In December, 2017, there was plenty of general outrage about the FCC repealing the Net Neutrality protections, giving internet service providers (ISPs) the ability to arbitrarily throttle any web page or content. There is also a lot of buzz about artificial intelligence (AI) and the ways that it can potentially lead to thoughtlessness in life-changing decisions left up to an machine-designed algorithm. There are questions about consumer privacy related to residential devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. These are just a few of the multitude of concerns related to technology and ethics. Ultimately, the fear created by these issues arises from the fact that not all people (or companies) always act in a way that benefits the greater good of humanity.
I am not here going to address the specifics of these individual modern challenges. Instead, I am just going to simply ask, Why be good? What benefit is there from doing the right thing? Moreover, does there even exist a “right” thing at all?
Of course there are laws that we all have to follow. But systems of law are temporal; – they come and go. There was once a time when the U.S. Constitution did not exist, and there is potentially a time in the future when it will not exist. If our human laws become the only reasonable framework for right and wrong, then we are at the mercy of lobbyists who spend their moneys on political candidates or lawmakers and their linguistic acrobatics.
Many people subscribe to some paraphrasing of the credo, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.” While I believe this is wise and good, it is also vague. It is quite possible that there is a mentally deficient person out there who doesn’t care if others treat him badly. In that case, he is free to treat everyone else badly.
Admittedly, it’s a difficult group of questions. Why should you be good? Why should anyone be good? Is there any hope for humanity without a rational discussion about good behavior and what it is?
I had prepared to write a few million words about Aristotle. However, I found this excellent video to explain things more succinctly. Aristotle lived over 2300 years ago, but he was asking the same questions we are asking today. For him, happiness comes from doing what is good. I’d like to know your comments below on what you think of this video.
If you, yourself, don’t try to do what is good, then how can you expect other people to do so? The first step of creating an ethical world is working on yourself.
Why be good? Because it will make you happy and give you peace. It is the one thing you can do to make the world a better a place.