COVID vaccine: Where does freedom end and civic duty begin?

Instead of insisting that we remain "free from" government control, we should view taking vaccines and wearing masks as a "freedom to" be a moral citizen who protects the lives of others.

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  • Now that the vaccine is becoming widely available, why do so many insist on not taking it?
  • As different episodes in history have illustrated — including the building of an atomic bomb in the U.S. – true freedom is to choose to place the well-being of your family, community, and country above your own personal values.
  • We shouldn't confuse the privilege of choice with a threat to personal freedom. In threatening times, our best defense is to act together to the benefit of all.
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The four moral judgments you make every day

Our brains make snap moral decisions in mere seconds.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pixabay
  • Moral psychology studies how we process moral questions and come to be moral beings.
  • A new framework says there are four kinds of moral judgment we all make.
  • Understanding how we evaluate moral or immoral actions can help us make better choices.
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Retrain your brain for long-term thinking

Escaping the marshmallow brain trap.

  • Roman Krznaric, philosopher and author of the book "The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking," says that there are two parts of the human brain that are driving our decisions and ultimately determining what kind of legacy we leave behind for future generations.
  • Short-term thinking happens in the marshmallow brain (named after the famous Stanford marshmallow test), while long term thinking and strategizing occurs in the acorn brain. By retraining ourselves to use the acorn brain more often, we can ensure that trillions of people—including our grandchildren and their grandchildren—aren't inheriting a depleted world and the worst traits that humankind has to offer.
  • "At the moment we're using on average 1.6 planet earths each year in terms of our ecological footprint," says Krznaric, but that doesn't mean that it's too late to turn things around. Thinking long term about things like politics and education can help "rebuild our imaginations of what a civilization could be."

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How sci-fi helps humanity avoid species-level mistakes

Technology of the future is shaped by the questions we ask and the ethical decisions we make today.

  • Robots (from the Czech word for laborer) began appearing in science fiction in the early 1900s as metaphors for real world ideas and issues surrounding class struggles, labor, and intelligence. Author Ken MacLeod says that the idea that robots would one day rebel was baked into the narrative from the start. As technologies have advanced, so too have our fears.
  • "Science fiction can help us to look at the social consequences, to understand the technologies that are beginning to change our lives," says MacLeod. He argues that while robots in science fiction are a reflection of humanity, they have little to do with our actual machines and are "very little help at all in understanding what the real problems and the real opportunities actually are."
  • AI has made the threat of "autonomous killer robots" much more of a possibility today than when Asimov wrote his three laws, but it's the decisions we make now that will determine the future. "None of these developments are inevitable," says MacLeod. "They're all the consequences of human actions, and we can always step back and say, 'Do we really want to do this?'"

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A new essay takes a holistic look at the trolley problem

Knowing what to do is one thing, doing it is another.

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  • The trolley problem is a well-known thought experiment, and its variations provide the source of endless discussion.
  • However, few people consider the problem holistically. Would you actually be able to pull the lever?
  • A new essay reminds us that many philosophies have a holistic approach to moral problems that we should consider.
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