From Happiness App to apps which control your home appliances, mobile applications have jumped to a whole new level of innovations which promise a better living. Here is another app called Ethical Decision Making. Aviva Rutkin of New Science magazine explains what makes this app unique.
Facing a moral quandary and want to do the right thing? Well, there’s now an app for that. Ethical Decision Making, as the iPhone app is helpfully named, doesn’t need the details of your problem or the options you’re considering. It simply asks you to consider each solution and rate it.
Let your phone help you tell right from wrong from five standpoints: utility, virtue, rights, justice and the common good. Each is actually shorthand for a framework developed by moral philosophers over the centuries. After that, you assign a weighting to each of these factors. You could, for example, give justice more emphasis than the rest. The app then scores the solution according to the customized moral framework you have just set up.
Distilling ethics down into an app might be problematic for some philosophers, but not for Miriam Schulman, associate director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, where the app was developed. “How do we use these very ancient traditions to help people who are making these really difficult decisions?” she asks. She says people could use the app for anything from weighing up whether to put their parents in a nursing home to choosing ethical investments.
The app has been tested with a group of school principals and in a communications class focused on ethical issues. One student said the tool changed her mind about how to handle an issue with her boyfriend. Apps like these aren’t a one-stop solution but can help initiate discussion, says Evan Selinger, a philosopher at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. “If you come to this hoping it’s going work out your ethics for you, you’re up the creek,” he says. “But if you see this as a tool to be used for conversation with other people, thinking out loud and expanding your mental models, it might make sense.”
Such unique apps are sure to pave the way for more interesting apps in the coming years and let us hope they will only be a positive addition to the repertoire of already interesting features which exist in these latest mobile smartphones and tablets.
Get the app – Ethical Decision Making App