James H. Moor

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Jim Moor
Birthname James H. Moor
Date of Birth November 2, 1942
Birth Place Columbus, OH
Nationality American
Occupation Professor
Biography Intellectual and Moral Philosophy Professor

James H. Moor, born November 2, 1942 in Columbus, Ohio works as an intellectual and moral philosophy professor at Dartmouth College. His self proclaimed areas of expertise are in computer ethics, nanoethics, and the philosophy of artificial intelligence[1]. In an interview with Michael J. Quinn, Moor summarizes his interest in the philosophy of technology by alluding to the Ring of Gyges in Plato's Republic, begging the question, "why be just while using the internet if one can get away with being unjust?"[2] He is currently the President of the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology (INSEIT) and resides in Hanover, New Hampshire with his wife of 41 years, Marty[3].

Education and Career

James received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Ohio State University in 1965, a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1966, and a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University in 1972[4][5]. He began teaching philosophy in 1967 at Findlay College. He then began his teaching career at Dartmouth College in 1972. Today he is the Professor of Philosophy at Dartmouth, as well as an Adjunct Professor with the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University[6]. His most recently taught courses focus on philosophical logic and the philosophy of computers and science.

Selected Publications

A list of selected publications from Moor's Dartmouth profile[7]:

  • The Logic Book, 5th Edition (with Merrie Bergmann and Jack Nelson), New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 2009.
  • Nanoethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Nanotechnology (with Fritz Allhoff, Patrick Lin, and John Weckert), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007.
  • The Turing Test: The Elusive Standard of Artificial Intelligence, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003.
  • Cyberphilosophy: The Intersection of Philosophy and Computing, (with Terrell Ward Bynum) Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers, 2002.
  • The Digital Phoenix: How Computers Are Changing Philosophy, Revised Edition,(with Terrell Ward Bynum), Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Sample of Courses Taught

  • Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Logic
  • Philosophy of Psychology
  • Minds and Machines
  • Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence
  • Ethical and Social Impact of Computing (Computer and Information Science Department)
  • Technology and Values (Liberal Studies Program)
  • Philosophy and Computers
  • Research Ethics and Nanoethics (REU-NSF)

Contributions to Information Ethics Through Philosophy

Moor has participated extensively in making the issues surrounding computer ethics more present in the public sphere. Much of Moor's research has focused on the logical, epidemiological, and metaphysical implications of information technology - such as how information technology is defined in a philosophical sense - with the explicit objective of making these fields approachable. Though he does not believes that the field of information ethics is inherently separate from ethics in the general sense, he views its defining device - the computer - as a way for continually encountering new situations which did not exist as ethical dilemmas prior to its creation. Moor's advocacy of "just consequentialism" - the idea that one must consider and equally weight individual justice and societal consequences when making a moral decision - is exemplified by his belief that computer ethics should be reflected in public policy.

Emerging Technologies Model

In his article, "Why we need better ethics for emerging technologies"[8], Moor proposes the hypothesis that ethical issues arise at an increasing rate as a technological revolution, or the advent of social change associated with a particular technological development, reaches its final stage of implementation, what he labels the "power stage[9]." Furthermore, once technologies are fully adopted into the lives of people and goes unnoticed is when the "power stage" begins. Specifically, he concentrates on the ethical problems brought upon by genetic technology, nanotechnology, and neurotechnology.

The Path to Technological Revolution

The opportunity for a technological revolution derives from the potential of a particular technological development. Technological developments are made possible when the instances of a technological paradigm, the concept which defines a particular technology, are improved in some manner, such as in efficiency, effectiveness, or safety. An instance, or implementation, of a technological paradigm is usually characterized by a device. Moor exemplifies this concept with the Wright brothers’ airplane, a device that acted as a technological instance of the technological paradigm that was a machine that incorporates flight through aerodynamics. In order for a technological development to be considered a revolution, Moor explains that it must have an “enormous social impact[9]." There are three stages under which a technological revolution must develop to reach this state:

  • Introduction Stage
    • In the beginnings of the first stage, only the idea or curiosity of the technology exists, and the implementations of the technological paradigm are simply esoteric. As more people become aware of the technology, devices are created and gradually improved. The chance for societal implementation is low due to high start up costs. There is little social impact yet.
  • Permeation Stage
    • By the second major stage of development, the technological device is made standard and operational adjustments virtually halt. Production costs drop, which naturally increases integration with the help of increased demand. There is a moderate social impact with the advent of product adoption.
  • Power Stage
    • In the final stage, the technology is commonly available and made more effective with the convergence of other technological structures. Most of society is directly or indirectly affected by its integration, and the decreased costs increase application. To test for societal impact, Moor suggests imagining the absence of the particular technology and judging to what extent our culture would alter. He therefore attributes electricity as a technological revolution, but not toasters, despite their convenience.

