Software assists with business decisions
THE SANTA CLARA
April 24, 2014
Fourteen hundred people have downloaded Santa Clara’s new iPhone application, which helps users make ethical choices in everyday life.
The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics’ new app is designed to aid users in the decision-making process, allowing them to analyze every ethical aspect of a potential judgement.
The application, which officially launched on April 15, enables a user to weigh the aspects of an ethical dilemma by first having them declare stakeholders in the outcome.
The app then uses a slider mechanism to rank the degree to which the decision promotes utility, rights, justice, the common good and virtue. After weighing these options, the app calculates a score of how ethical the decision is.
“A way to look at these ethical perspectives (is to see them as) Instagram filters,” said Irina Raicu, Internet Ethics Director at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. “You look at one image through different filters and you (end up) having a more complete or complex view of it.”
The app is not intended to generate a concrete answer to a decision, but rather to allow the user to look at a decision from an ethical standpoint, according to Miriam Schulman, assistant director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
“You will find that maybe your answer is just, but it is not very compassionate, or maybe you will find that your answer does the greatest good for the greatest number, but there is a group it does not benefit that you cannot ignore,” said Schulman. “Mostly it is a way of forcing yourself to go through a rigorous examination of options.”
The app was created through a partnership with app development company Karbon.
It was inspired by the utilization of the highly popular Framework for Ethical Decision Making, which was developed by the Markkula Center when it was first established in 1986.
According to Schulman, the framework is one of the Markkula Center’s most popular pages online.
“It has been reprinted in hundreds of textbooks and has been used in hundreds of classes, so it occurred to us that it would make a handy app,” said Schulman.
The objective is to encourage people to ask ethical questions when they are making decisions, such as allowing a person to consider the other groups or individuals that are affected by the decision.
“When you are a business you are going to (ask) ‘Can we make money from it?,’ which is a perfectly reasonable question to ask, but we also want people to include the question ‘is it the right thing to do,” said Schulman. “Sometimes (the answer) is obvious, but there are also quite complex ethical issues.”
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