Can You Give Cars Morals?

In the years to come companies may be releasing what they call “driverless cars”.  At first the idea of having your car drive you around seems mind-boggling and something only seen on the Sci-Fi channel, but can the car react in a split second to save your life?  Many researchers now question whether these new cars will be able to make such decisions.  Let’s say a semi-truck slowly drifts into your lane, does your car keep going straight into a head on collision or does the car swerve to the side and run right into a cyclist?  This ethical dilemma seems unsolvable and may potentially delay the release of these new cars.  Researchers say that it is inevitable that the car will have to run into the cyclist in order to save the passengers life; but is this right?  ABC News released an article claiming that more than 30,000 people are killed in traffic accidents each year in the United States.  Researchers hope that the driverless cars will be able to reduce that number, while other researchers claim that these new cars will only raise the casualty rate.  Law professor Brynt Walker Smith says that “No one has a good answer for how safe is safe enough, [the cars] are going to crash, and that is something that the companies need to accept and the public needs to accept”.  Even some governments may be stepping into the situation to regulate how these new cars are used.  Four states have already passes laws to regulate the driverless cars on public roads but other states seem to be in no rush to debate the subject.

The companies working on the project say that it is easy to write the code for these new cars but is impossible for the cars to make ethical decisions on their own.  Even humans struggle with this moral question; some would rather risk being killed in the collision than run into the cyclist and other drivers may take the chance and swerve into the cyclist hoping that they survive the crash.

Would you be able to represent these companies as their PR firm should they release the driverless cars?  Do you feel a product like this could be designed to act ethically in a live or die situation?  If so, how would you help them market this new product?

To Verve or Not to Verve?

How you like would to be a millionaire, own nice cars and fly across the country in a private jet?  What if I told you that you could have all those things and more just by selling a few energy drinks to your friends?  Well there is a company doing just that, or at least that’s what they say.  The company Vemma is selling their new product called Verve to college students.  This company recruits young college students to sell their new product to their friends persuading them with deals of money, cars, and success.   In fact, right down the road at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, Vemma tried selling their product to student Peyton Carlucci.  Carlucci says “They promised that you could make a lot of money relatively quickly” “They promised you that you could have a BMW or a Mercedes.  Basically, they just promised you the world and back.”  Vemma recruits for its company using videos that say if you sell its energy drink that you could be a millionaire.  Vemma claims that you could receive a total of $500, $5,000 or $50,000 a month.  Unfortunately, the company does not hold true to its word and is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.  The company has also received a total of 170 complaints of a pyramid scheme.

A producer for the Rossen Reports team went undercover to determine if the company was using illegal practices to sell their products.  A company salesperson met with the undercover producer to answer questions and to persuade the “student” to join the company and sell its products.  The salesperson went on to admit that the company was using something similar to the “pyramid scheme” after further questioning by the producer.  Once the unethical sales techniques were brought up with Vemma corporate the company suspended the salesperson.  Vemma went on to tell NBC News that his statements were “inaccurate and not representative of the company.”

If you were working for Vemma, how would you choose to sell its products?  Is the way Vemma sells its products ethical in your eyes?

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18-year-old Dies of Pledge-Related Injury at WVU Fraternity House

As of Nov. 13, West Virginia University in Morgantown, Wv. has suspended all 28 fraternities and sororitiesafter an 18-year-old freshman, Nolan Burch, was hospitalized on Wednesday night. Burch was hospitalized after a pledge-related injury that occurred at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house around 12 a.m. on Wednesday.
When police arrived on the scene at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house, Burch was lying on the floor, not breathing and with no pulse.
On the afternoon of Fri. Nov. 14, after spending 2 days in the intensive care unit at Ruby Memorial Hospital, Burch died.
According to university spokesman stated that Kappa Sigma’s charter had been withdrawn a week prior to the incident because of “previous unrelated violations”.
Furthermore, on Nov. 6, 19 Sigma Chi pledges were arrested for underage possession of alcohol along with riots on the streets. This fraternity was suspended at the time. Dean of Students, Corey Farris stated, “The action to halt fraternity and sorority activities while these matters are being reviewed is being done with the well-being and safety of our students in mind. That is – and must always be – our foremost priority.”
West Virginia University is dubbed amongst the top 3 party schools in the nation, according to Playboy. Farris and the inter-Fraternity and Panhellenic council were quick to suspend all Greek activities until further notice. Do you think WVU has a bad reputation for incidents like these? How could the school and the fraternity polish up their reputation in a positive way? Do you think it was necessary for WVU to suspend all Greek life for the safety and precaution of future party related injuries? Was it ethical for WVU to punish all sororities and fraternities that have done nothing wrong and who have been following charter and school policies? Do you think the brothers of Kappa Sigma have received fair punishment?

