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What a sad day it is when someone high up in the government makes illiberal pronouncements about technology policy without even knowing a hash from a hashtag, provoking jaded sighs from the better informed.

One might have hoped that in 2013 2017 Cameron Rudd would have been better briefed.

Strange Company

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To the fashion for seeking to employ ‘rockstars’ and ‘ninja’ and ‘Jedi’ and so on we can apparently add ‘ethicists’. Riot Games (of League of Legends fame) is advertising for an Executive Assistant (North America). In the ‘you are’ section, right after ‘a communications black belt’, we have the following novel definition:

An expert-level ethicist: you live to deliver first class service to every level of requester and have impeccable judgment when handling sensitive communications, financials and operations documents to keep information safe and secure; you value integrity and accountability in your interactions with stakeholders, team members and players

Brook No Empty Assertions

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Despite our both having links to Durham’s Philosophy Dept. I’ve never met Thom Brooks, who I think came to Durham shortly before I stopped being physically there. Occasionally he makes waves I notice: once some students contacted me hoping I could advise on getting a critical response published to something he’d written (they were into polyamory and his article had criticised its ethics, and been publicly promoted by the University’s media people; I directed them to a colleague with poly-related interests but I think nothing came of it). The current splash in the national press is his ‘Hate Crime Offenders Register’ proposal to the Commons Home Affairs Committee.

Anyone on a Hate Crime Offenders Register could be restricted from working with children and/or working in certain professions. This seems sensible, mirrors current policies in place and would help send a clearer signal of how serious these offences are.

The problems of subjectivity regarding ‘hate crime’ are much discussed and I’ll leave it to others to examine this proposal in light of them. I’m just fascinated by the fact that someone with that much philosophical acumen could blithely assert in lieu of a reason-giving defence that ‘this seems sensible’: the kind of thing that in my teaching days would have had me stabbing at the margins of undergraduate essays. Since it is basically impossible for him not to know what’s wrong with this, I have to assume that it says something about the expectations of a law professor seeking to persuade a parliamentary committee.

The Droomed Generation

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Apparently the in thing for Americans of about my age, neither quite Gen. X nor what people have in mind when they stereotype Millennials, is to style themselves the Oregon Trail Generation (after the educational computer game, not the 19th Century pioneers, who are conveniently no longer around to complain). So what does that make Brits of my vintage? I’m guessing we’re the Droomers.

(It seems to be a surname, the name of a few places, and possessor of two slang definitions in Urban Dictionary, but there should be space for one more...)

Intention Care

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While I’m in sympathy with the conclusion I’m not sure about the reasoning:

“If it was technically possible [to remove an image painted over another] it would certainly be unethical, as it was Magritte himself that decided to cut up one of his paintings and then create new compositions over the fragments,” she said.

“The preservation of the artist’s intention is in my opinion our main priority.”

“Non-invasive and non-destructive imaging techniques will enable us to make a reconstructed image of the hidden painting.”

Creators’ intentions and wishes have come up before—Kafka, Nabokov, Vergil...—but those cases involved unpublished work (enabling appeals to privacy, or to a desire not to be remembered for unfinished compositions), along with the intention that it should never be made available for public viewing... which is clearly not the intention being honoured here, as the third sentence shows. Favouring non-destructive imaging because the painting on top has some (ethically salient) worth of its own would be a familiar form of argument. Even an argument from posthumous harm might be more easily linked to destruction of the artist’s later painting. Reifying intent and setting it up as the thing you most want to preserve... I’m not sure what to make of that.