S1E1-E: DREMSI theory in a nutshell

With the definition of ethics in place, it becomes critical to clarify what is the essence of the definition, what makes it sharp!! and subsequentely what is not included in the concept.

In the previous sections of this episode, I have shared many details about the cooking ingredients and processes behind the DREMSI dish. I began with the two main components. First, the view that ethics is a component of culture, one of the many social norms that are used by a system of actors, a group of individuals, as they interact within a relational space. I argued that among the many functions ethics can provide, the one we should focus our attention on the minimization of injuries during interaction. To make this idea applicable in real-life dilemmas, I defined further “what does it mean to interact”, the second perspective. By using a complexity theory view on reality, we can see that individuals are roleplaying actors, moving from system to system taking multiple roles within a day. So all human interaction is experienced playing a role, division of labour is a priori reality.

With these two perspectives at hand, I concluded that ethics is the art to minimize the injuries we may cause to others while playing a role within a group. By focusing exclusively on the injuries during roleplaying interaction ethics becomes sharp in the application; this value gets further polish as we clarify the quantitative attribute of this theory, an attribute that lets us define thresholds of injury intensity that help massively in the decision-making process.

This new definition of ethics will make it much more usable in real-life dilemmas, however, this is not all sunshine and roses, as we make ethics more focused, we place limitations on what It can do:

  • Ethics does not provide a comprehensive value for decision making, as it will never consider the benefits of an action
  • Ethics does not have absolute power among other social norms, as it will always be conditional to the objectives of other social norms
  • And Ethics does not include the concept of altruism, as ethics is rooted in social expectations which altruism is not..

I don’t mind the limitations as this is a necessary trade-off to have something effective, something that is useful instead of many fancy words in a document. Nothing worse than endless hours discussing an amazing theory that doesn’t work in reality.

The DREMSI Methodology

Because this theory brings forth many alterations to the field of ethics and how we interpret reality. I build an “ethical decision making” methodology. The idea is that this method helps in the resolution of all kinds of dilemmas by providing the ethical judgement of them. I call the whole theory DREMSI, it stands for “Dynamic Roleplaying Expectations to Minimize Injuries”. While there are many theoretical concepts in this narrative, the methodology can be seen in a very mechanical format,  is divided into two phases and by the end of the process, one gets visibility of the ethicality of the potential actions, and one gets ethical guidance to decide which one to take.

The first phase of the method is the identification of injuries, highlighting if the action is unethical and to which intensity. It follows four steps:

  • First, Formalize the standpoint to evaluate
  • Second, Highlight the role that the actor plays and connected it with stakeholders
  • Third, Visualize the expectations that apply to this situation.
  • Fourth and final, Evaluation of the injury types and intensities

At the end of this phase, if the action causes an injury then it is unethical. Using the injury thresholds, we can label each action as “uncomfortable”, “seriously bad” or “critically bad”. (more on this in episode 5)

Even if we identify that the action causes injuries, this is not enough for decision making, we need a judgement criterion. Hence the second phase of the method is the “normative” part, it is when we make a judgement which is the best action from an ethical perspective. In this regard, I argue that:  

“When facing a dilemma of multiple actions, one shall aim to cause the least injuries to the other stakeholder, based on the social expectations of the role we play towards that party”.

This statement perfectly reflects the main objective of ethics (the minimization of injuries) and it does it based on the specific role one plays.  Hence in this phase of the methodology, we first rank the possible actions by their ethical level and we select the one that causes the least damage.

The interesting aspect of this theory is that it highlights a specific kind of relationship between ethics, altruism and other social norms. Because of this, all possible actions have to be checked against other social norms; in more practical terms we have to check if they are legal. To fit this aspect into the methodology I propose the following direction:

“Only in the prevention of critical injuries and without causing other injuries of the same intensity,  one should consider breaking social norms, pursue altruistic behaviour or push for social change”

This last statement has many important implications for decision making, ill get deeper into this during the next episodes. Taking the whole process together ends up with a dynamic decision-making methodology that helps us apply ethics consistently within a wide variety of situations. I guess by now you have a better view of why I call it DREMSI, Dynamic Roleplaying Expectations to Minimize Stakeholders Injuries.

