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Responsible Dissent. Problem-Solving Compromise Modes of Responsible Dissent Whistle Blowing: Costs and Considerations. A Taxonomy of Ethical Problems. Reconciliation of Conflicting Values Moral vs. moral by first seeking to integrate conflicting values and then by compromising

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responsible dissent

Responsible Dissent



Modes of Responsible Dissent

Whistle Blowing: Costs and Considerations

a taxonomy of ethical problems
A Taxonomy of Ethical Problems
  • Reconciliation of Conflicting Values
    • Moral vs. moral by first seeking to integrate conflicting values and then by compromising
    • Moral vs. non-moral
  • Resolving Disagreements
    • Factual by uncovering facts
    • Conceptual by comprehensively defining concepts or by reframing
  • Value Maintenance and Value Promotion
    • Prevention: uncovering embedded ethical problems and developing counter measures upstream in the design process
    • Opportunities for Value Realization: uncovering opportunities to use professional skills and knowledge to realize community values
  • Test-Driven
    • Reversibility: respect is at stake
    • Harm/beneficence: not causing or preventing harms and promoting/realizing value)
    • Publicity: Professional or Personal Integrity is an issue
  • Implementation Issues
    • Time, technical, and fiscal constraints impede implementation of ethical solution
first characteristic of ethical solutions
First characteristic of ethical solutions
  • 1. Ethical solutions maintain, realize, concretize, or embody value in the real world
    • Ethical problem-solvers are adept at finding situations where they can use their skills and knowledge to bring value into the world
second characteristic of ethical solutions
Second characteristic of ethical solutions
  • 2. Ethical problem solvers start by working toward creative middle way solutions that reconcile or integrate conflicting value
    • They turn to compromises or trade offs only as a last resort
    • They optimize ethical value through integration
third characteristic of ethical solutions
Third characteristic of ethical solutions
  • 3. Ethical solutions must also satisfy feasibility conditions
    • Ethical solutions must satisfy time constraints, be technically feasible, satisfy cost limitations, conform to legal requirements, and be realizable within certain organizational and social contexts
    • These feasibility constraints are often flexible
      • Time limits can be extended through negotiation, cost limits met by designing cost saving measures or renegotiating these, technical feasibility expanded through innovation
    • Reframing helps to see options for extending feasibility limits
fourth characteristic of ethical solutions
Fourth characteristic of ethical solutions
  • 4. Ethical solutions are created, not found
    • Ethical problems are open ended
      • There are no uniquely right answers
      • But there are answers that are clearly wrong
      • The right answers satisfy the ethics tests and meet feasibility requirements
    • Imagination plays a fundamental role in by…
      • picking out relevant facts
      • achieving a reflective critical distance
      • making possible a reflective sympathy with other agents
      • uncovering/designing non-obvious solutions
fifth characteristic of ethical solutions
Fifth characteristic of ethical solutions
  • 5. Ethical problem-solving involves an experimental phase in which we test the proposed solutions to problems
    • Imagination helps us to create possible worlds
    • These worlds serve as fields in which we test solutions by
      • imagining their consequences,
      • imagining the process of implementation and
      • envisioning the obstacles that might arise
    • Ethical and feasibility criteria provide the standards of this imaginative test
sixth characteristic of ethical solutions
Sixth characteristic of ethical solutions
  • 6. Stakeholder participation is “built into” an ethical solution upstream in the formation process
    • Various design methodologies exist in computing to facilitate building stakeholder input:
      • Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CACW), Participatory Design, the ETHICS Method, the Software Development Impact Statement (SoSIS), Value Sensitive Design, and Social Impact Statements
    • The right at stake here (that ethical solutions honor) is free and informed consent
ethical dissent

