These men were able to give the counsel they gave because they were operating at an enormous psychological distance from the people who would be maimed and killed by the weapons systems that would result from the ideas they communicated to their sponsors. The lesson, therefore, is that the scientist and technologist must, by acts of will and of the imagination, actively strive to reduce such psychological distances, to counter the forces that tend to remove him from the consequences of his actions. He must -- it is as simple as this -- think of what he is actually doing. He must learn to listen to his own inner voice. He must learn to say "No!"
Finally, it is the act itself that matters. When instrumental reason is the sole guide to action, the acts it justifies are robbed of their inherent meanings and thus exist in an ethical vacuum. I recently heard an officer of a great university publicly defend an important policy decision he had made, one that many of the university's students and faculty opposed on moral grounds, with the words: "We could have taken a moral stand, but what good would that have done?" But the moral good of a moral act inheres in the act itself. That is why an act can itself ennoble or corrupt the person who performs it. The victory of instrumental reason in our time has brought about the virtual disappearance of this insight and thus perforce the delegitimation of the very idea of nobility."Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation" (1976)
I remember once asking my mother, ‘How did you do in your studies?’ She replied, ‘What are you talking about? How could you study under those conditions?’.
When she saw the segregation of African-Americans, whether at a lunch counter or in the school system, that was, for her, like the prologue to the Nazi holocaust. Whereas many Jews now say, Never compare (Elie Wiesel’s refrain, ‘It’s bad, but it’s not The Holocaust’), my mother’s credo was, Always compare. She gladly and generously made the imaginative leap to those who were suffering, wrapping and shielding them in the embrace of her own suffering.
For my mother, the Nazi holocaust was a chapter in the long history of the horror of war. It was not itself a war – she was emphatic that it was an extermination, not a war – but it was a unique chapter within the war. So for her, war was the ultimate horror. When she saw Vietnamese being bombed during the Vietnam War, it was the Nazi holocaust. It was the bombing, the death, the horror, the terror, that she herself had passed through. When she saw the distended bellies of starving children in Biafra, it was also the Nazi holocaust, because she remembered her own pangs of hunger in the Warsaw Ghetto.
The type of personal integration we attain – or the effective lack thereof – depends on what possibilities our life situation offers us for the development of autonomy. It is a distorted development that is the root cause of the pathological and, ultimately, evil element in human beings.
The struggle for autonomy heightens our aliveness. Insofar as the socialization process blocks autonomy, however, this process engenders the evil it attempts to prevent. If parental love is so distorted that it demands submission and dependence for its self-confirmation, social adjustment turns into a test of obedience and the child’s efforts to comply bring with them the loss of genuine feelings. The human being then becomes the true source of evil."The Betrayal of the Self: The Fear of Autonomy in Men and Women"
There are more than a few people, especially among the cultural élite, who still publicly regret the fact that Germany sent Einstein packing, without realizing that it was a much greater crime to kill little Hans Cohn from around the corner, even though he was no genius."Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
[..] if one is in touch with one's own unconscious reality, I think one would have to admit that in all of us there is a piece of Eichmann, and if you ask why, on what basis do I say this, then I would ask you whether you have lost your appetite when you read that in India people were starving, or whether you have gone on eating. As soon as you have not lost your appetite, when you knew other people were starving, then your heart has hardened, and in principle, you have done the same which Eichmann did.
I don't think, that if we are really in touch with the inner reality of ourselves, that there is any crime, or perhaps any virtue, which we cannot discover in ourselves. We shut ourselves [off] from the awareness of our inner reality, we project the evil to our opponents and enemies, and believe that the good is in ourselves; individually, nationally, and group-wise in general.
But if you can really see that every one of us, carries all of humanity, the good and the evil, within himself, then indeed is very hard to be a fanatic, then indeed it's very hard to be a judge, then indeed would follow, a deep understanding, if not love, of your fellow man. Which is part of being truly a person.lecture called "The Automaton Citizen"
Either we all live in a decent world, or nobody does.
The middle-class public generally isn't against arrest and/or execution by the government for secret crimes. What they are against is the arrest of people that they relate to, and who share their values. The only principled stands that they can understand are standing for children, animals, personal possessions, and customer service.
No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
The Morlocks could have descended from today's social network or hedge fund owners, while the ancestors of the Eloi undoubtedly felt lucky initially, as free tools helped them crash on each other's couches more efficiently. What is intriguing about Wells's vision is that members of both species become undignified, lesser creatures. (Morlocks eat Eloi, which is about as far as one can go in rejecting empathy and dignity.)"Who Owns The Future?"
The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.
People who so badly want to strike a win for their values over human empathy, equality, and compassion have to steer common sense arguments into the arena of pedantic details. They have so routinely gotten their butt kicked in the arenas of empathy, equality, and compassion so often they’re ashamed to say what they feel out loud, even with a made up internet handle.
They should embrace the shame, it might be the only thing left that tethers them to humanity.
What gets me though is most IT people can't even grok people's facial expressions, but they'll trust anything that claims it measures “the average user”.
As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. [...] This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion."The Descent of Man" (1871)
Frankly, most people have a grossly stunted sense of empathy, with exceptions only for those things that they have firsthand life experience with. An instructive contrast is media depictions of sexual violence against women: for a couple of decades, there has been a concerted effort to decry media depictions of violence against women (sexual or otherwise) that are perceived as unnecessary or trivializing. The success of these campaigns is to be lauded, but what they reveal about how empathy-bankrupt monsters most people are is sort of chilling: people en masse can be taught to play-act empathy by rote if it's drilled into their head that a particular case is no longer socially acceptable, but they don't seem to be capable (en masse) of practicing the skill of empathy itself.
For anyone who watches Game of Thrones: Compare the huge outcry against the depiction of Sansa's marital rape to _an entire season_ of infinitely more gruesome torture porn by the same perpetrator against a male victim, which included genital mutilation. Despite being a far more egregious and lengthy display of gratuitous and stomach-turning violence, the latter caused no backlash whatsoever, and is in fact still fodder for jokes about Game of Thrones-themed foods ("Theon's Flayed Sausage"), including from publications like Huffington Post which were some of the loudest complainants about how unforgivable the former scene was.
TL;DR: It's not a particularly popular opinion, but most people are far more depraved and far less capable of basic human empathy than even their own ostensible moral standards would imply. Like you, I can't relate to how people watch that stuff, but I can definitely understand it.