High school teacher suspended for racist Ferguson tweets

Vinita Hegwood, an African American Duncanville High School English teacher in Dallas, Texas has been suspended after allegations that she sent racial tweets from her personal Twitter account regarding the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri.
Lari Barager, the Duncanville Independent School District spokeswoman stated that Hegwood was “placed on suspension without pay pending discharge” at a press conference. Barager also stated that the tweets by Hegwood were “offensive” and “reprehensible” and that the tweets made by Hegwood do not represent the faculty at Duncanville High School. Under state law, the school district cannot release a staff member, only the board of trustees is permitted to release a staff member. Barager stated that the Duncanville Independent School District is working to pursue the action of releasing Hegwood with the board of trustees.
The first tweet that was sent from Hegwood’s personal account on Fri. Nov. 7 read, “Who the (explicit) made you dumb (explicit) crackers think I give a squat (explicit) about your options. #Ferguson Kill yourselves”. Later that night, Hegwood tweeted again saying, “You exhibit nigga behavior, I’m a call you a nigga. You acting crackerish, I’m a call you a cracker”. Hegwood’s Twitter account has been deactivated since making the racial charged comments.
The Duncanville Independent School District employees have the right to free speech but according to Barager, Hegwood’s tweets were so offensive that the school district had “no other option”. The board of trustees will hold their next meeting to decide the fate of Hegwood’s career on Dec. 8.
Although the Duncanville Independent School District employees are allowed freedom of speech, the district has decided to revoke that right for Hegwood because of her derogatory remarks. In chapter 4, Bivins describes John Stuart Mill’s harm principle and describes that Mill stated “that a person’s liberty may justifiably be restricted only in order to prevent harm that the person’s actions would cause to others”. Hegwood’s racially charged tweets could have caused harm to others, therefore the district decided that it was justifiable to suspend Hegwood.
Do you agree with the Duncanville Independent School District and their decision to suspend Hegwood without pay? Do you believe Hegwood should be immediately removed from the district? What ethical principles did Hegwood fail to recognize before tweeting such derogatory comments? How could the school district improve upon their newly negative connotation?

GM delayed recall of 2.5 million cars

Recently revealed e-mails viewed by The Wall Street Journal have found that in Dec. 2013, a General Motors contract worker contacted Delphi Automotive PLC through e-mail and asked for an “urgent” plan of action for 500,000 parts to be produced for GM because of defective ignition switches. The malfunctioning ignition switches caused the engines to stall in some vehicles, which can result in drivers to lose control of brakes, air bags, power steering and ultimately losing control over the vehicle. GM ordered 500,000 ignition switches two months before notifying the federal safety investors and recalling the vehicles affected by this deficiency.

From Dec. when GM requested to production for half of a million ignition switches through Feb. when GM announced the recall of 20 different models, there had been 85 injuries and at least one death due to the defective ignition switches, according to GM attorney, Robert Hilliard. The recall for more than 2.5 million vehicles was effective on Feb. 7 and reported ignition switch deficiencies in 20 GM vehicles, ranging from 1997-2014 models.

GM has admitted that employees were fully aware about the ignition malfunction a decade before the Feb. 2014 recall. Although employees were admittedly aware of the ignition switch issue, company executives were not disclosed about the ignition switch malfunction until shortly before the recall in Feb. Hilliard contended that GM CEO Mary Barra should have been aware about the 500,000 switches and the unbudgeted $3 million investment. A court date has been set for Jan. 2016 for anyone claiming economic loss, death or injury resulting from the ignition switch any time after 2009, when GM emerged from liquidation.

GM has a website dedicated to the recent recall that lists all of the models that have been recalled and gives a multitude of phone numbers, as well as a GM Recall Center to contact with concerns or questions about the recall. Although GM has an entire website dedicated to helping customers to find out more about the recall, they did not issue any press release in regard to the delayed recall or the e-mails between GM and Delphi. This is not the first time GM has recalled their vehicles. Do you think GM has completely damaged their credibility? If you worked for GM, would you have handled the situation the same way? What would you have done differently? Do you think GM should have issued press releases regarding these issues?

