How Technology Transforms Our Ethics
A lively and entertaining guide to ethics in a technological age.
Most people have a strong sense of right and wrong, and they aren't shy about expressing their opinions. But when we take a polarizing stand on something we regard as an eternal truth, we often forget that ethics evolve over time. Many shifts in the right versus wrong pendulum are driven by advances in technology. Our great-grandparents might be shocked by in vitro fertilization; our great-grandchildren might be shocked by the messiness of pregnancy, childbirth, and unedited genes. In Right/Wrong, Juan Enriquez reflects on what happens to our ethics as technology makes the once unimaginable a commonplace occurrence.
Evolving technology changes ethics. Enriquez points out that, contrary to common wisdom, technology often enables more ethical behaviors. Technology challenges old beliefs and upends institutions that do not grow and change. With wit and compassion, Enriquez takes on a series of technology-influenced ethical dilemmas, from sexual liberation to climate change to the “immortality” of mistakes on social media. (“Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google are electronic tattoos.”) He cautions us to judge those who “should have known better,” given today's vantage point, with less fury and more compassion. We need a quality often absent in today's charged debates: humility. Judge those in the past as we hope to be judged in the future.
This book will make you uncomfortable and it will make you think. Enriquez challenges all of us to consider how our actions, decisions, and policies will be judged by future generations. And that judgment is not likely to be pretty unless we work through hard problems and make some big changes in a hurry.
John Palfrey, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Don't get caught on the wrong side of changing ethics and exponential technologies. Juan Enriquez potently leverages the past to predict the future or, better yet, to change it. From COVID-19 to CO2 this book is timely, yet timeless. Could this beautiful little book depolarize our politics? Could it turn rationalization into rational rationales? Convert static, dismissive myopia into comprehensive exohexahedralism? Let's do more than hope so; let's make it so.
George Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School; founding member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
With wit, insight, and masterful storytelling, Juan Enriquez challenges our certainty about what's right and wrong in an age of rapid biological innovation and technologies that give us the power to literally transform our species. This book shows us how inextricably linked our ethics are to our technologies and reminds us with empathy and humility that even ethics evolve.
Jane Metcalfe, Cofounder of Wired and Founder of NEO.LIFE
Juan Enriquez bravely asks ethical questions in the light of new technologies, thoughtfully examining topics that range from mass incarceration to artificial intelligence. Whether you agree with him or not, you will want to read what he has to say.
Danny Hillis, pioneer of parallel computing and artificial intelligence; Founder, Thinking Machines Corporation, and Cofounder, Applied Minds, and Applied Invention
Here's a revolutionary idea: technology is changing daily, and therefore so are our ethics. But isn't ethics a bit academic, even boring? Not if an exploration of its mashup with technology makes you question whether you understand the difference between right and wrong. Along the way on this extraordinary journey of discovery about everything from the former oceans on Venus to our present day culture wars, Enriquez will introduce you to at least a thousand new facts—and ideas—that will leave your head spinning. This is a joyride for the mind, and like a good roller coaster, it's delightfully scary.
Stephen Petranek, former editor of Discover, the Washington Post Magazine, This Old House Magazine, and Time
One of our nation's deepest thinkers about the long-term implications of technology on our society here provides a riveting case-book and compelling argument about how and why the passage of time changes all ethical considerations. How does it happen?Inexorable technological advances create new opportunities to make different, and better, ethical decisions, Enriquez argues. But this comes with a price: we face the overwhelming temptation to castigate our forebears for their unethical acts. This should humble us because this means our descendants will also be judging us, when their technology improves. Vivid, stimulating, and provocative.
Nicholas A. Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society
Enriquez turns what can be perceived as a dull subject into a witty and insightful piece of storytelling, challenging our perception of what we think is right and wrong.