S1E4 – B: The DREMSI Method, estimating injuries

One of the most critical sections of the whole thesis, is what do we understand as an Injury and how do we estimate the intensities. In this part of the DREMSI methodology we deep dive into Injuries so that we can make better judgment of the dilemmas.

Just like one would dedicate a full day or perhaps a week to Cinque Terre when visiting Italy, we have to dedicate a full section to the identification of injuries in this episode. There is so much to explore that will enrich our ethical decision-making. With the standpoints, stakeholders and role expectations defined, it is time to evaluate what kind of injuries have been caused and to which intensity they happened.

In episode one I addressed briefly that we can visualize injuries using familiar concepts, implying we can injure a person in a physical, social, emotional and economic sense. In other words, when talking about injuries, actions such as punching, insulting, discriminating, stealing or torturing apply. Although this perspective gets the message across, I want to provide a more structured view on injuries that works better with the whole theory, in specific, I want to address how we can injure a roleplaying actor.

Let us begin with a working definition of injury within the DREMSI world. The average dictionary defines injury “as a damage to a living person caused by an attack.” I take inspiration from this and in the context of this theory:

“An injury is any damage to the common interests of a stakeholder within a relational space, caused by a break of expectations from another party”

We keep the same logic as per the starting definition, “damage – person –  attack”, and we just clarify:

  • that the damage is in the shape of stakeholder interest,
  • the person is a stakeholder within a relational space,
  • and the attack is the failure to fulfil expectations from the other party.

Injury Types

With the definition in place, let us define further the scope of operations and classify the many types of injuries into an initial classification.

There are many ways to look and cluster injuries but, in an effort to keep a consistent line of thought with the idea of a roleplaying agent, we will classify injuries based on the level that they hinder the agent to pursue their interest; in other words, injuries will be classified based on the impact they have in the agency of the actor to pursue and achieve its goals.

With this said, I cluster injuries in three levels, all affecting how an individual can pursue their interest. (note that I will use the word actor at times to mean the individual)

First level, injuries to the core of the individual, injuries that affect the actor across all roles it can take:

  • Here we have any injury to the physical aspects of the individual, the body, the mind, the assets, the tools and the relationships.
  • This gets complemented by the identity status of the individual within society. If a person, the individual per-se, has a bad reputation, s/he will not be able to access many of the experiences.
  • One injures the core of an individual, if one for example: punches them, insults them, affects their relatives, steals their assets, or destroys their tools.

Second level, injuries to specific roles, injuries that affect the actor’s ability to play a role within a specific space

  • These are mostly injuries of identity within a space, autonomy, recognition and status. All these injuries are contextual as one is only injured in relation to others within the space (fairness)
  • One injures the actor’s role if one for example: causes them to lose status within that field or treats them unfairly compared to others.

Third level, relationship-specific injuries, injuries that affect the actor’s ability to play a role with a specific counterpart, a special agreement with a stakeholder.

  • More specifically, we have the concept of loyalty and responsibility, both in which the counterpart is expected to keep the agreement between both parties.
  • These relational agreements could be seen as expectations, but I like to see them more as on-top obligations given that are specific between two roles.
  • One injures the actor’s role and potentially the individual if one doesn’t deliver what it has been agreed or betrays the person.

This classification will cover most of the well-known spectrum of injuries; on one side, you have common interests such as wealth, safety, material goods, relationships, and on the other side, we cover anything that injuries the role we play, (status, recognition and autonomy). Although it may sound like a complicated matter, this definition and classification of Injuries it’s just a re-organization of all well-known concepts, we just now placed them in the context of roleplaying and agency.

Evaluating injury intensity, Injury Thresholds

With the exploration of the types of injuries done the next topic on the agenda to address is how do we evaluate the intensity of an injury.

I highlighted that this is a pseudo-quantitative approach, (yes, this definitely goes into the utilitarian way, I guess Jeremy Bentham would be proud), in which punching someone two times is worst than punching once. However, is not “mathematically” perfect, as there are many aspects that feel incommensurable, for example, what is worst to be slapped or to be shamed?, is it worst to lose a finger or to lose one’s job? The answer is always contextual.

Ultimately, the aim is not to have a perfect grading system for each offence but be able to classify injuries by a level of intensity, a level that allows us to differentiate injuries based on how much they hinder the actor in their ability to pursue their interest.

I arbitrarily selected three thresholds of intensity,  thresholds that allow us to quickly classify issues based on simple questions of damage. The three thresholds are Micro-Injuries, Serious-Injuries and Critical injuries. Let me get into the detail of each of them

Micro-injuries. Injuries that cause a damage but can be repaired with relative easiness, small damage that tends to happen often and is generally tolerated.

