From my email, on bioethicists

Hi Tyler. I had a brief career as an ethicist. I realized quickly that the incentives are all wrong if what we want is people who will think hard about humanity’s pressing ethical dilemmas and who will suggest intuitively appealing solutions.

Since almost all ethicists are academics, they have to publish, and in order to publish you have to be novel, and since the basic principles of ethics are little changed for millennia the incentives to do thorough homework on the basis of principles which are widely understood and accepted is not great.

Furthermore, if you decide to be a utilitarian, then basically all ethical issues will boil down to cost/benefit analyses which you have to outsource to technocrats, so your unique expertise as an ethicist will be worth little.

For whatever it’s worth, one could justify most of the widespread opinions of bioethicists and other ethicists who reach conclusions quite repugnant to utilitarians on the basis of “care ethics”. The result is not important and even the rule is not important, what is important is the amount of personal concern you project to specific human beings. Most people would prefer not to expose their close family members to mortal danger so adopting a policy deliberately exposing strangers to such danger appears un-caring.

If ethicists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.

The name of the author has been anonymized to protect the innocent.


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