1 / 89

Ethics in OR

Ethics in OR. November 2003 J. N. Hooker Carnegie Mellon University. Outline . Ethical theory Utilitarian, Kantian, Aristotelian, & cross-cultural Employment ethics Professional ethics What it is, OR/MS, teaching Intellectual property Legal and ethical aspects Your issues.

Download Presentation

Ethics in OR

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author. Content is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only. Download presentation by click this link. While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server. During download, if you can't get a presentation, the file might be deleted by the publisher.


Presentation Transcript

  1. Ethics in OR November 2003 J. N. Hooker Carnegie Mellon University

  2. Outline • Ethical theory • Utilitarian, Kantian, Aristotelian, & cross-cultural • Employment ethics • Professional ethics • What it is, OR/MS, teaching • Intellectual property • Legal and ethical aspects • Your issues

  3. Along the way… • Will examine some issues: • What is wrong with cheating on an exam? • Is it OK to break an employment contract to take a better job? • Should one teach to maximize ratings on course evaluations? • What is the ethical status of intellectual property? • Will look at some mathematical modeling of ethics.

  4. Ethical theory Utilitarian ethics Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  5. Origin of utilitarianism • Jeremy Bentham applied utilitarianism to criminal justice in Britain. • Punishment should maximize utility, not exact retribution. • What is utility? You decide. Just stick with your definition. • For example, deterrence and rehabilitation may be more effective than retribution. • The idea is to be consistent. • Utilitarianism is a formal conditional of rationality. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  6. Measuring utility • It is hard to measure pleasure, happiness, etc. • But one can have more or less of it. • When utilities cannot be compared, there is no obligation. • Utility functions can perhaps be calibrated with lotteries, etc. • Utilitarianism reduces ethics to single-criterion maximization. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  7. Policy Utilitarianism • Utilitarianism can impose counterintuitive obligations. • The inconvenience of my voting outweighs the infinitesimal benefit of one additional vote. • Utilitarianism therefore instructs me to stay home on election day. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  8. Policy utilitarianism • Utilitarianism is better conceived as dictating a utility-maximizing policy. • So utilitarianism applies to policy makers: corporate boards or officers, government officials, etc. • In the case of voting: • My voting will increase utility at the margin if the optimal set of people vote. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  9. Rule utilitarianism • Rule utilitarianism requires individuals to follow the optimal policy. • In a failed state where voting is meaningless and dangerous, rule utilitarianism requires me to vote. • Policy utilitarianism does not apply to individual decisions. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  10. Rule utilitarianism • Another problem... Optimal Persons asked to vote may be identical to some not required to vote. Totalutility Utility Socialutility Individualutility Required to vote Number voting Identical persons Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  11. Utilitarianism and distributive justice • Everyone has equal weight when summing utilities. • Yet utilitarianism can endorse unequal distributions if they maximize total utility. • Low minimum wage, high CEO salaries, etc. • Give lion’s share of resources to those who can best use it. • Talented, well-born, etc. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  12. Utilitarianism and distributive justice • Bentham’s response: principle of decreasing marginal utility implies some degree of equality. • Concentration of resources in a few people may result in less overall utility. • Check it out mathematically. Let • xi = resources allotted to person i. • cixip = utility created by allotment xi, where 0 ≤ p ≤ 1. • R = total resources available. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  13. Utilitarianism and distributive justice • p = 1 implies most talented person (largest ci) gets all the resources; p = 0 implies most egalitarian case. • The optimization problem is • Associate Lagrange multiplier  with constraint and obtain for each i Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  14. Utilitarianism and distributive justice • The optimal allocation of resources xi and fraction ui of utility is • As p → 0, allocation becomes proportional to ci. • So the most egalitarian distribution utilitarianism allows is to allot persons resources and utility in proportion to their abilities to generate utility. • Even if the optimal allocation is usually just, it seems unlikely that it is necessarily just. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  15. Utilitarianism and distributive justice(c1,…,c20) = (11,…,30) Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  16. Ethical theory Kantian ethics Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  17. Strengths of Kantian ethics • Applies to individual decisions. • Accounts for distributive justice. • Based only on a formal condition for rationality. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  18. Basic premises • One always acts for a reason (i.e., according to a maxim). • That is, one always acts to achieve some end. • If a reason justifies an action for me, it justifies the same action for anyone. