Friday, September 20, 2013

Nine philosophical thought experiments that will keep you up at night

Canadian futurist, science writer, and ethicist, George Dvorsky has written and spoken extensively about the impacts of cutting-edge science and technology—particularly as they pertain to the improvement of human performance and experience. He is a contributing editor at io9, the Chairman of the Board at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and is the program director for the Rights of Non-Human Persons program.

At io9 Dvorsky tagged 9 philosophical thought experiments that will keep you up at night, including:
Original Position

This thought experiment is why I’m a complete fanboy of John Rawls. He asks us to imagine ourselves in a situation in which we know nothing of our true lives — we are behind a “veil of ignorance” that prevents us from knowing the political system under which we live or the laws that are in place. Nor do we know anything about psychology, economics, biology, and other sciences. But along with a group of similarly situation-blind people, we are asked, in this original position, to review a comprehensive list of classic forms of justice drawn from various traditions of social and political philosophy. We are then given the task of selecting which system of justice we feel would best suit our needs in the absence of any information about our true selves and the situation we may actually be in in the real world.

So, for example, what if you came back to “real life” to find out that you live in a shanty town in India? Or a middle class neighborhood in Norway? What if you’re a developmentally disabled person? A millionaire? (Or as I proposed in my paper, “All Together Now,” a different species?)

According to Rawls, we would likely end up picking something that guarantees equal basic rights and liberties to secure our interests as free and equal citizens, and to pursue a wide range of conceptions for the good. He also speculated that we’d likely choose a system that ensures fair educational and employment opportunities.
Read about the other entries on Dvorsky's list.

--Marshal Zeringue