  • Examples: White lies, misleading, uncomfortable harms.
  • Punishment for this: Is commonly a complaint, punishment doesn’t have to be in the moment, there might be no need for repayment
  • Retribution: Apologies are not necessary but appreciated.
  • The Law: is not commonly involved.
  • Damage To Relationship: Relationship continues but if things continue this will get serious

Serious injuries, Injuries that are repairable but with a lot of difficulties, clear damages that demand retribution and punishment.

  • Examples: A punch, swearing, fooling someone, a one-night stand
  • Punishment for this: There will definitely be a complaint, punishment might happen and retribution is expected.
  • Retribution: Apologies are mandatory and extra effort to repay.
  • The Law: begins to get involved
  • Damage To Relationship: Damage to the relationship that will require time to heal.

Critical Injuries. Injuries with irreparable damage, large injuries that are considered a massive setback for the roleplaying actor.

  • Examples: Losing an arm, slavery, racism, betrayal changing sides
  • Punishment for this: Immediate retribution, stop of negotiations..
  • Retribution: Apologies might be meaningless, effort to repay is a must.
  • The Law: is definitely involved.
  • Damage To Relationship: Breakage of the relationship

As you can see by the level of details, all these thresholds come with different expectations on punishment, retribution, involvement of the law and the future of the relationship. These kinds of intensities remind me of the characteristics of water: if the temperature is too low, it freezes and enters a solid-state; if it’s normal it is in liquid form; and if it’s too hot it transforms into gas form. In a similar fashion to how temperature influences water, we use the intensity of the damage to explain the situation and in turn make consistent decisions. This idea is not revolutionary as we already apply intuitively these thresholds within our decision-making, not in such a structured fashion but in a more loose format.

Step 4 – Estimating injuries

With the thresholds explained, we can now estimate the injuries and assign the intensity thresholds. For this step we will tend to use benchmarks that come from our previous experience in the relational space, our local culture, and similar situations to the one we face.

To visualize it, I’ll continue using the ethical dilemma presented before, the one where you are working in the same office as the boyfriend of your best friend and you hear rumours that he is flirting with other girls. In this case, we have identified the stakeholders the boyfriend, your friend, and the company.

For standpoint A, where you tell your friend about the situation at the office.

  • Towards your friend, although it is uncomfortable, you don’t cause any injuries to your friend as you are remaining loyal to her by telling her about the situation. But in the case the rumours are false, you cause a critical injury to the her as you are causing a big damage to her relationship.
  • Towards the boyfriend, as you hold no loyalty expectations to the boyfriend, you don’t cause any injuries. But in the case, you are lying (or the rumours are false), you cause a serious injury to the boyfriend.
  • Towards the company, You have the risk to cause an uncomfortable situation to the company if you manage the situation within the office space, however, it is more likely that you handle this without any damage to the office.

For standpoint B, where you don’t tell your friend about the situation at the office.

  • Towards your friend, You are causing a critical injury to your friend, breaking your loyalty expectation as a friend.
  • You don’t cause any injuries to the boyfriend neither the office.

It is important to make sure you cover all stakeholders and you have a rough idea about the level of intensity of the damages. The process is full of pseudo quantifying assumptions, where we involved probabilities of happening (the case that the rumours are true) and measurable comparisons (loyalty to your friend compared to the boyfriend) as we try to identify how hurtful can each of the standpoints be.

The objective of using thresholds is three-folded:

  • First, to let us know the potential damage and consequences.
  • Second, to highlight which option is the worst.
  • and third, to emphasise if the position, regardless if it’s better than the other one, is unethical per se.

Step 4 – Estimating injuries, and the ethical label.

Given that per any given standpoint we will face multiple injuries, something visible in our example as both standpoints have different kinds of injuries. It is crucial that we assign a final label to the standpoints, a label that indicates clearly whether the position is unethical and that gives us a general idea of the kind of damages within. I will refer to this label as an ethical label from now onwards and this is the outcome of the whole process of estimating injuries.

Since the objective is to make a decision, I propose to use descriptive words when describing an ethical standpoint. With this in mind, I play around with the injury thresholds and suggest a playful way of looking at them, where I propose four unique labels that should be assigned:

  • We will label the standpoint “Acceptable” when there are no ethical injuries.
  • We will label the standpoint “Uncomfortably uncomfortable” when there are mostly Micro injuries involved
  • We will label the standpoint “Seriously serious”  in the presence of any serious injury.
  • We will label the standpoint “Critically critical” in the presence of any Critical injury.

Working on the ethical dilemma at hand, we would use the following labels:

  • For Standpoint A, telling your friend is uncomfortably uncomfortable, with a risk of being critically critical in the case is the rumours are false.
  • For Standpoint B, not telling your friend is critically critical.

When assigning the ethical label for each standpoint, we can simply take the highest damage we cause. Even if not perfect, this injury overview is already strong enough for us to estimate which one would be the best decision.

