S1E5 – C: The DREMSI Method, Beyond Role’s expectations.

The last section of phase two, where we handle the complicated idea of going beyond our role's expecations. Here is where we navigate on the concept of altruism and social change.

«Selfishness beats altruism within groups, [but] altruistic groups beat selfish groups, and everything else is commentary,»

With this statement, Dr. Edward O. Wilson changed radically the perspective of how we, humans, operate as a species. This statement emphasizes that we do not operate on the selfish-gene format, but that we display eusociality, a type of behaviour in which it is good and encouraged to help others that are not related to one genetically, refuting the idea that any action we do is motivated to increase the survival of our genes. Dr. Wilson underlined that the highest level of cooperation and altruism is that of eusociality and that the fine balance of altruism and egoism lingers within each society. Altruism plays such an important role in society that is unthinkable to not discuss it within an ethical theory, hence in this section I plan to explain the mechanics of interaction with this concept.

One of the biggest challenges of this theory is the over-reliance on social expectations to make decisions. The excuse “this is not my responsibility” is a very uncomfortable consequence of this approach. After going rounds in circles around the topic, I finally realized that the problem lay with the very own principle of using social expectations, that by relying exclusively upon Role’s expectations I left no room for altruism, which is actually acting beyond expectations.

In order to keep the methodology consistent, the first part of the normative evaluation focuses on the expectation related to the role we play, and it is only during the last step in the methodology that we raise the question if we should go beyond expectations, if there are reasons to break with the protocol and look into the bigger picture, by either behaving altruistically or seeking social change.

Within the realm of beyond social expectations, I cluster two concepts, Altruism and Social Change; while Altruism helps in the short term to mitigate injuries that are not within the scope of our responsibilities, Social Change is the act to change social expectations in themselves, with the long term objective to change the behaviours within a space.

In my vision of Ethics, once we have passed judgement based on the role we play, we should ask ourselves two questions:

  • Shall I go beyond my expectations and behave altruistically?
  • Is this problem so big that requires a change in Social expectations?

In this section, I’ll provide a deeper perspective on the implications of these questions. Both of these questions involve acting outside our role in the search for a better world, both of these mechanisms will require us to pay a specific price, and in a similar light, both of these actions will have a high impact on our reputation within the group.

The idea is to use them both with the objective of minimizing injuries, hence complementing the overall objective of this theory; given that both actions have different mechanics I would like to discuss each of them separately.


Let us begin with the most famous of the two concepts. Altruism has been defined as the disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others, when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves. It is considered by many a fundamental pillar in morality and as highlighted earlier it provides many great benefits for society, to the point one may argue, shouldn’t we be as altruistic as possible? There lies the critical point with altruism, the moment one does it consistently one builds expectations and it stops being altruism, if you give food to the poor once, it is altruism, but if you give them every day, the set of expectations formalizes and at some point the poor will complain when you didn’t give them food, your action stop being considered altruistic and transformed into a responsibility.

In this work, we will consider altruism as “taking temporary actions outside of our role’s expectations; actions that either prevent or solve an upcoming injury for another stakeholder.”

Within this definition, the action has to be clearly outside the expectations assigned to our role, for example, “giving presents to your mom on a Christmas day” is not altruism as this is expected to happen. The action has to clearly solve a problem for the other party, “giving money to the rich person” is not altruism; Lastly, the action has to be temporary, meaning it has to be related to a specific situation that the group currently can’t handle.

Given the great value that Altruism brings to every society, this action is heavily rewarded to the reputation of the individual displaying this action, hence it complements the prestige- shaming-prising mechanism already in place in the group. Due to the indirect benefits in reputation, Altruism has been referred to as Virtue Signalling, the claim that we help others mostly for the sake of getting attention and signalling to the group that we are virtuous, instead of helping others for the sake of helping, for the sake of the good to others. As the saying goes, “altruism is the highest form of egoism”. Although there is much we can discuss on the different intentions behind altruism, what is important for this work is that altruism solves a problem, that it prevents an injury to other stakeholders; whether it is done for the love of an ethical principle or for the need for attention, becomes secondary.

