Robots Are More Ethical Than Humans and Other Lessons from the Climate Crisis
|In 1948, the science fiction author Isaac Asimov imagined a world in which robots would become so human-like that they would require programming that instilled a moral code, which would, first and foremost, protect humans from robots seeking to harm us in any way. As I pondered how these ethical robots would act in our world today, it dawned on me that they would be morally superior to the human species in various ways. In particular, they would not be able to undertake actions that damage our climate and thereby inflict harm.
If one meditates long enough on the ethical superiority of Asimov’s robots, one can go down a lot of philosophical rabbit holes. In this instance, however, I simply want to suggest that these virtuous robots might be an inspiration for us as people of faith. Occasionally, we need standard bearers—robotic or otherwise—to provoke us into thinking about our moral hardwiring as a society and about the harm caused by failing to adhere to certain basic standards of decency like the golden rule.
While the moral math of doing right is often not complex, the struggle for justice, by contrast, can be arduous and long. Next week, Robert Bullard will be one of the featured speakers in our webinar on black history and the environmental justice movement. As “the father of environmental justice,” Bullard has been focusing our attention on the core moral issues provoked by environmental harms for more than 45 years.
Bullard was present in 2000 when environmental justice leaders held a gathering in The Hague parallel to a United Nations climate summit. Bullard and others declared that climate justice must be central to addressing the climate crisis. In recalling their moral argument years later for an interview, he noted, “If you look at the communities that are impacted first, worst and longest—whether in Asia, Africa, Latin America or here in the US—when you talk about the majority of people around the world, climate justice is not a footnote. It is the centerpiece.”
The call for climate justice is needed today as much as ever. Let us continue the moral struggle and live out the best of our values.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the United Church of Christ’s Minister for Environmental Justice and the author of Cathedral on Fire: A Church Handbook for the Climate Crisis.
Categories: The Pollinator: UCC Environmental Justice Blog
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