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  19. Basic premises • I stay home from the polls because voting is inconvenient. • If this is sufficient reason for me, it is sufficient reason for anyone. • If not, perhaps it is because some people enjoy voting. • Then part of my reason is that I don’t enjoy voting. • My maxim is, “Let me stay home if voting is convenient and I don’t enjoy it.” Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  20. Generalization test • But my maxim is actually: Don’t vote if • Voting is inconvenient. • I don’t enjoy it. • Others who find voting inconvenient and unenjoyable will vote anyway. • This cannot be the rationale for my action because it is inconsistent. • Sufficient reasons for me must be sufficient reasons for anyone. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  21. Generalization test • What is wrong with cheating on an exam? • My cheating presupposes that most people don’t cheat, even though they have the same reasons to cheat I have. • If they cheated, grades would have no meaning and cheating would be impossible. • My maxim is, “Let me cheat when it benefits me and when other people whom it benefits will not cheat.” • This is not a consistent rationale for cheating. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  22. Free rider principle • Free rider principle is a special case. • Nonvoter is a free rider on system supported by citizenship of others. • Cheater is a free rider on system supported by honesty of others. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  23. A rule of thumb • Avoid action that undermines a practice it presupposes. • Cheating, practiced generally, undermines the grading system it presupposes. • Letting others do the voting, practiced generally, undermines the voting behavior it presupposes. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  24. A rule of thumb • But don’t be misled: it is OK to fight crime, even though if everyone did this, it would undermine the crime it seems to presuppose. • One must look at the reasons for action. • The maxim might be, “Fight crime if crime exists.” • The existence of crime is a consistent rationale for fighting crime. • It does not presuppose that others will not fight crime if it exists. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  25. Improvement over rule utilitarianism • I don’t have to vote in a failed state in which nobody votes. • My maxim is, “Don’t vote if voting is futile.” • The futility of voting is a consistent rationale for not voting. • It is does not presuppose that others will vote even though voting is futile. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  26. Moral Agency • Why must actions have reasons? • Western worldview must distinguish action from mere behavior. • A mosquito’s behavior is explained only by cause-and-effect and so is not action. • Human actions are moral agents when their behavior can also be plausibly explained as based on reasons. • This solves freedom & determinism dilemma. • Ethics can be applied to complex robots, beings from another planet. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  27. Moral Agency • Unethical action is not action at all. • Has no coherent explanation in terms of reasons. • No consistent rationale explains my cheating on exam. • Behavior with only a “psychological” explanation is not action and therefore unethical. • I don’t vote because I am angry at the government. • I don’t vote because of some sublimated impulse, etc. • Unethical behavior destroys one’s agency and abdicates one’s freedom. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  28. Rawlsian theory • John Rawls characterized Kantian decision making as taking place behind a “veil of ignorance.” • People decide what to do without knowing who they are. • The reasons for the action must be valid regardless of the agent’s identity. • This is another way of stating that reasons for me must be reasons for anyone. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  29. Rawlsian theory • This is different from maximizing expected utility. • A CEO (deliberating behind the veil of ignorance) may approve a massive layoff because she is unlikely to be one of the redundant workers. • This is not good enough for Rawls. • She must find the reasons for the layoff equally valid if she herself is terminated. Ethical theory: Kantian ethics

  30. Rawlsian theory • Rawls infers a theory of distributive justice. • Policy makers must find their decisions to be justifiable even if they are in the lowest class. • Policy must never improve the lot of an upper class at the expense of a lower class. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  31. Rawlsian theory • According to Rawls, this results in a lexicographic criterion. • Act so as to maximize the welfare of the lowest class, then the second lowest class, etc. • In general, lexmax f1(x), … , fn(x) subject to x  S where fi (x) = utility of person with ith lowest utility. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  32. Rawlsian theory • Recall the distribution problem in which • xi = resources allotted to person i. • ci xip = utility created by allotment xi , where 0 ≤ p ≤ 1. • R = total resources available. • In this simple case, the lexmax equalizes utility across the population. Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  33. Rawlsian theory • The lexmax allocation of resources xi and fraction ui of utility is • compared to the utilitarian solution Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  34. Rawlsian theory Ethical theory: Utilitarian ethics

