Интервью руководителей проекта "Прикладная этика"
Alexander Larichev, Deputy Dean for Research and Professor at the Faculty of Law, leads a track on Ethics and the Law as part of the Applied Ethics Big project.
Can you please tell us about the project that you oversee?
The central issue of the project is how the law relates to other social regulators, such as morality. Interrelations between individuals in various spheres of interaction have long been subject to the influence of moral (ethical) norms. Quite often, it so happens that morals are more powerful in their impact than the “core” regulator, that is, the law, which is controlled by the state.
Our project aims at resolving issues relating to the mutual influence of the two major social regulators – the law and ethics. This includes a study of the history of ethical concepts in society, as reflected in the law, the philosophical aspects in interrelations between the law and ethics, as well as an analysis of the applied aspects relating to the interplay between the two social regulators within various spheres of societal relations.
One of the strengths of HSE University has always been its interdisciplinary approach, thus allowing us to consider a research topic from various angles and converge achievements from different disciplines. The project brings together legal researchers, philosophers, sociologists, mathematicians and computer scientists who jointly accumulate academic data on a given topic. For our research focus, as well as in terms of meeting set tasks, this is a unique approach both in Russia and globally.
What digital products do you plan to create through this project?
Within the context of this project, the development of two digital projects are now underway. This includes a chronological map of the historic evolution of the impact of ethics on the conception and development of legal norms (the so-called “feed of time”), and our “guiding star”, that is, the Index of the Ethicality of the Law (IEL).
The feed of time aims at a wide audience and reflects the consistent evolution of ethical norms (so-called “moral foundations”), their development in various sources of the law over time. It will cover core periods of Russian history, from the ancient times until today. The launch of the feed on a special website will not only allow us to organize a big array of data about interrelations between ethics and the law at differing stages of Russian history, but also popularize research results among a vast readership. Furthermore, the feed may serve as an excellent tool for studying the history of the state and law at school or academic institutions, as well as a database for further inquiry in regards to related issues.
The IEL will synthesize the results of theoretical/philosophical analyses and sociological research with the application of the latest AI and programming achievements. We plan to create a functioning computer algorithm, which can assess individual legal norms, their blocks and normative legal acts (NLA) overall in terms of its compliance with today’s ideas about ethicality in Russian society. This mainly concerns the norms containing so-called “moral foundations” and ethical content focused on values, rather than technical norms.
All activities with legal texts will be carried out through the information analytical system, for which a prototype was developed in 2021. This system will visualize, via the user’s interface, connections between inputted NLAs, while also assigning to NLAs numeric values, which will be interpreted as indices of ethicality of a given NLA, on the basis of machine-learning methods.
The Index of Ethicality is largely instrumental for legislators, as well as the executive authorities engaged in the implementation of the legal regulation of societal relations. Our colleagues from the State Duma of the Russian Federation have already confirmed their interest. For instance, last year, the Parliament held a roundtable, where the tests of the algorithm were discussed, along with the feasibility of its application for assessing the ethicality of draft laws. As a result, it shall serve as a key instrument to render adopted legal norms more effective, so that they meet the expectations of a society. Among those interested in IEL, there are representatives of IT giants, who are members of the Alliance for the AI Sector, as the IEL will be an important applied instrument, which can demonstrate the new options provided by neural networks in finding solutions to social concerns. The IEL will also be available in the public domain, which can help Russian society and the state better comprehend the motivations behind human behaviour and the necessity for regulating it.
How do you collect data for the IEL?
The content of the feed of time will be based on the results of our researchers of theory and history of law, who are analyzing in-depth legal acts from various historic periods. Experts in law, sociology and philosophy also join in the efforts to collect data for generating the IEL. Finally, academics from such fields as mathematics and computer science are working on the development of information systems for the two products.
With respect to the IEL as such, we have spent hours mulling over the methodology for building the index at interdisciplinary colloquiums. This particular task was at the top of our list. Thanks to these joint efforts, we developed an algorithm for building an index as follows. First, in order to understand what ideas underlie the concept of the ethicality of law, we plan to conduct all-Russian sociological research (scheduled for this autumn). This analysis will be based on a questionnaire, which is devised based on MFT (Moral Foundation Theory) principles. The survey will allow to identify average conceptions about the ethical/ the unethical in Russian society, based on several indicators, as well as assess the level of the moral relativism of respondents, which matters for shaping an accurate portrayal of the ethicality in a society.
On the back of MFT-based sociological survey, the methodology will be developed, along with carrying out the tagging of norms in Russian legislative acts. For the purposes of tagging, ethically loaded norms will be selected in legal acts of the sectors aligned with respective MFT indicators: constitutional, criminal, civil, tax, family law.
Following the tagging, each norm will carry a whole-numbered label, assigned through a developed method. Later on, machine-learning methods (e.g., neural networks) will be applied to such tagged texts
and, thanks to the learning on 10,000 to 100,000 of tagged norms, the system shall be able to independently discern non-tagged new normative constructs and tag an uploaded text with a number value which can be interpreted as an index of its ethicality.
Do students take part in the project? What is their role?
