The Power of Ethics | Susan Liautaud

Summary of: The Power of Ethics: How to Make Good Choices in a Complicated World
By: Susan Liautaud


In the increasingly complex world of technological advancements, ethical decision-making has become a challenging task. ‘The Power of Ethics’, by Susan Liautaud, sheds light on the need to navigate this complicated landscape with a thoughtful approach. The book introduces six forces that impact ethical choices, such as banishing the binary, diffused power, contagion, failing bulwarks, blurry borders, and lies. Through practical examples, Liautaud demonstrates the importance of principles, information, stakeholders, and consequences when making informed decisions. You can anticipate gaining valuable insights into confronting ethical challenges and understanding their relevance in today’s fast-paced world.

Navigating Ethical Decision-Making on the Edge

With global technology driving unprecedented change, ethical decision-making has become crucial. The need for ethical considerations go beyond day-to-day social media conflicts and extend to existential issues like climate change. However, many face decision-making beyond the boundaries of legally guided actions. Understanding the reasons behind ethical failures is a necessity to prevent the same mistakes in the future. Ethics offers a constructive approach to problem-solving and can guide choices that range from social media posts to political elections. Six forces affect ethical decision-making on the edge, including the need to banish binary choices, the difficulty in identifying power dynamics, the spread of unethical behavior, the crumbling foundational pillars of ethics, blurry borders of human boundaries in the technological age, and the importance of truth in ethical decision-making.

Ethical Decision-Making

When faced with an ethical dilemma, follow a framework that includes principles such as honesty, integrity, kindness, compassion, and loyalty. Obtain all necessary information by asking questions, listening, and observing, especially with the technological advancements of today. Identify stakeholders and the potential impacts on them, whether positive or negative, and consider the short, medium, and long-term consequences of your actions. By utilizing this framework, you can make ethical decisions that will benefit everyone involved.

Airbnb’s Ethical Dilemma

Airbnb’s business model, which allows property owners to decide who can stay in their homes, put the company on the ethical edge when stories emerged of hosts discriminating on the basis of race. While Airbnb’s founders did not anticipate this problem, they missed an opportunity to prevent it by not making their principles about discrimination clear or researching the hospitality industry’s recurring problem with racism. The founders neglected their stakeholders by failing to understand that the lack of knowledge and principles leads to bad consequences. However, the company effectively listened and corrected its mistake by changing its principles, offering training programs, and requiring hosts to sign a Community Commitment form. By embracing nuance, accepting responsibility, and re-establishing trust, Airbnb showed that oversimplifying ethical dilemmas can result in missed opportunities and risks. Regulation generally lags behind innovation, so innovators must live through their creations to assess their risks and opportunities effectively.

The Ethics of Scattered Technological Power

In the current technological landscape, power is not just in the hands of heads of state and CEOs, but also scattered among individuals lacking ethical preparedness. This diffuse technological power often leads to unexpected consequences due to a lack of governance or center of control. With the emergence of new technologies like gene-editing and 3D printing, ethical concerns are more pressing than ever. Tech companies often exploit the relative lawlessness for profit. The law must keep up with scattered power to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Contagious Behavior

Social media and modern technology have made behavior more contagious than ever. Two types of forces amplify this contagion: classic and edgy. The latter includes driverless cars, social media, gene editing, and robots. But stopping unethical behavior fueled by these forces isn’t practical or possible. Applying the ethics framework reveals that a crucial gap exists: information. Doctors prescribing opioids for routine pain procedures contributed to the opioid epidemic’s contagion, mutation, and spread due to weak regulations and weak compliance. Once educated, dentists stopped automatically prescribing opioids. Behavior is contagious, ethical or not.

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