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1st Paper on Ethics

1st Paper on Ethics

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Published by Anthony Salvagno
I took a class on nanoethics and we had to write 4 papers for this class. This is the 1st one. Details are vague right now, but it was something ethical.
I took a class on nanoethics and we had to write 4 papers for this class. This is the 1st one. Details are vague right now, but it was something ethical.

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Published by: Anthony Salvagno on Jan 28, 2009
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Anthony Salvagno 9/3/08 I have a friend (who we shall name Harry to protect his identity) who has no problem telling

it like it is. He is the kind of person that will tell you he has a problem with something and why he has this problem without pulling “any punches.” There are many instances where this attitude has been a blessing, but there are the few moments when he takes the meaning freedom of speech a little too far. The result of this mentality has produced a free flow of words that pretty much has no screening process. There aresome times when Harry will say something that will offend a person within earshot. (I’d like to note that while I have never been the subject of the offense, I can see why such parties would be offended.) Harassment (and sexual in particular) can be considered a serious ethical debate. It may not seem like it on the surface, but there are in fact two sides to this coin. On the one hand (and generally the obvious stance) people should be allowed to socially interact without being subject to uncomfortable feelings (or possibly worse). Everyone is allowed to their right of happiness as stated in the Constitution, and in some cases this satisfaction can be stripped from a person during a conversation. In the case of sexual harassment, even more than happiness can be taken from a person, but for now let’s just stick with the basic conversational aspect of harassment and exclude all the other forms.

What could the argument against be? On this side we can say, “What about a person’s freedom of speech?” In the case of Harry, he exercises this right at will and perhaps even excessively. However, he is still entitled to that right no matter what! Who gets to determine which person has more right over the other? Suppose Harry is locked in a room with 20 people of a similar background and they are hostile. He really wants to say something that may offend the group. He can choose to say what he wants, but must then suffer the consequences of violence. That outcome does not leave anyone happy, except that some of the offended party might be a little satisfied. In the other case, Harry keeps his words to himself and the room is a little less tense, but Harry is not content. This example is a little extreme, but let’s look at another. Suppose Harry is working in the lab with a person, named Stacy. One day Harry says something that offends Stacy. She kindly tells him that was inappropriate, but there is some awkward tension after that moment and it becomes a difficult working environment. From that moment on Harry is afraid to talk to Stacy because he feels he may offend her again. These two need to work together, but now there is some tension between the two, it becomes hard to work, and the situation escalates from there. In the first case it is clear that Harry not having said anything would be the better choice for everyone, but in the second case if Harry doesn’t feel he can express himself he may become resentful and may even feel he

cannot be in the same room as Stacy. Of course this dilemma is not even as simple as stated. Suppose Harry had joked about Stacy (what he thought was jovial) and Stacy was not present. The joke offends Stacy, but without her acknowledgment, and he may even offend a present party. Should Harry not be allowed to speak? What then is the solution? If we could possibly measure (quantitatively) the overall happiness of a room, then the solution should be to take the measures that provide the highest outcome. But we can’t do this. The best we can do is to try to accommodate everyone as much as possible. In the event that this involves the work place, those involved should want the workplace to be as comfortable an environment as possible especially because the people at work are the people you most likely interact with on a daily basis. In real life, my lab is fairly new and there are just a couple members (Harry being one of them), so there isnot too many people to take into consideration. We joke around a lot and it is a very casual and comfortable environment. Jokingly Harry will make a comment and the PI will quip “That’s why I can’t have women in the lab.” We all get a good laugh, but the truth is one day the lab will encompass many different members, and we know as a group that we will want the lab to be as comfortable as possible for EVERYONE so that we can each do the best that we can without any tension between members.

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