  35. Ethical Theory Aristotelian Ethics Ethical theory: Aristotelian ethics

  36. More than ethics • Aristotelian ethics proposes more than a necessary condition for ethical behavior. • It talks about one’s purpose in life. • In Western culture, it exists in tension with Judeo-Christian tradition, which also addresses purpose. • Kantian theory captures much of the ethical content of Judeo-Christian viewpoint. • Both traditions derive ethics from their larger views. Ethical theory: Aristotelian ethics

  37. Teleological explanation • Teleological explanation is central to Aristotelian ethics. • Make sense of things by giving them a purpose in a system. • For example, assign a purpose to organs of the body. • Assign a purpose to forest or sea in an ecosystem. Ethical theory: Aristotelian ethics

  38. How to be good • Ethics: how to be good. • Good = performs one’s function well. • A good tool performs its function well. • A good person does the same. • No concept of moral obligation. • It’s all about self-actualization. • Realizing one’s potential (naturalistic ethics). • Must identify purpose or function of things, including people. • It’s this or a meaningless farce: take your choice. Ethical theory: Aristotelian ethics

  39. Virtues • The function of a thing is what it is uniquely qualified to do. • The heart’s function is to pump blood. • A human being’s function is to bring uniquely human qualities to the world (virtues). • Courage, honor, loyalty, (applied) intelligence, aesthetic sensibility, sophrosyne. • Otherwise, Aristotle doesn’t know why we are here. Ethical theory: Aristotelian ethics

  40. Ethical theory Cross-cultural ethics Ethical theory: Cross-cultural ethics

  41. Consistency vs. care • Western ethics based on rationality & consistency (efficiency, justice). • Human beings are autonomous moral agents – isolated individuals in a secular world. • Westerners see their viewpoint as universal. • Elsewhere, consistency is less important • Different conceptions of human nature – pantheistic, communitarian, etc. • Idea of care is often important. Ethical theory: Cross-cultural ethics

  42. Corruption • Corruption = an activity that undermines a cultural system. • For example: Purchasing agent. • May award contracts based on transparency, or based on personal connections. • In the West, cronyism is corrupting. • There is conflict of interest (company vs. agent). • In relationship-based system, cronyism is foundation for trust. • There is no conflict of interest. Company wants trusted suppliers. Ethical theory: Cross-cultural ethics

  43. Corruption • Corrupting behavior depends on the system. • Bribery: • corrupts rule-based transparency in the West. • corrupts guānxìin China. • can be functional in Korea. Ethical theory: Cross-cultural ethics

  44. Corruption • Lawsuits: • are functional in USA. • corrupt group harmony in Japan. • are corrupting in USA when abused. • Nepotism: • undermines transparency in West. • supports family-based system in China. Ethical theory: Cross-cultural ethics

  45. Employment ethics Keeping an employment contract Employment ethics

  46. Employment example • A graduating student wants to break an employment contract to take a more attractive job. • The student has acted in good faith so far. • Stopped job hunting after accepting the first offer. • The employer acted in good faith. • Was unaware that student was committed, or • Had reason to believe the student was uncommitted. Employment ethics

  47. Policy utilitarianism • At the individual level, breaking the contract is optimal. • But this is suboptimal at a higher level. • College career services often require both students and employers to honor their agreements or lose access to services. Employment ethics

  48. Kantian approach • Possibility of breaking an employment contract presupposes that most people keep contracts. • There is no consistent rationale for breaking a contract merely for convenience. • Part of the rationale for doing so must be that others don’t do the same. Employment ethics

  49. Kantian approach • Perhaps certain exceptions are consistent with overall practice. • Must be able to find a consistent rationale that explains a choice to break the agreement. • Merely yielding to peer pressure is not a choice and is unethical. Employment ethics

  50. Kantian approach • An inconsistent rationale: • I stopped job hunting after taking the job and received an unsolicited offer of a better job from an employer who was unaware that I was committed. • Presupposes that others do not act on this rationale. • Contracts are meaningless if employers can hire committed students simply by not asking whether they are committed. • A possibly consistent rationale: • I stopped job hunting after taking the job and received an unsolicited offer of a better job from an employer who had reason to believe that I was uncommitted. • This must in fact be a plausible rationale for my decision to break the contract. • I would keep the contract if the employer did not have reason to believe I am uncommitted. Employment ethics

More Related