From a philosophical perspective

Let me address an important topic for the philosopher community. To be more specific, let me address what kind of philosophical label should we apply to this theory. I confirm that this theory is a quasi-social contract, utilitarian, deontological theory:

  • Quasi-social contract because of social expectations,
  • Utilitarian because of the quantification of injuries,
  • Deontological because of the normative rule to minimize injuries.

In construction it is very similar to the triple theory concept presented by maestro Derek Parfit, combining social contract, deontology and consequentialism. In a similar light,  I don’t specifically contradict any of the famous schools I just use their principles in a different format. (more on this in episode five).

The methodology does quite ok when discussing easy hypothetical dilemmas, such as the trolley ones which we will discuss in the next episode.  Where I see the bigger benefit of this method is when it comes to solving real-life complex dilemmas, in particular for two specific reasons:

  • On one end, it is consistent across systems, as one can use it to judge a family father, a group of friends or a company.
  • On the other end, it brings to light a deeper understanding and recognition of the concept of injuries, as one has to reflect more on the damage one causes and acknowledge that sometimes any action possible will be unethical to a certain degree.

The end goal of this work, I’m not aiming for a utopia.

This last point leads me to a critical message I want to share:

“In this work, I do not aim for the total removal of injuries, instead, I aim for the minimization of them; there is a massive difference in both objectives.”

Because we, as society and individuals, are constantly changing within a chaotic and unpredictable process, it’s impossible to conceive a perfect utopian society where nobody gets hurt. I believe such an idea is a dangerous illusion. I advocate a theory in which we understand that we can’t escape taking unethical actions, and instead of hiding them on excuses or illusions of perfection, we take the courage to accept them and repay them. I want to move away from the perfect ethical life, the one that doesn’t do any harm at all, and instead, I want people to recognize that, while perusing their interests they will cause injuries, and hence they should aim to minimize them.

I know this idea might open the door for multiple interpretations, but a responsible approach to interaction is much better than living under the dream that we can live without hurting others. Conflict is bound to happen in the pursuit of innovation; social change lies in the very idea of breaking expectations and if we are too scared of offending anyone it will be practically impossible for one to make a stand on something.

As my objective is to build a responsible take on injuries and interaction. The final component of the DREMSI theory is a “framework for living ethically”, which I’ll present in episodes 9 and 10. The funny part is that, although I don’t build this thesis using the famous virtue ethics school, given the semi-automated nature of roles, a great mechanic to learn ethics is virtue ethics. Because of this, the framework will focus on building an ethical identity, a perfect complement to the idea of living in roles.

“In my eyes, all the effort put into this thesis would be worthless if this wouldn’t be complemented with a framework for action, a framework to facilitate ethics”.

With this said it is time to officially close episode one. I share a lot of information and I am sure there are open questions that I’ll aim to address during the course of the series. In the next episode, I will display how the DREMSI method is applied to the famous trolley dilemmas. It is time to put the meat into the fire and see how it tastes.

NEXT S1E2-A: Addressing Classical Dilemmas

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S1E9 – A: State Dilemmas – Announcement

Hola my dear readers, In episode nine of this series we are meant to analyse the ethical dilemmas that governments face, it has been a long journey and this is one of the last stops in this theory. While individual and business dilemmas were relatively easy to analyse using the DREMSI method, it has taken

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S1E8 – D: Extended accountabilities

In this final section of Companies Dilemmas, we handle the controversial topic of Extended Accountabilities, aiming to define how far is a company responsible for the actions of external parties when running a business.

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S1E8 – C: Companies and the Greater good

In this episode, we handle how companies should consider solving «Greater Good» Dilemmas such as inequality and sustainability. A very common and valid question that doesn’t have an easy answer and even at times relies more on the government and the consumer than the company in itself.

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