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Abraham Maslow famously illustrated this basic concept with his image of a pyramid representing our hierarchy of needs.It’s pretty hard to worry about the lofty goals at the top of the pyramid if we’re busy worrying about our own bodily safety, which is at the base.Mapping this insight onto the moral circle, a team of Australian psychologists noted in a 2016 study: “One possibility is that moral expansiveness is evident in cases for which people’s basic needs have been met, allowing them to turn their attention and resources to more distant entities.” Scholars have tried to show through particular historical examples how the development of new technologies can create the conditions for more people to gain rights.
What about a robot we may invent in the future that seems just as sentient as chimpanzees and elephants, despite being made of silicon?
Maybe you think it would be wrong to discriminate on the basis of substrate, so we need the legal system to recognize robot rights, a theme Northern Illinois University media studies professor David Gunkel explores in his new book of that name.
Emanuela Cardia at the University of Montreal studied more than 3,000 censuses from the 1940s and found that household inventions — the washing machine, the refrigerator, the electric stove — were a major engine of liberation for women.
Once the washing machine was invented and made widely accessible, for instance, women were freed up to do other things, like join the workforce.
This isn’t to say we should adopt a technologically deterministic view.
Tech innovation isn’t necessarily the primary factor allowing the moral circle to expand (and in fact, it can often cause a lot of harm). Some activist movements have been more successful than others.Anthony once said, “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” Similarly, other inventions have arguably catalyzed the expansion of the moral circle.Steven Pinker, in his book , says the printing press was crucial to humanity’s ethical development because it helped spread humanitarian ideas.Other technological innovations contributed to women’s liberation, not by nixing the need for them to labor so long at home but just by making it easier for them to leave home.The invention of the bicycle increased women’s mobility and independence so dramatically that Susan B.Over the centuries, it’s expanded to include many people who were previously left out of it. It was introduced by historian William Lecky in the 1860s and popularized by philosopher Peter Singer in the 1980s. For example, you have the right not to be unjustly imprisoned (liberty) and the right not to be experimented on (bodily integrity). If you’re tempted to dismiss that notion as absurd, ask yourself: How do you decide whether an entity deserves rights?As they were brought into the circle, those people won rights. Now it’s cropping up more often in activist circles as new social movements use it to make the case for granting rights to more and more entities. Many people think that sentience, the ability to feel sensations like pain and pleasure, is the deciding factor.There are other psychological, sociological, and economic forces at work.Psychologists have shown that we tend to feel more capable of extending moral concern to others if we’re not competing with them for scarce resources and if our own needs are already taken care of.Some people think sentience is the wrong litmus test; they argue we should include anything that’s alive or that supports living things.Maybe you think we should secure rights for natural ecosystems, as the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is doing.