“I know that X is possible, therefore we should do it.”
“I’ve talked to legal and they said X is legal, so we can proceed.”
“Other people are doing X already, so we should.”
“They are poor and vulnerable and therefore they don’t know enough and can’t make the decision, so we should just make it for them.”
These statements are said to me daily, sometimes verbatim, sometimes using slightly different words. When it comes to technology, most things are possible, many things are legal, and many others are already doing them. However, this is a different than ‘should we?’
‘Should’ in this case has an ethical angle to it. Is it the right course of action? Is X in line with our values? Many things are possible, even legal, but would not be consider ethical. And often with technological advances, the law and societal thought is slower to develop than the tech itself. Not because law and ethics are not ‘smart enough’ but rather because they are more complex.
And the last statement is sometimes said out of expediency, but also conveys values and worldview. It is dismissive and some might say patriarchal or colonial. Sometimes it appears to be said out of fear. Fear that the vulnerable will make a different choice than we would or we want them to. Or a different choice than we think is right. And that often is the crux, what we think it right. But maybe it is not about right and wrong, maybe it is just different. And maybe, just maybe, it is about empathy, about seeing the world from their perspective, not forcing our perspective on the other.
Fundamentally all statements are about choice and responsibility. The first three communicate we don’t have a choice or responsibility because others have decided for us. And the last one takes choice away from others.
However, we can choose and we do have responsibility. And following the others because everyone else is doing it, is a choice in and of itself.
So the choice is still up to us.