on the outer dimension its consequences or results and publicity on the agent the action provides a window into the agent
How can these ethics tests be used the following scenario Your supervisor asks you to dump a drum full of toxic chemicals out in the field behind the plant Should you do it refuse to do it refuse to do it and turn your supervisor in to the local authorities or resign and get a new job The ethics tests provide us with standards we can use to evaluate these alternatives For example doing as your supervisor asks could 1 harm the environment and the health of people who live near the plant 2 violate the reversibility test since it ignores their rights especially if done secretly and without their consent and 3 be viewed as cowardly by others were it to be publicly displayed The ethics tests also play a fundamental constitutive role in constructing solutions to ethical problems that arise in the real world For example in the above scenario you would envision a solution that minimizes harm is reversible with all stakeholders and preserves your integrity With this in mind you could inform your supervisor that dumping these chemicals is illegal and could be readily traced back to the company Then you could provide concrete suggestions for redesigning the manufacturing process so that it