“Wild Beasts,” a new podcast series from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, made its debut recently on Spotify. Each episode details a situation wherein a moral decision is made which has had widespread social consequences. Interviews with involved figures and applied ethics experts tie together a compelling and rich listening experience, allowing the audience to understand the ethical implications of each case and explore alternative outcomes. Named for the famous quote by modern philosopher Albert Camus, "A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world,” “Wild Beasts” analyzes current events from the perspective of applied ethics. The episodes average 35 minutes in length, the longest spanning just over 60 minutes.
With three decades of experience, the Markkula Center is the largest, most comprehensive applied ethics center in the U.S. The Center’s experts are well-equipped to quiet the overwhelming noise in our news feeds by providing digestible and constructive ethical insights. By leveraging the knowledge and mastery these experts have, “Wild Beasts” can address ethical issues with a unique blend of experience, narrative, and application. Through this podcast, the Markkula Center hopes to offer a framework for ethical analysis that people can apply to their own lives and eventually incorporate into their own thinking.
Who is responsible for creating a sustainable future for AI? Why are state legislators passing restrictive voting bills? What is woke capitalism? Who ought to have control over our bodies in virtual reality? What is the fate of social media? These are only a few of the questions addressed over the course of the podcast. Created and hosted by Courtney Davis, 2020-21 Hackworth Fellow and current podcast producer at the Ethics Center, “Wild Beasts” provides a fresh perspective on current applied ethics issues. As Davis says, “Applied ethics is not abstract–it is the practical means by which we identify and expose wrongdoing in our society. We have to build ethics into our vocabulary so that we can empower people to use their platforms to make ethical decisions.”
Don Heider, executive director of the Ethics Center, offered similar thoughts about the unique power of the podcast, saying “There are very few podcasts that actively discuss ethics and even fewer make the subject easily accessible to the public or to anyone who might be unfamiliar with how ethical analyses are conducted by professionals in the field.”
The first episode, “Is AI Ripping Society Apart? Brian Green on Ethics and Generative AI,” features an interview with the Markkula Center’s Director of Technology Ethics Brian Green. Prompted by Davis, Green reflects on the sudden release of new generative AI technologies. He questions whether the technology companies producing these products ought to receive some form of general consent from the public before they are permitted to release life-altering technologies. At the very least, he points out that there is no informed consent system in place between technology companies and society at large when new products go public.
Future episodes feature conversations about voter suppression, extended reality, data storage, broadcast news journalism, the “meme wars,” and more, and include a range of Ethics Center contributors including Director of Government Ethics John Pelissero, Director of Venture and Equity Ethics Tracy Barba, and Director of Journalism and Media Ethics Subbu Vincent.
Lucas Bush ’23, political science and ethnic studies major and a marketing and communications intern with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, contributed to this story.