Ethical Dissent

Before Blowing the Whistle

the decision to blow the whistle
The Decision to Blow the Whistle
  • Whistle blowing is often treated as the only way to deal with ethical disputes with management.
  • There are other options
  • Whistle blowing always produces harm.
  • The moral question is whether the harms of whistle blowing are compensated for by the harms that it is designed to prevent
strategies for responsible dissent
Strategies for Responsible Dissent
  • Gather more information
  • Nolo Contendere
  • Oppose diplomatically
  • Oppose confrontationally
  • Distance yourself
  • Resign
strategies for responsible dissent1
Strategies for Responsible Dissent
  • Gather more information
    • Frame your arguments in terms other parties can comprehend
  • NoloContendere
    • Live to fight another day
  • Negotiate
    • Oppose the organizational decision diplomatically and work toward a resolution based on rational persuasion
    • Integrate conflicting interests, compromise on conflicting interests and trade off interests. (Trade off a non-basic interest to preserve a more fundamental interest in a future transaction)
strategies for responsible dissent2
Strategies for Responsible Dissent
  • Oppose diplomatically
    • Remain open to rational persuasion from other parties
    • Use rational persuasion to negotiate with other parties
    • Focus on interests and their constituent values
      • Integrate conflicting interests and values
      • Compromise or partially integrate
      • Trade off conflicting values (One party concedes an interest now to gain an interest in a future transaction)
strategies for responsible dissent3
Strategies for Responsible Dissent
  • Oppose confrontationally
    • Should persuasive measures fall short, try opposing the questionable behavior or policy with more confrontational and forceful measures
    • Lead an organizational charge
    • Begin the whistle blowing process
  • Distance yourself
    • State your dissenting view or opinion, document it, but decline to oppose further the questionable behavior or practice should your supervisor and employer prove unresponsive
  • Resign
    • To avoid being implicated in an immoral action you cannot prevent, exit from the situation
oppose diplomatically ieee recommendations
Oppose Diplomatically: IEEE Recommendations
  • Establish a clear technical foundation
  • Keep your arguments on a high professional plane, as impersonal and objective as possible, avoiding extraneous issues and emotional outbursts
  • Try to catch problems early, and keep the argument at the lowest managerial level possible
ieee recommendations continued
IEEE Recommendations Continued
  • Before going out on a limb, make sure that the issue is sufficiently important
  • Use (and help establish) organizational dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • Keep records and collect paper
in carrying out dissent
In carrying out dissent…
  • Make sure of your motivation
  • Count your costs
  • Obtain all the necessary background materials and evidence
  • Organize to protect your own interests
  • Choose the right avenue for your disclosure
  • Make disclosure in the right spirit
motivations good and bad
Motivations Good and Bad
  • Bad
    • To show someone that you will not be ignored
    • To punish someone for their behavior toward you
  • Good
    • To maintain your personal integrity
    • To save your organization’s reputation or finances
    • To reduce threats to public safety and health



