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Four Ethics Links: June 14, 2010

Four ethics links is a review of recent stories in applied ethics. This week: Privacy for Animals, Ethics for Extraterrestrials, iPhone Obsession, and Stolen DNA.

1. Do animals need privacy?

Brett Mills at the University of East Anglia suggests that the ethics of the media and privacy should be extended beyond humans to the animal world. He says it might be acceptable to film “public events” such as animals hunting – but questions more intrusive recording. For humans, he says, it is assumed that documentary makers would need consent to go into people’s private lives, but no such boundary exists for wildlife filmmakers.

Albrecht Dürer: Young Hare
Albrecht Dürer, Young Hare

2. Ethics for Extraterrestrials

Check out these interesting ruminations by Robert Wright (who also talks about Stephen Hawking and Peter Singer’s views) about whether potential alien visitors would feel any moral duties toward us. Wright concedes — nicely — at the outset that “there are differences between us and any given race of space aliens. We alone (to take just one example) have used advanced technology to make a TV show called Jersey Shore.”

3. Hello new iPhone, goodbye ethics!

On March 18, an Apple employee (now, quite possibly, an ex-employee) named Gray Powell, accidentally left a prototype of the next version of the iPhone in a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif., while celebrating his birthday. … The phone was found by Brian Hogan, who…wound up “giving” the device to Jason Chen, an editor at the technology blog Gizmodo….in exchange for $5,000…

Shortly after the Gizmodo publication, Chen’s home was visited by the police …[who] broke down his front door. As they searched his home, Chen returned in time to get frisked for weapons, be ordered about, and watch as the police confiscated his computers.

Crazy. Read all about it here.

4. Where’d You Go with my DNA?

Finally, an interesting Times article notes that “troubling questions…have surfaced recently among a range of research subjects who have learned that their genetic material is being used in ways they weren’t consulted about, scientists are debating how to better apply the principle of ‘informed consent’ to large-scale genetic research. At stake, they say, is the success of such research, which relies on voluntary participation by increasingly large numbers of human subjects.

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PaulJun 14, 2010

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