Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Job morality indicator

Are you doing a GOOD job?
  (+70, -5)(+70, -5)(+70, -5)
(+70, -5)
  [vote for,

One of the reasons I left my last job (aside from the hours, geographical location, and cowshit) was that we were subcontracting for a Texan oil company who spent much of their time thinking up ingenious new uses for Burmese political prisoners. Now I write embedded software for mobile phones.

What I want is an easy to read numerical display, maybe like a share ticker on my desktop, or a "No reportable accidents for 193 days" sign on a building site, to tell me if my work is improving or worsening the lot of humanity. Such a device could, if positive, motivate staff, and, if negative, improve the world as they spend longer making coffee.

It should in theory be possible to calculate an index, based on such pointers as pollution, Amnesty International reports, attitude surveys, share price, staff salaries, product prices, bug reports, fuel usage, charitable donations, etc, to calculate whether the whole world (not just me) would be better off if I stayed in bed.

pottedstu, Oct 09 2001

The war over tantalum in the Congo http://www.thestand...00.html?body_page=2
There was a Channel Four documentary just the other week, but I haven't found a link yet. [Guy Fox, Oct 09 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

related idea http://www.halfbake...consumer_20products
no one has to quit for this one [gnormal, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Buycott Mobile App http://www.buycott.com/
Tangential but barking up the same tree [lepton, Feb 25 2014]

Which professions are paid too much given their value to society? https://80000hours....nefits-for-society/
Sorta baked for professions [discontinuuity, Jan 18 2019]


       I like this idea pottedstu, not only for its altruistic purposes but also as a way of gauging the most evil of those in our society.
Actually I imagine Lawyers would make a positive name for themselves for getting a bad score on this indicator. Have a morally sound Croissant!
The_Englishman_Abroad, Oct 09 2001

       As long as you had a pre-agreed moral structure to calibrate the indicator to this could work. Croissant, especially as I think I would score rather highly.
stupop, Oct 09 2001

       //Now I write embedded software for mobile phones.//   

       Uh-oh, pottedstu. Haven't you heard of the civil war in the Congo over tantalum, that incredibly rare metal that's used in all mobile phones?   

       Never mind. I like this idea, despite being currently employed as a programmer by a world-wide thread-dyers who have factories in such places as Columbia, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.. I left a previous job in the commercial training industry because my employers were low-down grifters ripping off the publicly-funded unemployment training schemes system, and I'll probably leave this one for similarly ethical reasons. I was thinking of posting up an idea similar to PS's web site but reckoned it was just a sort of moral variant on www.iworkwithidiots.com - with crooks rather than idiots. It'd be nice to have somewhere to run a background check on prospective employers before jumping in bed with a bunch of evil crims. Croissant, anyway.
Guy Fox, Oct 09 2001

       Thanks, waugsqueke. I'm just worried that one of these days I'm going to be merrily driving to work when some other moron driver using my product rams his car forcefully up my anus. Just before buying the car, I became vegetarian, so as to be morally neutral. The company I now work for is also ISO 14000 certified, which is supposed to show it follows environmentally sound practices, but in reality just means we have to print on both sides of the paper. (And have to use a more expensive printer, produced by another division of our company.)   

       That would be the main problem with this idea, that any way you try and rate the company, it'll just find some way to get around it. "Hmm, -100 points for workers on minimum wage? We'll get work experience students and pay them nothing at all!"
pottedstu, Oct 09 2001

       The search for an honest buck is probably more challenging than that Greek guy's proverbial search for an honest man.
LoriZ, Oct 09 2001

       I like this one.
iuvare, Oct 10 2001

       I applaud your goal, [pottedstu], but I’m afraid this is already Halfbaked. Anita Roddick, of The Body Shop fame has been pushing what she calls ‘social auditing’ for a while. The ‘Triple Bottom Line’ is also a term that has found it’s way into the canon of business mumbo jumbo.   

       Not surprisingly, this thinking has taken off in the form of corporate rebranding but not really in the boardroom or better business practises. BP may be ‘Beyond Petroleum’, but they’re still a bunch of <sdm’s solicitor muzzles him>.   

