21 November 2007

(Im)Morality Keeps Up With Technology.

I noted Jonah Goldberg's post re "necessity is the mother of invention and the father of immorality below. Today, Jim Manzi extends the thought, noting that the same dynamic can work in reverse:

On the other hand, many restrictions on behavior that once served to avoid obvious negative personal outcomes suddenly lose their moral force for many people once technology changes the balance of (apparent) costs and benefits. The introduction of The Pill, to take an obvious example, almost certainly had a much larger effect on female sexual mores than all the sweet talk and chocolates on earth. What was seen as immoral becomes seen as moral.

As advances in technology and wealth proceed at a faster pace, the rate at which these kinds of moral changes occur increases. Because those societies that have high rates of technical and economic advance tend to be open societies in which greater latitude in personal behavior is legally and socially acceptable, this effect is even more exaggerated in places like contemporary America. This leads many people to ask the obvious question: is anything really moral or immoral?

Not to be utilitarian, but that parenthetical "apparent" in the first paragraph quoted is vital.
Here's the whole thing.


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