Deciding to be altruistic

Moving to more practical matters. When evaluating if one should go beyond expectations and behave altruistically, I would like to propose four considerations to have in mind:

First, in regard to the reduction of injuries. The total operation should indeed reduce the total damage.

“The outcome should lead to a reduction of injuries in the total sense, one cannot justify an altruistic action if it leads to a larger injury somewhere else”

Second, in regard to the role, we play and the stakeholders involved. It is likely that someone else in the group already has this responsibility, as such:

  • “Unless is for the prevention of a critical or serious injury, one shouldn’t overtake someone’s expectations without the tacit consent of the respective party.”
  • For example, if we see a kid complaining that is hungry, we can always fetch a piece of bread…  but if the kid’s mom is right beside the kid, we should check with her before.

Third, role responsibility priority. Given that we are doing extra workload, this theoretically shouldn’t compromise the current workload we are expected to deliver

  • “Unless is for the prevention of a critical or serious injury, One should prioritize the fulfilment of the expectations of their current role.”
  • In the same line, if one’s kids are hungry, before one starts looking after someone else’s kids, one should first take a look at their own children

Fourth and final, the frequency of it. The behaviour has to avoid the formation of extra expectations within the group, the moment it becomes a formal expectation then it is no longer altruism.

  • “Altruistic behaviour cannot become a fixed expectation, it has to be something informal”
  • A typical example of an injury is when you start feeding someone else’s cat, you feed them so often that the expectation is raised to everyone (including the cat); when you stop bringing food you will cause trouble to everyone involved.

These conditions not only encourage altruistic behaviour in critical situations but it respects the key premises of the methodology, as it works in symphony with roles and social expectations.

Social Change

Moving into the second point in the agenda. Social change is understood in the field of sociology as the alteration of mechanisms within the social structure, characterized by changes in cultural symbols, rules of behaviour, social organizations, or value systems.

In the context of this work, I refer to Social Change as the effort to add, modify or remove social expectations of a specific role within a group; a change in expectations that leads to a change in behaviour and ultimately a different outcome.

The clear focus is on the change in role expectations, a change that can be as small as just a different way of parenting, or as grandiose as reducing discriminating practices in society.

A critical point is that the process varies significantly if the expectations we aim to change are related to a role one plays compared to a role someone else’s plays, it is not the same if we want to change how one behaves as a parent, with one being a parent, compared to how should the government behave, with one being a citizen. Because the process is very different, during the review of ethical dilemmas we will not address the change in expectations on other stakeholders’ roles (this will be addressed in episode 10), instead, we will limit ourselves to focus on changes in expectations in relation to the role one plays, in other words, we ask ourselves If we should act with the objective to modify the expectation to the current role we are playing.

Since the objective is to influence the group’s opinion on the expectations assigned to a role, the efforts to achieve this will be significantly larger compared to an altruistic activity. On one end, we have to do it consistently in time, and on another end, social change at times will ask us to “row against the tide” as there will be resistance to change from the group and we might have to go against what is known as “common sense”. While altruism tends to be mostly perceived as positive, either by the immediate outcome or because the action tends to be well-known positive. Social Change might require a sort of faith or belief that the end result will be indeed positive, even if it looks odd and destructive at the begging.

Types of social change

Unlike altruism which tends to be quite specific in actions, social change is much wider in execution, hence I would like to bring forward two kinds of social change that are easy to visualize and that will help us digest better the concept and scope.

First kind of social change is what I call Supplementary Social Change. This refers to behaviours that fix a problem that nobody is currently handling but everyone agrees it would be nice to get fixed. A perfect example is the changes in behaviours we are doing in an effort to be more sustainable, to combat climate change. This kind of social change aims to change of behaviours on something that the majority already agrees will be beneficial.