       My criticism of this idea is that, of course, like any other type of accounting it would open to some interpretation. When I studied accounting, a former corporate accountant for a large Aussie bank tutored me. He said at the end of each year, it was his responsibility to produce up to six different balance sheets, the one they liked the most would be presented to shareholders. As objective as you try to be, the process would be open to abuse.
sdm, Oct 10 2001

       I have awarded a theoretical croissant because the idea is obviously a good one, but the difficulty will lie in establishing the good- or badness of an organisation. What parameters would you use? Who would decide whether the company met those parameters? The Body Shop is a fine example; they never tested their products on animals, but they made them from ingredients which *were* tested on animals, information they happily withheld. Also, is it morally defensible to use the products of low-wage economies when the alternative is that those economies have no wage at all? I know that we would *like* them to be paid more, but in this world, it ain't going to happen.
angel, Oct 10 2001

       But supposing your Job Morality Indicator shows a healthy positive score. You feel great, you're helping the world!
However, by holding down your job, you're denying the opportunity of worthwhile work to others who are currently stuck in despicable, near-criminal jobs such as writing embedded software for mobile phones. Thus it could be argued that your job is actually the epitome of selfishness and causes pain and grief to others and is therefore not so moral after all...
hippo, Oct 10 2001

       I totally agree, and I'm *not* surprised. I'm questioning Body Shop's 'morality' in suggesting that their products are suitable for those who disagree with animal testing, and I would also question such people who use any unnecessary product, given that it may well have been subject to such testing. I should also mention that I doubt very much that Body Shop in particular, or the cosmetics industry in general, is unique in this.
angel, Oct 10 2001

       True. But the reason the BS attracts such vehement criticism is the fact that it is basing it's competitive advantage on a lie, or at best, a misstatement.   

       (Obligatory, "thanks to animal testing, they can protest for twenty years longer" comment.)
sdm, Oct 10 2001

       There is a further problem with this idea, pottedstu, in that what is viewed as 'good' or 'bad' can change very dramatically in a short space of time. For example, I have a friend (I know it's a shock but bear with me) who is involved in the design & manufacture of bombs & missiles. Now I view this as a thoroughly disreputable trade but many of those weapons are currently being fired at targets in Afghanistan. Is my friend doing a good or bad job? You tell me.
DrBob, Oct 10 2001

       My friend works for a large cigarette manufacturer. I see this as an entirely disreputable trade, but their cigarettes are being smoked by a number of the strategic decision makers in the US military. When they smoke, it relaxes them and allows them to make more clear-headed decisions. Is my friend doing a good or bad job? You tell me.
stupop, Oct 10 2001

       ...and the love and support of your fellow HalfBakers. <muffled snigger>
hippo, Oct 10 2001

       I made that bit up.
DrBob, Oct 10 2001

       Dr. Bob said, "I have a friend (I know it's a shock but bear with me) who is involved in the design & manufacture of bombs & missiles."

Up until very recently, I had that kind of job. During the years that I was doing it, I often didn't think too much about the larger implications of the products. If I did, I usually adopted a kind of diffusion-of-responsibility approach. Since the events of Sept. 11 and following, I now wish I were back in that job, because I would feel a sense of pride in it that I did not have while working in the field.

Nonetheless, knowing some specifics about the products I worked on and the customers they went to does give me nightmares sometimes . . .
quarterbaker, Oct 10 2001

       I think I've got quite a reasonable morality score for my research - I'm developing a method to non-invasively test industrial land for pollutants. Call me a research student in a university that has about 2000 ressearch students, and you could say that we have a collectively high morality score because we are advancing the UK science and technology knowledge base, and providing a long-term boost to the economy. Move another step upwards and say that I am part of a university; hmmm, this university has capital invested in all sorts of companies, it has partner projects with industries which may have low morality scores... I could go on. Many of the other research students I know are working on highly dubious projects (increasing sensitivity of nicotine receptors in the body) and some are completely irreprehensible (defining the 'bad wiring' that causes things like Motor Neurone Disease). To create an algorithm (or a yes-no tree) that any person wondering about their job can carry out in their lunch break is far too detailed. See a shrink and just figure out whether you have too much remnant guilt from dropping sweet wrappers in the park when you were seven years old.
lewisgirl, Oct 10 2001

       [lewisgirl]: I never dropped sweet wrappers in the park. Could that be it? And I don't want a yes/no tree, I want a big statistical calculation with a numerical value out the other end.   

       I admit there are problems. For instance, most would see teaching as a job of goodness, but the hero of James Kelman's novel A Disaffection is a disaffected teacher who's come to believe his role is to turn out mindless drones who know their lowly place in society. I guess it's hard to judge your job on moral grounds if you apply that sort of reasoning.   

