A doctor in Guwahati, India
A doctor in Guwahati, India
Carl-Johan Karlsson

One effect of the global pandemic has been to push perennial ethical dilemmas from the comfortable confines of university campuses and philosopher parlor games into the cold reality of everyday life. Facing a global shortage of respirators and ICU beds, medical workers are forced to make hard (impossible) choices on the fly about which patients are given priority and how to allocate scarce resources among their staff. In deciding when and how to loosen lockdown measures, national and local politicians are essentially weighing the risk of life A lost today to cause X against the risk of cause Y killing B tomorrow.

The question of how to value human life is of course not a province of only frontline health workers or political representatives. We are all — for the first time in a long time — compelled to ponder what is and should be the moral foundation of our societies.

Such questions can touch every part of our lives, and can span across time and space. Ethics were at the core of a piece this week by one of my colleagues about her grandmother and another one last week about the use of a smartphone application to track the pandemic.

Indeed, the fact that COVID-19 has hit in 2020, means that the ethical stakes in the coming months and years will largely play out around information technology and artificial intelligence. Javier Saade, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist recently noted how the pandemic has infused even more value into massive digitally-driven companies, from Peleton to Amazon to Zoom.

"Eliminating human agency has been at the core of innovation during the last four decades. Less human intervention in a call center, a hedge fund trading desk, a factory, a checkout line or a motor vehicle seems fine — but in cases of greater importance, humans should remain more active or we will, at best, make ourselves irrelevant."

Perhaps, out of all the ways in which this crisis is different from that of 2008, is the long overdue return of such existential questions to the public consciousness. It has been about pure economics and ideology for far too long. However terrible the reasons, being forced to consider what constitutes an ethical society is just what the (proverbial) doctor ordered. Indeed, if we can agree that impossible choices must be avoided at all costs, we have a starting point.


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Geopolitics

Why Ghosts Of Hitler Keep Appearing In Colombia

Colombia's police chiefs must be dismally ignorant if they think it was "instructive" to expose young cadets bereft of historical education to Nazi symbols.

Nazi symbols were displayed in public at the Tuluá Police Academy

Reinaldo Spitaletta

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Adolf Hitler was seen in 1954, wandering around the chilly town of Tunja, northeast of the Colombian capital. The führer was, they said, all cloaked up like a peasant — they even took a picture of him. Later, he was spotted nearby at the baths in the spa town of Paipa, no doubt there for his fragile health.

A former president and notorious arch-conservative of 20th century Colombian politics, Laureano Gómez used to pay him homage. A fascist at heart, Gómez had to submit to the United States as the victor of World War II. He wasn't the only fascist sympathizer in Colombia then. Other conservatives, writers and intellectuals were fascinated by Nazism.

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