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Social distancing measures have been in full effect for weeks and legions of people have retreated – more or less happily – to the relative safety of their homes. Workplaces and public spaces that used to teem with people lie eerily empty and many employees – fortunate ones for whom telecommuting proved possible – have carried on with their professional lives in a strange virtual world where newly disembodied organizations large and small continue to operate.
What we are attempting, as far as I know, has never been done. Some microorganisms such as yeasts, fungi and bacteria can go completely dormant for periods of time that can stretch over thousands of years, a phenomenon known as super-long anabiosis: a glacier moves in, the bacteria go into a deep freeze; the glacier pulls back ten thousand years later, the bacteria go back to their business.
The kind of social control that monitoring and surveillance make possible can take many forms and benign motivations will always be invoked (indeed, reasons given will always sound very compelling in the moment), but when it comes to the very foundations of individual and collective freedom, the bar should be set very high indeed.
Allow me to start with a disclaimer: This article is a full-on recommendation for a little gem of a book titled “Virtue at Work” by Geoff Moore, Professor of Business Ethics at Durham University in the UK.
Doing the right thing is not as easy as just saying it. It can often require real courage to do what is right, and humans are notoriously fallible in this front. But another, equally daunting obstacle stands in the way of what is good and just – one that we have likely been struggling with for as long as our species has had a notion of right and wrong: How exactly, pray tell, does one determine what is the right thing to do in a given situation?