Juan Enriquez on the difficult ethical challenges during accelerating technological change

Morale and ethics are important to us. It is what glues societies together. But what happens when technologies transform the logical framing underpinning our ethical rules – of what we believe is right or wrong? Juan Enriquez is in this video talking about an extremely important issue,  the challenges of future ethics in times of continuous technological change.

Technology changes the underlying logic of ethics

Up until the innovation of the contraceptive, sex was directly connected to the conception of children. It is not strange that all known human cultures have developed strong ethical rules around sex. Today millions of children all over the world are even conceived without traditional sex, something earlier generations considered miracles. With the ongoing innovation of artificial wombs, we might even see a possible conceptual disconnection between children and sex altogether.

This development is on its way of changing the underlying logic of how we humans relate to sex – and quite possibly what we believe is right or wrong as well. 

Today eating steak is connected to cruel industrial management and slaughter of animals. Before the innovation of lab-grown meat that is. We are already seeing rapid development of lab-grown meat where no animals need to suffer in order to provide you with a juicy hamburger. When grown meat will be available for larger groups this will definitely have an impact on the ethical discussion around eating meat.

In a world, with exponential technological development, the ethics conversation is forced to be an ever-changing process. Truths which are a part of a core ethical foundation for one age group will be discussed against a dramatically different conceptual backdrop – read reality – by those who are younger. Neighbor regions featuring different cultural background, economic development, and technical possibilities will see the world differently. 

This is already causing a lot of confusion. And it will increasingly do so because we live in a time of accelerating technological change that doesn’t seem to stop any time soon.   

Transition implies increased polarization and tone levels

A known historical fact is that in periods of technological and social transition the levels of conflict rise. The reason seems to be that we all feel an unconscious urge to defend our existence in what we feel is an increasingly chaotic and ambiguous world. As a result, we all rise to the challenge of setting it right again. With gradually increasing voice levels.

And that wouldn’t be a problem if there was a broader consensus on what is right and what is wrong. The problem is that in times of transition right doesn’t stand against wrong. Right stands against right because what is right depends on which perspective, of all the different contradictory perspectives in our current kaleidoscopic reality, that underpins your line of reasoning. 

Enriquez’s advice is very clear: tread carefully, open up your mind to new possibilities and turn down the volume of your discussion!

Seeing this video is very well spent 36 minutes! Or if you don’t have the time, read this summary.