What a week it has been! At the top of the charts would be Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, and his subsequent dismantling of special teams that oversaw content management, ethics, privacy, as well as employment law protections.
It’s hard to look away from natural disasters. We wonder why, after so many years of studying them, their impact has not lessened, and their restoration time has not shortened. The few minutes of attention we give them from the morning newspapers or the evening news is but one type of traumatic information we absorb on a regular basis. It is painful and stress-provoking to take it all in -- school shootings, assaults, property damage, homelessness, and a general uneasiness that we are not safe in public places. Some of our anxiety is surely left over from the worst of pandemic times.
We are enjoying the last weeks of summer, interspersed with climate change indicators that bring fires, floods, excessive heat, and even an earthquake or two. As I write this on September 11, I am mindful that there are thousands more victims than the 2,996 who died that morning in 2001 who have died unexpectedly while simply going about their business.
I have been teaching a graduate course that I renamed to its original title, “Ethics, Policy, and Law in Information Management,” for ten years now. This spring we read aloud the Bill of Rights, and before I could make my usual statement that the founding documents of the United States are imperfect and still evolving, an Afghan student asked, “Why is there no mention of women in these documents?”
With spring comes optimism, including around the challenge of COVID. We see people returning to art exhibitions, sporting events, visiting the famous cherry blossoms on the University of Washington campus, even attending the annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington D.C., most without masks. Others are returning to movie theatres, or coming out for ceremonial events like weddings, and funerals.
Unfolding horrific events in Ukraine coupled with brutal repression of dissent in Russia have caused me to insert another declaration that is equally relevant to any study of ethics, policy, and law, given the death and destruction we are witnessing because of the ambitions and grievances of Vladimir Putin.
In her article, The Quality of Judgment, Annie Searle takes a calculated risk in her discourse on judgement that might apply to health and safety, operational, political, regulatory, and the natural risk environment.
We enjoy stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end. We especially like clear resolutions to mark the end of a story. So, it’s no wonder that we’re itchy nearly two years later when the omicron variant has lengthened the COVID-19 story, and threatens re-entry to libraries, museums, theatres, restaurants, churches, schools, and sporting events. The omicron variant is at this time a law unto itself.
When I last wrote on November 8, I was optimistic: “those of us who are vaccinated are able now to go out to have a meal, travel, attend a concert or an exhibition or an athletic event and, in general, move about much more freely than before.” The COVID booster and antiviral had become two more arrows in our quiver to fight the virus.
My column today is a collection of observations that are based in part on the social isolation we’ve all felt for last 22 months. We always knew pandemics were a possibility, especially after the H1N1 scare in 2009, but our earlier national preparedness had lapsed into a broken stockpile and a rusty supply chain.