Taylor Swift vs. Spotify

Taylor Swift released her most recent album, 1989, on Oct. 27 and sold 1.3 million copies in the first week. The last artist to have such success in week one was Eminem in 2002. These numbers also make Swift the only artist to have three albums sell more than 1 million copies in the first week of their release. With the release of 1989, Swift has gained a lot of media attention not only for the success of her album, but also with her new policy with music streaming service Spotify. Spotify allows users to listen to tens of millions of songs for free or they can choose to pay a $5-10 subscription fee and listen to music free of ad-breaks. It is important to note, that a portion of the revenue earned by services like Spotify is returned to the artists. Upon the release of her album and its near immediate success, Swift promptly removed all of her music from Spotify’s catalog. Swift justifies her decision by saying that it isn’t fair or respectful to the super-fans, the fans who pay for the album on iTunes or a C.D., etc. In addition to wanting to respect fans who actually pay for the music, Swift is quoted as saying, “Music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment, and I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.” She also wrote an opinion-editorial for the Wall Street Journal that goes more in-depth on her views of the future of music and the effects of streaming and piracy.

In today’s society, it’s more than easy to find music for free. File sharing, conversion of videos, online streaming, etc., and I’m sure that we all know atleast one person who participates in these behaviors rather than paying for the album or song. Personally, I’ve heard people justify their actions by saying that these artists are already very rich and don’t need/won’t miss the money lost by a few people file sharing. And it’s true, people like Taylor Swift will probably never have to worry about their finances ever again, but is that really the point? I commend Swift for removing her albums from places from Spotify because if I were in her shoes I would want to be paid for my work. Artists put a ridiculous amount of time and energy into their work; they devote their lives to making music. I think they should be rewarded accordingly.

In Bivins, we learned about Ross’s moral duties and the importance of self-improvement and also the concept of respect. By removing her albums from Spotify and other streaming services, Swift is standing up for what she feels is best for her, best for the industry, and best for the fans. She believes that she should receive compensation for the work that she has produced, and is letting the world know her opinions. Swift is working to better improve herself by fighting for what she believes is right and what she feels she, and other artists, deserve from the rest of society. She also is showing respect to the people that actually pay for music. She doesn’t want their actions and support to be overlooked. In addition to respect of fans, Swift is also showing respect to other artists and the music industry by standing for fair compensation for everyone that works on an album.

Are things like file-sharing and online streaming ethical? Are these services fair to the artists and everyone else who helps to create an album? Was Taylor Swift in the right to end her relationship with Spotify?

Censorship In the Egyptian Press

Yesterday, millions of Americans exercised their right to vote. Today, the newspapers are full of analysis and social media is overwhelmed with the comments of those pleased with the results, as well as those who are not so happy. Regardless of how things turned out, individual citizens, as well as the press, around the nation are able to freely express their opinions on the government. We call it freedom of speech, and, as Bivins writes in chapter 4, The United States has the strongest free speech protection in the world. In class, we have discussed how the press serves as an unofficial part of The United States’ checks and balance system. The U.S. has three branches of government: the executive, legislative, and judicial. The system of checks and balances exists so that no one branch of government holds too much power. The press, as an unofficial part of this system, exists to make sure the public is informed on the government, and so that the government does not gain too much power. In some places, this freedom of the press does not exist.

In response to a recent and deadly militant attack on a military checkpoint, editors from 17 state and private Egyptian newspapers issued a statement saying that they would not publish material that criticized the government as a way to support the fight against militant extremists. In the statement, it said that they rejected “attempts to doubt state institutions or insult the army or police or judiciary in a way that would reflect negatively on these institutions’ performance.” After hearing this, journalists are outraged and more than 350 journalists have signed an online document in response to the editors’ decision. They are calling this act “a victory for terrorism” and saying that censorship and sacrificing freedom of expression only lends support and gives control to extremists.

In chapter 4, Bivins writes about the liberty theory, which states that the First Amendment is essential to furthering four values and ideals: individual self-fulfillment; advancement of knowledge and truth; participation in decision making by all members of society; and achievement of a more adaptable and therefore stable community. In a country where the freedom of expression is one of the core principles of its founding, the idea of not being able to express our views on the government is almost unimaginable. For others, like those in Egypt, censorship is the reality. These journalists in Egypt are now limited in what they can publish, and therefore the public is limited in their knowledge of their country and its leadership.

How do you think this censorship is effecting/ will effect Egypt? Will the Egyptian people be able to participate in decision making? Or advance their knowledge or become self-fulfilled? Are there any situations when limiting freedom of expression and freedom of the press is ethical and/or necessary?


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