The second type of social change is much more adventurous, is what I like to call Visionary Social Change. This refers to behaviours that are addressing a problem that is not agreed upon by the whole group. This is a change not only in behaviour but in perception, which requires a re-organization of values and an understanding of the impact of certain actions. Let’s take for example the changes in the way we treat women at work, it has changed radically in the past 100 years and many men have gotten to face a radical change in their beliefs of how things are meant to work. Because these changes ask us to reconsider many aspects of society, there tends to be a large resistance and even an aggressive backlash, so whoever wants to start this kind of revolution, will naturally have to pay a big price to achieve it.

Deciding to seek social change

With the scope and focus of social change defined, I would like to point out two conditions on which we should handle seeking Social Change.

Reduction of injuries in total

Perhaps unnecessary to emphasize, but the aimed new role expectations should seek the reduction of injuries in a total sense, meaning it should reduce a larger injury than the alternative behaviour.

One shouldn’t lead to a change of expectations that causes equal or higher injuries than the one we aim to change.”

I think this point can be easily visualized in the case of gender or race quotas. With the aim to contribute to the development of minorities, a common practice is the application of “gender quotas” for specific roles, in other words, a company expresses that a specific percentage of the positions will be given to a minority. In this case, the company actively discriminates against a certain group with the aim to benefit another. I understand the idea is to reduce discrimination, which is a critical injury, but one cannot simply choose to discriminate the other way. The idea of “let’s officially discriminate against white to reduce the informal discrimination on minorities” is not supported by this view of ethics.

Reduction of injuries in the process

Given that Social Change requires a consistent effort and display within the group. There is a “transition phase” for change, a time period and process for the change to occur, in which there will be multiple actions related to the change desired. In practical terms, If one wants everyone to start separating their garbage by garbage type, this will require many actions to support this change; from as simple as a reproving gaze anytime someone doesn’t do it to as complex as a reward system for the ones that do best. I argue that in the process of Social Change one we should minimize injuries as much as possible. Since the process requires a breakage of expectations, it is bound to face resistance from the group, hence we should aim to minimise the friction in the group.

“One should aim to use the process of change that causes the least injuries to the group”

In episode ten ill enter into more detail about the process of change, in specific on the etiquette for change; in simple terms, one shouldn’t just start burning cars in protest or start yelling at people just for the sake of change. Given that social change is essential for any group, in many spaces we have developed methods, processes, timings, places and even roles that facilitate changes in expectations.

The Final Decision

In this episode, I addressed many important points that influence how we take a decision. Let me just summarize it briefly:

With the objective to minimize injuries, within any given dilemma:

  • You either select the lowest injury based on the options available to the role you play.
    • Which in the case of equal damage injuries you can add an additional metric
    • Which is not allowed to break social norms unless is for the prevention of critical injuries
  • Or you decide to go beyond your role for the sake of solving an injury
    • Which can be solving a temporary issue, hence behaving altruistically
    • Or can be changing the whole role expectations in totally, hence seeking social change

This is the logic we will apply in the next section as we begin to analyze ethical dilemmas for individuals, corporations and even the state. On a personal side, I am having a small celebration drink at this point, a small glass of wine to commemorate the finalization of this phase that has been quite complex to analyze and write. This phase was necessary as it will make things much easier to explain while solving dilemmas, hence I am very glad it’s done and I will continue to improve it as we uncover more important points.

A last remark on this phase is that we clearly focus on a method that solves ethical dilemmas while they are happening, it provides guidance on how to take a decision among situations. From a temporal perspective, we could say that it stays in the present, but we could and should have an opinion on two other points in time. First, on the future, meaning what happens post-interaction, and in particular I mean the repayment process in case we behave unethically. Second, pre-interaction, the process of preparing oneself to perform ethically. Both post and pre-interaction phases will be discussed during the final phase of this work, hoping to close the cycle and provide a holistic ethical theory that truly develops ethical competence.

S1E6 – A: The ethical dance: action-reaction – group reaction.

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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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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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