       And applying long-term utilitarian calculations is in most cases impossible (unless you work for British Aerospace; a couple of years ago a court found a group of British women were justified in smashing some of its jet fighters into pieces because they were going to be used by the Indonesian government to practice genocide. I'm guessing the people who made those wouldn't score too highly. Same applies to land mines, electric stun batons and machines for cutting the legs off ponies.)   

       On the other hand, it would be comforting to construct some sort of index just to make me feel like I've not completely wasted the past 5 years of my life, and what I'm doing isn't that bad compared to, say, drug dealers or debt collectors. It doesn't have to mean anything, just as long as it's better than the company across the road. Maybe I should be happy with ISO 14000 and no blind girls in the basement sewing footballs for 90 cents a day. After all, these things are relative.
pottedstu, Oct 10 2001

       wonder where journalism would end up on this ... ;)
arghblah, Oct 10 2001

       Does the answer have to be a number? Nobody agrees on what is an appropriate moral code anyway. People just want some idea what they're getting into. The only college level jobs I've actually observed people doing day in and day out are K-12 teacher and college professor. Most published stuff on career selection gives really vague information. Except for hand-picked proteges, there seems to be a policy of keeping detailed job descriptions as some kind of closely guarded trade secrets. I've always wondered whether the real reason is so people outside a trade don't know how easy it is, or for public relations reasons that are akin to the subject of this page.
LoriZ, Oct 11 2001

       Morality is based on community standards; however it isn't described by a simple democracy. Certain people are considered moral guides or guardians with the knowledge, training and expertise to decide between right and wrong. In the past this was churchmen, politicians, judges and teachers; nowadays it seems to be newspapermen and daytime chat show hosts. Shelley claimed a role for poets, and as a philosophy graduate (winner of the Moral Philosophy prize in my final year) I'd like to think I have some of the training for the job.   

       Therefore we could have a panel of experts rating every job, or alternatively you could pay them to reach a decision. (i wouldn't fancy deciding this by random-sample opinion poll, at least not until you locked all the panelists in a lecture theatre/revolving door for a week or 2 to learn the issues and dispel their prejudices.) Obviously, the scope for misjudgements is there, but an impartial judge should be able to analyse and report on your own personal morality. (There's a service for you. I might start it up. Of course, I'm not sure what the morality of being a Life Morality Judge would be.)
pottedstu, Oct 11 2001

       How about a job where the perceived morality would depend on a particular instance of the job being done? That's not very clear, so:
How 'moral' is the job of an abortion counsellor? If you are anti-abortion, it's a moral job if the counsellor 'persuades' the counsellee not to abort; otherwise it's an immoral job. Conversely, a pro-choice lobbyist would see the counsellor dissuading the counsellee as immoral.
I voted aye for the concept, but I wouldn't like to have to judge any view of morality except my own.
angel, Oct 11 2001

       How about a 'Total Job Morality Indicator Hat' (with reinforced brim and triple bottom line). [readout 98,323 and falling fast]
st3f, Oct 11 2001

       [UnaBubba]: That would depend on how evil your job actually is. And to find that out, you'd have to pay me. I can see the business opportunities multiplying. Of course if I did that, it'd make my own job less moral, and I'd need to do lots of recalculations and recalibrations of all my systems, so, I'd say, as a ballpark figure, a bucketful. Of cash, that is.
pottedstu, Oct 11 2001

       You could have something like your job is more moral than a priest but less moral than maintaining the HB... or a more real example lkie more moral than working for nestle but less than road sweeping...
RobertKidney, Oct 11 2001

       ooh, relativism.
hippo, Oct 11 2001

       One index could be how much the job/its products inclines or disinclines people to wear their "personal story" lightly and view the world with more compassion. Many jobs would be in the neutral zone, and that would be fine. But things which invite people to be ignorant/narrowminded/treading heavily on the world would tend to be negative, and things which facilitate acts of assistance and moments of inspiration and other broader life-serving qualities would tend to be rated higher. Of course, the dilemma of products/services which can be used for both ends would have to be weighed by assessing how much of each tends to happen.
kamakala, Oct 11 2001

       In reality I think you'd need to have multiple indicators of different aspects, maybe a few paragraphs of text explaining the fine points of the job's moral ambiguity. But that loses what I liked most about the idea, which was having a single, easily-seen number you can glance over at and feel good/bad about the job. Perhaps you could have someone learn your personal views of good and bad and tailor the number to your particular worldview. Hm, that gives me an idea...
wiml, Oct 12 2001