Making a judgement implies a normative philosophy that is consistent across ethical dilemmas, this is what we will handle in the next section, however before getting there I want to finalize this section with a small note on the common mistakes that happen at this stage.

Mistakes during injury grading

Failing to see vulnerability

I touched on the topic of vulnerability in the past episode, where we discussed the power disbalance within space and between stakeholders. Along these lines, during injury valuation we may fail to notice the vulnerability of the counterpart. For example, do we hold a special kind of power over the other person? do they rely on us?.. the ethical dilemma we analysed there were no power disbalances, but imagine if you were not a colleague but the boss of the boyfriend, would our actions cause the same damage?

Is important to know that vulnerability is not something exclusive to power, it can as well be a contextual vulnerability, for example, we are more sensitive when we just suffered a loss, or one can imagine that a punch in the face would hurt much more if one just been at the dentist and got their wisdom tooth out. Hence when thinking about vulnerability, is important to have in mind both, the contextual vulnerability and the relational power.

Pain is not injury

A common issue during injury evaluation is that we might consider pain to be the same as injuries, but this would be a terrible mistake. Pain is an indicator that something might be wrong, it is a signal, but injuries encompass a much bigger concept that doesn’t always equate with pain. I believe is easy to visualize is when a parent forces the kid to go to school, the kid might hate it and express his pain, but we know this must be done, otherwise not having an education is a larger injury to them.

I am not saying that pain is irrelevant, pain is a signal and it should always be considered. Pain is the first indicator of vulnerabilities the other stakeholder might face and is an instinctive connector among people, activating our empathy senses as we can feel the pain of others. However, within the concept of ethics presented here, we need to make our judgement on the role expectations and not on whether it is painful or not.

Far-away indirect damages

Another challenge during this step is when we connect our actions with indirect consequences. Because everything is connected, it is likely that our actions can be associated with other indirect damages. Two kinds of indirect damages are:

  • Far away damage in time. When we look into the far away future (1yr or more) and connect consequences to our present actions. Let me give you an example, if we make fun of a person within a group, we reduce their status in the group causing them an injury… very straightforward. We can bring forth an indirect damage, arguing that this lower status will lead them to depression and this will lead to the person eventually they will kill themselves. So from a small action we connected the imaginary dots all the way to them killing themselves.
  • Far away damage in stakeholders. When we look into the network of the affected stakeholder. For example, if you hurt a person, it is obvious that this person is a mother, daughter, father, brother..etc. hence it is understandable that you would consider all the different parties you affect by simply affecting one person.

It becomes tedious and difficult to calculate all indirect damages related to an action. My message is that when evaluating damages, we should take well-known consequences and avoid going too far with probabilities or stakeholders. Remember that ethics is a rudimentary tool for small groups, for group interaction, so it is not suited to estimate large ramifications of the decision. As a rule of thumb, when it comes to indirect damage, I tend to follow two basic rules:

  • If it’s something that would fall as a micro-injury, I would not consider it at all.
  • If it’s not an obvious connection, I would not consider it all.

Indirect damage is still an area that needs more exploration, so I expect to update this section as I keep building further on the methodology.

Accumulation of damages

Which one is worst, one critical damage or ten small uncomfortable damages?. A situation that can happen is that we may accumulate damages and “sum them up”, for example claiming that ten uncomfortable damages are equal to one critical damage. This is not the case and we shouldn’t review situations like this. The thresholds are set up by their level of damage and one’s ability to repay them or recover the situation. Although we can definitely count the number of offences when comparing same intensity damages (serious vs serious) I would advise against the accumulation of small damages to reach a higher threshold for the standpoint.

Closing remark

In this episode, we explored in great detail how to use the DREMSI methodology to evaluate complex situations.  Although the process might seem very complicated, we shouldn’t be concerned as  this process replicates much of what we currently do but we haven’t formalized:

  • we already consider affected parties in our actions, we just haven’t looked at it from a role perspective
  • we already know how to injure others; we just haven’t classified it for a roleplaying actor
  • and we already know some injuries are worse than others; we just haven’t applied labels to it.

I like to think of this process as a dance, like a wedding dance, in which you grab the hand of a partner, you don’t speak or make agreements beforehand, and you began to move in synchrony as you feel the situation. You become conscious of the other person’s movements, the kind of music and rhythm of the song and even the people around you. Nobody speaks or gives directions, yet, somehow, everyone knows where to go. It is the same with ethics, we use our feelings and intuition to navigate every situation; The DREMSI theory just formalizes the dance steps and structures it in a way that we can take decisions.

NEXT S1E5 – A: The DREMSI Method, taking-decisions

Pride by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

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

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Battle of the Moneybags

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.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Battle of the Moneybags

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.

Scroll al inicio