Preserving Integrity

moral compromise
Moral Compromise
  • Benjamin: “In what I will call the standard case, an outcome characterized as a compromise is reached as a result of the contending parties’ participating in a procedure, also called a compromise.”
  • Dictionary: “a settlement of differences by mutual concessions.”
  • Martin Benjamin, Splitting the Difference: Compromise and Integrity in Ethics and Politics, p. 5
compromise as outcome
Compromise as Outcome
  • A decision which “splits the difference” between the disputants
    • Each side gives in so that the result is not the first choice of either
compromise as process
Compromise as Process
  • The Process of Compromise involves…
    • Rational persuasion
    • Mutual trust
    • Reciprocal Concession
  • This Process excludes…
    • Force
    • Threat
    • Intimidation
circumstances of compromise
Circumstances of Compromise
  • A checklist of features that strengthen the argument for compromise in the context of a given disagreement.
  • Circumstances:
    • Factual uncertainty
    • Moral complexity
    • Continuing cooperative relationship
    • Decision cannot be deferred
    • Scarcity of resources
compromise and problem taxonomy
Compromise and Problem Taxonomy
  • Compromise may be necessary in situations that involve
    • Factual disagreements
    • Conceptual disagreements
    • Conflicts
      • Conflicts between moral values
        • Property rights and equal access
      • Conflicts between moral values and important non-moral values
        • Safety and technical feasibility
compromises and problem taxonomy
Compromises and Problem Taxonomy
  • Compromises on factual disagreements
    • Splitting the difference on distributing the risks involved with uncertainty
  • Compromises on conceptual disagreements
    • Stipulating a conceptual agreement or deciding on a course of action while putting conceptual disagreement in abeyance
  • Compromises on conflicts
    • Splitting the differences (if the conflicting values are quantifiable)
    • Taking turns on making concessions
    • Putting conflict in abeyance and agreeing on a course of action
circumstances of compromise2
Circumstances of Compromise
  • Factual Uncertainty
    • “factual information that would significantly strengthen one or the other side in a moral disagreement will often be unavailable or unattainable.” Benjamin, 26
    • Chapter 10: Areas where factual disagreements are difficult to resolve:
      • Historical facts (conflicting testimony from witnesses)
      • Scientific Facts (uncertainties that can’t be eliminated such as those in risk assessment)
      • Limitations collecting facts imposed by time and money
    • Compromise strategy: Design around uncertainty and distribute the burden created by the uncertainty equally
      • Example: Regulating chemical where risk assessment has a margin of error
      • Does the margin of error count for or against regulation?
circumstances of compromise3
Circumstances of Compromise
  • Moral complexity
    • Benjamin (29): “Like factual uncertainty, moral complexity is one of the features of the human condition that contribute to the circumstances of compromise.”
    • Benjamin quotes Rawls (29): “Diversity naturally arises from our limited powers and distinct perspectives; it is unrealistic to suppose that all our differences are rooted in ignorance and perversity, or else in the rivalries that result from scarcity….Deep and unresolvable differences on matters of fundamental significance…[must be acknowledged] as a permanent condition of human life.”
more on moral complexity
More on moral complexity…
  • Situations where moral values come into conflict.
    • (Example: the debate between a browser that promotes access and at the same time provides the user with privacy)
    • (Example: in abortion, the debate between pro life and pro choice)
  • Compromise strategy: devise a solution that postpones resolution of the moral conflict
    • Solution exacts equal concessions from both sides
    • Example: allow abortion in some cases but disallow in others
    • Example: sacrifice some privacy to promote access; sacrifice some access to protect privacy
circumstances of compromise4
Circumstances of Compromise
  • Continuing cooperative relationship
    • Benjamin (30-31): “Thus a resolution to a moral problem that can maximally accommodate differing viewpoints and maintain mutual respect is, from the standpoint of overall team effectiveness, highly desirable.”
    • Benjamin (31): “The desirability of preserving continuing, cooperative relationships among members of a family or citizens of a nation—or, for that matter, among nations in a world bristling with nuclear arms—also counts as a circumstance of compromise.”
more on continuing cooperative relationship
More on continuing cooperative relationship
  • More than just a one-time interaction
  • Failure to agree on course of action could cascade into future interactions
  • Compromise strategy: One side compromises this time with understanding that other side will give way the next time
  • Compromise strategy: each side makes an equal concession to preserve future relationships and interactions
circumstances of compromise5
Circumstances of Compromise
  • Decision Cannot be Deferred
    • Postponing the decision would favor one of the disputants
    • Feasibility constraints (time, money, technical) conspire to force a decision on a course of action
      • Example: Time, money and technical constraints require that software testing be halted and the system installed
    • Compromise strategy:
      • Pursue a course of action for a trial period and then assess results
circumstances of compromise6
Circumstances of Compromise
  • Scarcity of Resources
    • Benjamin (32): “We often lack the time, money, energy, and other human and natural resources to satisfy everyone’s rights or interests, let alone their wants and desires. And when rights or interests conflict because of scarcity, compromise may seem to be both necessary and appropriate.”
    • Example Problem: There are not enough computer technicians to maintain the equipment in a university computer lab
    • Compromise strategy: If the resources are quantifiable, then they can be divided equally. Or allocation can be based on need or merit.
    • Example Solution: The time of the computer technician can be divided equally between the competing needs.
personal integrity forms the limit to compromise
Personal integrity forms the limit to compromise
  • An individual should not be forced to compromise a fundamental moral principle
    • Unless it conflicts with another fundamental moral principle
    • Attempts to integrate the conflicting moral values have been exhausted (or time has run out)
    • The compromise is reciprocated by the other side (The other side recognizes the importance of the moral value being compromised and reciprocally compromises his or her fundamental moral value)
whistle blowing

Whistle Blowing

Its costs

What it requires

When it is permissible

When it is obligatory

bottom line
Bottom Line
  • Whistle Blowing is costly
    • To the whistle blower
    • To the target
  • Whistle Blowing is risky
    • It doesn’t always achieve its objective
  • Whistle blowing must be treated as a last resort
when is whistle blowing morally permissible
When is Whistle Blowing Morally Permissible?
  • When there is the risk of a “serious and considerable harm”
  • When you have notified your immediate supervisor
  • When your supervisor has not responded and you have raised the matter before three additional internal levels
whistle blowing is permissible when

Whistle blowing is permissible when…

you have done everything possible to minimize the harm of whistle blowing and the harm you are trying to prevent is greater

when is whistle blowing an obligation
When is Whistle Blowing an Obligation?
  • In addition to the three conditions just mentioned, you have…
  • documented evidence that would convince an impartial bystander and…
  • there is a reasonable chance that blowing the whistle will prevent the serious and considerable harm
here whistle blowing becomes an obligation because

Here whistle blowing becomes an obligation because…

you have worked to minimize its harm and it appears the best option for preventing another harm