       [ravenswood]: My point was that few things are intrinsically moral or immoral, it depends on whose morality you're using as a basis. You'll find someone on this forum who would maintain that the job of abortionist (for instance - please let's not open *that* debate again.) is always intrinsically immoral regardless of circumstances, and someone else who would totally disagree. The answer you get depends not on the question but on the questionee.
angel, Oct 12 2001

       [Sorry, I keep changing this annotation, even after Guy Fox posted below, so read it after his]   

       I think we all agree on broad principles of morality (obeying the Golden Rule, not stealing or hurting people physically or mentally, giving people a fair reward for what they do); the difference is in the minute details. These are more important than I thought at first, though: some people think it's more important to create jobs or have a job no matter what it is; some people are willing to work at evil jobs just to support their families (are they more moral than people doing the same job without families)? And any utilitarian judgement has huge problems in calculating happiness/benefit.   

       And of course, there's a lot of dissimulation and humbug. People want to believe what they're doing is worthwhile, so the industrialist will say "I'm creating lots of jobs and providing a good service", the debt collector would say "I'm defending the law of contract which is crucial for a capitalist society to function" (well, possibly if you translated it out of the grunts in which it was expressed), and people are often rude about doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers ("all those holidays, home at 3 o'clock, sitting in the staff room drinking tea..."), even though most people (if pushed) would acknowledge doctors, etc, are pretty essential and motivated by the desire to help people.   

       I think the personalised approach is the only way to go. I think there's a real need for moral information on how companies perform, and I also think people need to consider the consequences of their actions a lot more deeply, which is where this idea came from. Basically, to know, how would the world be affected if I did something else, or if my company did not exist. The modern world is governed by such large-scale and complex systems it's hard to tell what if any consequences your actions have, making moral action much harder.   

       Perhaps morality-based careers guidance is a good idea to fit you with a job; present careers guidance looks at things like: do you want to work directly with people, helping them; is a sense of fulfilment more important than money; but it doesn't go into more detail on the moral discrimination involved. I also think philosophy, including moral philosophy, should be taught at schools (although one of my friends is a teacher at a school which just offered an exam in philosophy, and all the students failed, which doesn't look good) as well as civics, modern studies, etc.   

       Of course this could all be hubris, and 99.999% of us make no difference to the world whatsoever.
pottedstu, Oct 12 2001

       Relativism or not, I think ravenswood's idea of user input would work. Perhaps it's more of an 'ethics comparison' than a 'morality indicator', but if companies use psychological profiling of potential employees I see no reason why similar ethical profiling could not be applied to companies by potential employees. It's just a matter of matching your ethics against those of your prospective employer - rating compatibility rather than an absolute - but ultimately abstract - moral worth.   

       In terms of abortion, a good example might be Domino's Pizza. Some people would rather not work for a company whose owner, Pat Buchanan, ploughs his profits into anti-abortion lobbying. Others would be proud that the money they earned for him went to the right cause in their minds. Same story with the defence industry, vivisection, nuclear power. I don't think it'd be too hard to define the basic benchmarks of your own ethical code so as to measure companies against it. "Do you rate pollution as more important /less important than national security?", etc..
Guy Fox, Oct 12 2001

       Just add a -po+ to your geek code :•)
reensure, Oct 12 2001

       ravenswood -- yes that's possible

example: hired by Exxon to clean up oil spill
quarterbaker, Oct 12 2001

       There are investment funds that try to both explicitly define particular standards of morality and judge which companies are best at meeting them. They don't, of course, all use the same standards.   

       To return to halfbakedness: The MoralityRating Display hat will display your morality calculated by several standards, and people will wear Rose-Colored Glasses that only show the rating they consider appropriate. A new social group will cheer the day that their standard goes on the rota for the Hats. (Hats will have to get updated fairly often anyway.)   

       Glasses-blinkered people will say, sarcastically, "He says he's doing a Good job, but I *just don't see it*."
hello_c, Oct 12 2001

       I once got in trouble for putting as one of my multitude of computers' wallpaper, a picture of a large button with a toilet, reading 'Organizational Chart: You Are Here' with an arrow pointing to an X in a cutaway view of the pipe beneath the toilet.
StarChaser, Oct 15 2001

       Did they call you "Sign Man" too, StarMan?
thumbwax, Apr 03 2002

       I'm in the automobile industry. That means I design and sell highly overpriced, inefficient, poor quality methods of transport, polluting the environment while paving more and more of the world so we can drive our ever-increasing numbers of overpowered ego-mobiles in traffic jams and support autocratic third-world regimes with an oil demand. It makes for a great mission-statement, don't you think? Really fits well into my 'Franklin Planner Lifetime Goals' page.   

