Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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20

Feb

2019

Faith in something, not only someone

Author: Jim Taylor

“Ah yes, I remember it well,” Maurice Chevalier warbled in the musical Gigi. And then immediately proved that he didn’t remember it well at all.

            I remember a gathering of about 30 people at am Anglican retreat centre north of Toronto, to thrash out the policies that would guide a United Church committee for the next few years. Like Chevalier, I remember it, but not well.

            The one thing I remember for sure was the summation by Terry Anderson, then professor of ethics at the Vancouver School of Theology. Terry had been brought in as something called a “theological reflector.” His job, he explained, was not to influence us. It was to identify the theology he observed in our discussions and debates.

            And what he said has stuck with me ever since:

            “What the United Church really believes in is not any statement of faith or doctrine. What the United Church believes is that if it follows the right process, if it brings together the right mix of individuals, from the right mix of regions and interest groups, they can’t help coming up with the right answer.”


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15

Jul

2018

Thai cave rescue a study in ethics

Author: Jim Taylor

Like the rest of the world, I rejoiced when that boys’ soccer team and their coach were rescued from the cave in Thailand after being entombed for 16 days.

            I have a phobia about caves in general. I can feel panic rising even thinking about having to strap on an unfamiliar scuba mask, wade into murky water, dive way down into a hole in the rock in total darkness and then turn and feel my way towards a narrow cranny I have to wriggle through, rock walls scraping my skin…

            So I am in absolute awe of the courage and compassion of the divers who risked their own lives to get those boys and their coach out of the cave alive. 

            I suspect the Thai cave rescue will become a text-book case study for students of ethics in the not-too-distant future. 


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19

Apr

2017

Re-program your reactions

Author: Jim Taylor

Joan and I bought a new car recently. It almost makes me obsolete. It will brake if there’s something in front. It will brake if there’s something behind. It will slow down when the car in front slows down. It will stay in its own lane. It will warn me if I’m not paying enough attention.

            All these programs run on what’s called an algorithm. Basically, that’s a computer program, a step by step set of coded instructions that’s supposed to take into account all possible circumstances.

            An algorithm has no ethical principles. It is utterly amoral. It just does what it’s told to do.

            I wonder what it would do with the classic question posed by ethicists. There’s a beautiful maiden strapped to the railway tracks. And a runaway train coming. You can’t stop the train. But you could throw a switch and divert the train onto a different track, where it will wipe out a work crew.

  


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: ethics, algorithms, cars

1

Jun

2016

The internalized ethics of Selfies

Author: Jim Taylor
Welcome to the “Selfie” society!
You know what Selfies are, of course. Pictures people take of themselves. Usually using cellphones, although apparently you can buy accessories that let you hold a regular camera way out front to click your own picture.
My granddaughter borrowed my iPad for about ten minutes. She took twelve pictures of herself. All the same.
Click. “This is me.”
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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: ethics, selfies

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