Originally posted March 20, 2018
How honest should we be? How helpful? How friendly? If our society claims to value honesty, for instance, but in reality accepts an awful lot of lying – should we go along with those lax standards? Or, should we attempt to set a new norm for ourselves?
Dr Stefan Schubert, a researcher at the Social Behaviour and Ethics Lab at Oxford University, has been modelling this in the context of the effective altruism community. He thinks people trying to improve the world should hold themselves to very high standards of integrity, because their minor sins can impose major costs on the thousands of others who share their goals.
In addition, when a norm is uniquely important to our situation, we should be willing to question society and come up with something different and hopefully better.
But in other cases, we can be better off sticking with whatever our culture expects, both to save time, avoid making mistakes, and ensure others can predict our behaviour.
The key points and podcast are here.