The Nature of Value – Ryan Jenkins, Professor

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The role of the philosopher in technology

Teaching is like planting a seed rather than moving a tree.”

Ryan Jenkins, Asst. Professor of Ethics at Cal Poly, helped Mark and Patrick explore the paths you can quickly travel down with talking about ethics and just about any business topic. Professor Jenkins and Mark met when he was on the TEDxCalPoly stage in 2016. That talk led to this fascinating conversation and got Mark to mention that “we ought to have more philosophers on the show” to Patrick.

This wide-ranging conversation covered a lot of ground including:

  • Here’s a link to his TEDxTalk – “It depends on who you ask.”
  • Ryan has written extensively, and one of the paths we traveled was about the moral implications of design decisions. We’ve had a lot of designers on the show, so you know we’re interested in the topic.
  • Here’s a question for developers, is the product or service inadvertently emotionally damaging to someone else?
  • One of his classes is The Philosophy of Technology – read what his students think of him here
  • We talked about how he only gets 40 hours of time with the students and has a lot of content to fit into that small amount of time.
  • We spent time dissecting his interest in Military Ethics. He’s written several papers on this topic.
  • If you have not seen the movie Zero Days, about Stuxnet, stop reading now and bookmark it for later.
  • IS the use of drones for killing right or wrong?
  • The problem of Attribution – concealing the origin of the attack, a quick history lesson
  • The forensics of cyber war
  • Talking about Snowden, Chelsea Manning and the ethics of whistleblowing
  • What’s the difference between Normative Ethics and Situational Ethics
  • Technological determinism – detailed explanation here for those that want a deep-dive into this topic
  • Book recommendation, from Mark: The Inevitable – Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, by Kevin Kelly
  • How you would he suggest a child is before we have that first philosophical conversation? The answer? As soon as they can talk. This was an excellent ending for a thought-provoking show.

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