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The Technological Mediation of Morality: Explained

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3D Ultrasound - Does this change our moral perception of the unborn child?People have been talking about the death of privacy for at least three decades. The rise of the internet, mass surveillance and oversharing via social media have all been seen as knells summoning it to the grave. In our everyday behaviours, in our choices to use platforms that engage in routine and indiscriminate digital surveillance, we supposedly reveal a preference for digital convenience and social interaction that indicates a willingness to sacrifice our privacy. Despite this, privacy advocates claim that privacy has never been more alive than it was before. Indeed, they argue that it is precisely because privacy is under threat, and because we are forced to make compromises with respect to privacy in our day-to-day lives, that we should care about it more than we did before. This is just one example of how technology seems to have an effect on our moral values. On the one hand, the creation of new technologies — in this case the internet and smart devices — has created new opportunities for tracking, surveillance and spying. This puts privacy in the vice. On the other hand, the increased pressure on privacy activates it in our minds and makes us worry about it more than ever. We respond by calling for new social norms with respect to the use of surveillant technologies, as well as legal reforms and protections. Philosophers of technology sometimes explain this phenomenon by using the concept of technological mediation. The idea, in brief, is that technology mediates our relationship to the world: it changes how we perceive ourselves, our actions and our relationship to the world. This, in turn, has an effect on our moral perceptions and actions. Technology is never really value neutral: it comes loaded with moral significance and meaning. But its value-ladenness is not something beyond our control. All people involved in the design and use of a technology have some say in the moral. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Fairness & Transgender Athletes II: Category Changing

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In my previous essay I set the stage for discussing the concern about people switching competition categories to gain something. It is to this matter that that I now turn. The Sickle Cell 5K in Tallahassee is well known for having a really good masters award for the overall male and female masters runners—it is better than the second and third overall awards. One year a masters runner was third overall but decided that he wanted the male masters’ award instead. This created a bit of a problem—while there was no rule about this, there were well established running norms in place: overall places take precedence over the masters category and the masters category takes precedence over age group placing.  So, a 40+ year old runner who placed first to third would get the corresponding overall award. The first 40+ runner outside the top three would get the masters award and the next runner in their age group would win that age group. As would be expected, some people were rather mad about this runner’s efforts to get the masters award—he was breaking the award category norms and traditions to get a better award. His argument, which was not unreasonable, was that he was the first masters runner and hence earned that award. This meant that the 4th place runner would get third overall. This might sound odd, but (as noted above) the running norms already allow for a person who finishes second in their age group to place first if the person who would win that age group wins an overall or masters award (most races have a strict no-double-dip rule). While his request did break the norms, he was legitimately in the masters category. One might say that he elected to identify as a masters runner for the purpose of the award category. He did end up getting the award when the original masters winner did everyone a favor by giving up his award and allowed the awards to continue. But this episode is still talked about today—switching categories to get a better award is seen as. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Fairness & Transgender Athletes I: Marking the Course

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Upon taking office, Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring that schools receiving federal funding allow people who self-identify as females onto female sport’s teams. Pushback against it has ranged from thoughtful considerations of fairness to misogyny masquerading as morality. In addition to being complicated in its own right, the fairness of self-identified females being allowed to compete as females is also linked to other complicated matters, such as broader concerns of fairness in society and issues of gender identity. People arguing in good faith can make arguments in one area without realizing the implications of these arguments in other areas. To illustrate, consider the fictional character of Polly. Polly is a national level high school runner who holds to a principle of fairness. Polly’s brother, Paul, is faster than Polly but not a national level male runner. He jokingly suggests putting on a dress and beating Polly, which worries her—if a person can self-identify as a female, Paul could do that and suddenly be a national level female high school runner. In a panic, Polly thinks of her nightmare scenario: the top male runners compete as boys, switch identities, and win again as girls! Polly and her sister runners would be out of the competition, which would be unfair. In good faith, Polly can make a very good argument moral argument against allowing this based on fairness—but her seemingly reasonable argument might justifying harming people in the broader context of fairness in society—something Polly would not want. As such, we should be careful to consider the implications arguments about fairness in sports have in other areas. People can also in bad faith, presenting an appealing fairness argument in the context of sports while not caring about fairness at all. Their intent might be to use the sports issue argument as a Trojan horse to lure people into their ideological agenda or they might want to weaponize the seemingly reasonable argument in. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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