By completing each stage of revolutionary progression, the technological development will typically hold certain intrinsic qualities that increase the onset of ethical dilemma: malleability and convergence.

File:Moor - malleability.png
Forms of malleability
A technology's generic capability to alter and produce a particular form that is, in the absence of the technology, naturally stable. Computers, for example, are logically malleable, with the power to manipulate logic states and operations.
The characteristic that promotes a technology to enable other technologies, thereby reinforcing and supporting like developments. The convergence of a technology can occur when it acts as an assisting tool, complementary component, or model for other products of technology.

Genetic Technology

Among the three technological movements Moor believes are most relevant today, genetic technology is the most maturely developed, not yet in its power stage, but well established in the permeation stage. Genetic technology proves malleability with the capability of gene reconfiguration, as well as the potential for life generation. Life malleability allows for the possibility of improvements of current life forms, generation of extinct life forms, and creation of life forms that have yet to exist, all of which have the potential for a major social impact. The beginning stages of its social impact are shown by the increasing popularity of in vitro fertilization, the engineering of certain foods, instances of animal cloning, the advocacy of stem cell research, and criminal profiling and the identification of natural disaster victims through DNA profiling, among other techniques. Genetic technology also proves itself as a well established converging revolution, acting as a tool to support other technologies, such as with the human genome project, when computers were programmed to evaluate genetic samples, thereby officially identifying the 20,000-25,000 human DNA genes.



Improving Ethics

(general info with policy vacuums and privacy in online environment as examples...)

Policy Vacuums

Moor describes the existence of policy vacuums, or the lack of appropriate ethical rules for emerging technology. That is, per every technological revolution births a new kind of situation, and thus, a need for new set of customs. Moor explores the deeper issues of "holes" in the construct of ethical rules in the virtual environment by delving into issues related to unsecured open networks (i.e., WiFi).

Privacy in the Online Environment

With the unceasing development and advancement of technology and its applications comes the debated issue of privacy in the online environment. What constitutes privacy in a general sense of the word, what does it mean to have privacy in an online community, and who has the right to it? Moor contributes his theories to the redefinition of the concept of 'privacy'.

In collaboration with Herman T. Tavani, Moor creates the Restricted Access/Limited Control Theory (RALC), a hybrid of the preexisting theories relating to Privacy in the Online Environment, Control, and Limitation Theory. In short, the RALC theory states that the user has privacy to his personal information depending on the context of the situation; 'privacy' is context sensitive, and it is not the information itself but the circumstance or zone of privacy that is analyzed in deciding the rights of its users.

See Also

External Links


  1. "James H. Moor" retrieved April 21, 2019., http://www.dartmouth.edu/~jmoor/
  2. "An Interview with James Moor" in Michael J. Quinn, Ethics for the Information Age, 2nd edition, Boston: Addison Wesley, 2006, pp. 103-105.
  3. Response e-mail from James.H.Moor@Dartmouth.edu
  4. "James H. Moor Dartmouth Faculty Directory", https://home.dartmouth.edu/faculty-directory/james-h-moor, retrieved April 21, 2019
  5. "Amazon.com: The Logic Book (4th edition)"., retrieved April 21, 2019., https://www.amazon.com/Logic-Book-4th-Merrie-Bergmann/dp/0072401893/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=Logic-Book-4th-Merrie-Bergmann&qid=1555884302&s=gateway&sr=8-2
  6. "Nanoethics Anthology"., retrieved April 21, 2019., http://www.nanoethics.org/wiley.html
  7. "Department of Philosophy"., Dartmouth., retrieved April 21, 2019., http://www.dartmouth.edu/~phil/faculty/moor.html
  8. [1] Why we need better ethics for emerging technologies]
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Why We Need Better Ethics for Emerging Technologies"., ACM Digital Library., Retrieved April 21, 2019., http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1133865

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