The cold equations of ethics
Practical Ethics (blog)
Cory Doctorow has written a thoughtful critique of two science fiction stories and how they might promote short-sightedness and morally bad behaviour.
My own favourite example of this kind of induction of conclusions is Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, which is often used as an argument that cognitive enhancement will not be good for people. However, the reason the protagonist suffers is that he and the world is written that way. While it makes for a good story it doesn’t help us think much about the nature of intelligence enhancement despite apparently giving us an argument.
This suggests that writers trying to be moral should do their best to refrain from overly constraining their fictional worlds in order to tell stories that actually help us think about acting morally in the real world.
However, many authors have moral views they wish to promote through their art. This might lead to a trade-off between writing a compelling story that makes people more likely to behave in a more moral manner, or make a less compelling story that makes people think more widely about the moral issue. Should they teach morality or ethics? The answer is probably individual: some people are moralists, other have a more ethical bent. There are examples of good and bad fiction of both kinds.