       And what's better, the worse the industry-average product performs in terms of quality and durability, the more the industry stands to gain from cost of replacement.   

       Actually, I take that back. I don't even design 'em. As an engineer, I'm essentially a middle-man, shuttling information back and forth between companies and trying to keep their hopelessly conflicting goals in-step.   

       So basically, I've pegged the meter in the wrong direction. 'Xcuse me, I'm going to go find an emergency confessional priest now...
RayfordSteele, Jun 11 2002

       I work in local government. Not only do I sleep well at night but I sleep well all day too.
DrBob, Jun 11 2002

       Long time no see, Steve
I'm a Man-About-Town.
I manage a service and deliver contracts, screenplays and tapes to actors.
Contracts, pics, resumes, screenplays and tapes to/from agents, casting directors, studios.
I aim to please - I narrowly missed running over Fabio only by the width of a t(i/y)re once.
Always woiking on numerous projects inside/outside this realm in my spare time in an effort to improve the lot of wo/mankind and my wallet. So far, so bad.
thumbwax, Jun 11 2002

       TW, you didn't hit 'em? Why not?
RayfordSteele, Jul 04 2002

       Stupop, you must be a closet smoker.. nobody else could imagine that smoking "helps people relax and make more clear-headed decisions"! Sure, any addict is more relaxed after a hit. What a crock! On topic, though, I think that if immoral jobs were labelled for 'moral' content, then only immoral people would apply for them, and there would be no whistleblowers left. I'm using the argument that it would be better if all weapons were controlled by pacifists.
pfperry, Jul 05 2002

       Hmm, maybe I'd add a slight twist to this idea: my contributions to society and science in the small division of the company I work for, supporting scientific research in Antarctica, versus how close I am coming to damning my soul to hell by working for s subsidiary of good ole US Dept. of Defense contractor Raytheon, maker of all the good things that will make you glow in the dark and solve that pesky global-warming problem by ushering in a nice, cool nuclear winter.
schizofox, Jul 24 2002

       This is interesting, an idea with two-and-a-half croissants and a whole page of negative annotations.
calum, Jun 22 2005

       I blame the Great HB Crash of '04. Much strangeness ensued.
angel, Jun 22 2005

       True, but ideas that were on largely inactive before the backup of 03 retained all their votes. Whatever, I like this idea, though even if it could be made to work, I doubt I would have the courage to use it.
calum, Jun 22 2005

       hmm. [calum] perhaps all the positive annos were lost (+)
neilp, Jun 22 2005

       Or the negative votes?
angel, Jun 22 2005

       The point of the idea though, [scout], is that all of these people would probably agree that the job you're doing is 'good', even though they may not like the way that you're doing it (not enough kick-backs, too much paperwork, etc). Providing wheelchairs is is quite obviously "a good thing" (certainly I can't think of a down-side).
angel, Jun 23 2005

       I've always wondered why the scorched earth TV airtime blitz approach in advertising of DME, specifically directed toward Medicare subscribers. Is Medicare seen by the industry as a less tough customer or something?
LoriZ, Jul 29 2005

       After turning down jobs because I thought they were morally indefensible, and finally settling on swinging mops for a living - and coming out about even with those other jobs, paycheck-wise, I stand wholly in favor of this. What I do is necessary, not optional, and as benign morally and environmentally as I can make it. Take that, Mom and Dad! [+]
elhigh, Aug 02 2005

       Just out of curiosity, how many uses _did_ you find for Burmese political prisoners?
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 25 2014

       I misread it as "Job mortality indicator".   

       Will this job kill me and how soon? Fishing and logging would lead the list.
popbottle, Feb 27 2014

       // was that we were subcontracting for a Texan oil company who spent much of their time thinking up ingenious new uses for Burmese political prisoners   

       Dude WHAT!? Really!? Would you care to elaborate? How on earth does a Texas oil company have any power over what happens to Burmese political prisoners? What, were they outsourcing manufacturing?
EdwinBakery, Mar 06 2014

       ^Blimus, they went in for long annos in those days, in the days before spray-on cheese.
not_morrison_rm, Jan 15 2019

       These days I create a need for wheelchairs. So that must be good?
RayfordSteele, Jan 21 2019


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