Exploring Ethical Systems

Reflections on Mick Ashby’s paper “Ethical Regulators and Super-Ethical Systems” See https://www.mdpi.com/2079-8954/8/4/53/htm

See also Marc's page Ethical Systems.

# My synthesis: ERT (Ethical Regulator Theory) is an enhancement of the VSM (Viable Systems Model) to create an ESM (Ethical Systems Model.)

A fork is coming with the advance of Artificial Intelligence which could create a dystopic society.

Many corporations are unethical (and there are few checks and balances.)

ERT could/should be taught in educational institutions.

An independent non-profit institution should be created to steer humanity towards a stable super-ethical society.

# My reflections: Can unethical systems remain viable in the long term? The delays in the system which hide this may be so long term to be imperceptible eg climate change.

Is pursuit of shareholder value ever ethical? Is pursuit of shareholder value in health, agriculture and big pharma conducive to our well-being? See work of Colin Mayer at Said Business School, Oxford.

What are the root causes of unethical behavior? Dig deep….ask why at least 5 times!

Greed drives growth but what drives greed? How much is enough? Why do we hoard wealth?

We are currently highly dependent on unethical systems. Are we prepared to confront the systems on which we depend for our modern-day easy lifestyles? What would lead you to change?

The systems science community needs to fully own this space if we are to be true systems thinkers.

# What can I do differently? My project to teach school children how to think systemically hit the buffers in 2020 due to Covid. This has been an opportunity for me to reflect on my progress and chart a new course. Why? Because systems thinking is merely a tool. What makes it good or evil is the hands/heads using the tool. More than children thinking systemically, we need everyone behaving ethically.

How can we behave ethically when we rely on unethical organisations to earn our living and for our sustenance? We have to change that and that starts with me! Being ethical myself means that I have to stop supporting unethical organisations and start supporting (or creating) ethical ones.

This means that I may need to consider: changing my job; what goods and services I buy and where I buy them; where I keep my money; and, who I lend to and who I borrow from.

Such a life audit and reset is not an easy task. For determined souls like myself it is a challenge which I relish and I love the sense of empowerment and agency it gives me*. But I know I am in a minority. If we are to make this work at a grass roots level, it needs to be easy.

There is an opportunity to create a platform app for a local community to share real time information (ethics ratings) on local sourcing (businesses and products.)

The support of a small group/community could be invaluable in sharing learning and ongoing feedback. Creating local viable/ethical communities is the focus of Marc’s work (See Practical Neighborhood Ethics.)

I am considering how to integrate the work of John David Garcia on ethical communities too.

Children could also find this route to agency compelling. I am told by parents that this is why children enjoy playing computer games…it gives them agency. Maybe a project to audit the ethics of their household and identify improvements.

Our current education system provides a pathway for young people into corporates which simply reinforces the system. I am exploring helping create a new pathway for children to create new ethical businesses based on sound systems thinking. (See Kidz in Biz)

*In 2005 I made the decision to completely reengineer my life. I moved to rural France and downshifted to a low-cost lifestyle so I could leave my unethical employer and have future choice over who I would work for. Last year I decided to sell my French house and create more degrees of freedom to pursue my projects. These were not easy decisions.

*I have conducted regular audits of my purchases whilst based in France. My aims were to buy my food as close to home as possible with as little packaging as possible. It was relatively easy to do this, as many of my friends grow food and have surpluses for sale. For example, I stopped buying honey in a plastic pot in a supermarket and started buying from a neighbor in a glass pot which I returned to them when empty and they reused (notice also avoiding the destruction and mileage of our usual “recycling” process.) Back in the UK, in an urban environment, it is more difficult to find such alternatives and the area is dominated by big retail chains.