World Futures: Risks, Rewards & Responsibilities Part 5

Los Alamos World
Futures Institute
In this series we have explored a bubble model of humanity in which every human being is an individual bubble. Bubbles can amass to become larger bubbles such as in a marriage or significant other partnership; or bubbles can join or be hired by larger bubbles.
In the social process, all bubbles take risks to achieve rewards while accepting the associated responsibilities.
Clearly, if the associated responsibilities are not accepted, the system may break down or the responsible bubble(s) is disciplined according to the culture of the affected bubble(s). As a simple example, a bubble decides to steal something (take a risk) in order to obtain something of value (get a reward) and rejects the responsibility not to steal. The culture of the bigger bubble says stealing is punishable if the individual is caught.
In a previous series about lying, cheating and stealing an example of sampling a grape at the grocery store was given as an example of “stealing.” But our culture says it’s not really “stealing,” it is just sampling.
A bubble has duties and obligations established by the culture of the society and decisions made by the bubbles (laws and regulations?). In the case of individual bubbles it is more straightforward. If you accept a job you have a duty to show up for work and an obligation to perform it as best you can for a specified period of time.
If, while meeting this responsibility, you purloin the design secrets of the product and pass them to a competitor (perhaps for a personal reward) you violate your implied responsibility for honesty and fidelity.
When you go to work (your duty) and perform your job to the best of your ability (your obligation), you take a risk, albeit very small, to receive your reward – compensation. It is a positive reward based on expected value, the value of labor for money. But when you steal the trade secret, the reward may be positive or negative depending on the probability of being caught and the societal penalty, legally and morally. It can be significant at the personal level.
According to the Roman philosopher Cicero, duties may come from four sources. First, it is a result of being human. Think about your responsibilities to other humans. What is your duty to help someone in need, if you can? Second, when you merge with or join other bubbles, what are your duties to them? Third, what duties arise from your character, the mental and moral qualities distinctive to you? These qualities may have been imbued to you by society and may be right or wrong. And, finally, what are your own moral expectations of yourself?
A bubble’s civic duties include obeying the laws and paying taxes. It is a responsibility. So a bubble should never exceed the speed limit while driving a car. As one of the sports announcers says, “C’mon Man.” A bubble takes a risk of driving 70 miles per hour (mph) in a 65 mph speed zone to get to work on time (a duty to its employer).
The risk is small and the reward is that the bubble’s boss says “good morning.” The bubble violated one responsibility to meet another one and, if it gets a ticket and is late to work, the bubble has failed twice. But what if the bubble hides $10,000.00 of income when filing its tax return – on purpose?
Earlier we looked at a bubble’s responsibility for accepting a job and purloining a trade secret. This is an act of a smaller bubble stealing from a bigger bubble that has trust in him or her. But what is the responsibility of the smaller bubble when the bigger bubble is observed doing something wrong to society (a really big bubble)?
What is the risk of “blowing the whistle” and what is the reward (or punishment)? How do you calculate or balance your civic duties with your duties to your employer? It is much easier to travel 70 mph in a 65 mph posted speed zone. But remember, your duty is to be pleasant to the police officer.
Most of the time the risks we take and decisions we make are small. I remember only making three or four major decisions in my lifetime – where to go to college – will you marry me (she said yes) – to accept employment in New Mexico – and to report an incident.

The first three were easy and rewarding even though they carried, with time, significant responsibilities. The fourth dealt with right, wrong and some serious personal risk. Actually, the choice was very easy because my parents met their filial duties in teaching me the difference between right and wrong (with some help from education and religion). Are we as societal bubbles doing the same in teaching children about risks, rewards, responsibilities and duties?
Until next time…
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