As with any other major project at HSE University, our project heavily relies on undergrads and doctoral students. They get involved as research assistants, who, jointly with team members from among academics, collect materials for both theoretical analysis and applied results, as well as take part in the development of digital products. Now, for instance, a group of our young team members is helping us to carry out a semantic analysis of academic articles covering the relationship between ethics and the law. During the project’s subsequent stages, undergrads and doctoral students will assist in tagging legal norms in line with a developed ethicality scale.
Can you please share some of the achievements that the project has generated?
We carried out an in-depth analysis of the philosophical approaches to the interplay between ethics and the law; this has resulted in the generation of both academic and applied knowledge. We were able to adjust the MFT-driven tools, so that we can build the feed of time and the IEL. Furthermore, we have developed a prototype of the information/analytical system for the IEL. By December 2022, the feed of time will be rolled out as a ready-made product.
Our theoretical developments, in terms of determining a foundational model of the interrelationship of the two normative systems – ethics and the law, as well as special models for their interrelation and mutual influence in specific domains of life, have been further considered in several papers published in notable academic journals as well as several monographs.
I wish to thank our interdisciplinary team, all participating subdivisions, and HSE University’s administration for their support for our ideas, which, through their implementation, uphold the long-standing academic and intellectual reputation of the University.
Maxim Storchevoy, Associate Professor at the Department of Management of St. Petersburg School of Economics and Management, leads a track on Ethics in Business as part of the Applied Ethics Big project.
What is ethics in business and why is it important?
Business ethics is an area of practical management and academic research that was gradually institutionalized in the second half of the 20th century. It considers what companies and managers may and may not do in their business activities. In the 1950s, as a reaction to increasing power of large corporations, the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) was developed in public discussions; it required that large corporations take care of their employees, consumers, and the environment. Later, the UN became the main actor who produced various concepts and mechanisms to develop business ethics at the global level. At first, they suggested the Global Compact between business and society – a short written agreement to comply with ethical norms, respect human rights, refrain from polluting the environment, etc. – which every company may voluntarily sign. Later, they developed the Sustainable Development, Millennium Development Goals (MDG), Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) concept frameworks for investors, etc. These frameworks were accepted by businesses who are keen to shape their operations according to them and publish regular reports on their progress in this area.
Why is business ethics important? In short, it protects people against negative treatment on the part of their employers and providers of products and services. A society with strong business ethics is a safe comfortable environment where people and organizations can productively work with minimum risk of being hurt.
Are there any specificities about Russian business ethics?
In Russia, business ethics developed much later than in Western countries since, in the Soviet Union, we lived in the command economy and only turned to the market in 1990s. For example, the CSR concept was only recognized by Russian large business in the 2000s (and not in the 1950-70s as in the USA and Europe). However, our business ethics agenda is rather synchronized with the global one and is developing with minimum delay.
In my opinion, Russian companies demonstrate the same features in business ethics as any other developing country — a low ethical culture, high tolerance for corruption, etc. Corporate relationships are often authoritarian (the boss is always right!) or patriarchal (men should be in charge). Here, we might lag a little behind the developed countries but we still demonstrate some progress every year.
What is your project about and how will it help overcoming key challenges of Russian business ethics?
The Business Ethics track specifies several practical problems that we plan to solve on the basis of academic research and development of practical managerial tools. For example, we are developing tools for assessing ethical performance of companies in the market. In order to manage something, you need to learn how to measure it. Thus, companies and regulators alike need some metrics that would allow them to properly gauge ethics. We are developing an ethics index based on the opinions of people who have some relationships at the corporate level (consumers, suppliers, employees) and the other based on AI analysis of existing texts that have been published on social networks or customer reviews websites (the work on the latter index was transferred to the HSE Centre of Artificial Intelligence recently). Both indexes allow us to rank companies within particular industries for further use by prospective employees, consumers, or regulators. We want to launch them this year.
When the companies realize that they need to improve their level of their corporate ethics, they also need a tool to do that. Here, we need ethics training to teach employees about ethics and why it is important - how to make decisions when faced with ethical dilemmas, etc. HSE University can develop high-quality training for business in Russia through academic research. Our first pilot project concerns ethics training for HSE University since academic institutions are also organizations that face certain problems with unethical behaviour on the part of both students and employees. We will first develop an ethical training programme for HSE students (both in English and Russian) that should be completed and launched by the end of this year. This will be an online training course with various modules each containing videos to be viewed, followed by a series of questions. The videos will provide examples of unethical behaviour while also offering life hacks on how to deal with it. Currently, all students who start their studies at HSE University are presented with guidelines on plagiarism, cheating and academic ethics, which serves as a very brief introduction. Our training is much broader - it is about ethical behaviour in a classroom, communication with teachers and between students and, of course, we have a large module on plagiarism, data fabrication, and ‘contract cheating’. We assume that all first-year students should go through online ethics training. Furthermore, we also realize that there is a need for ethics training for teaching staff. With this in mind, we are planning this project for the next year if everything works out with ethics training for students.
Another of this project’s outcomes that will help to incorporate ethics in business is additional professional education for managers and ethics specialists - we plan to develop two online courses for managers, which will prepare them for passing professional examinations and obtaining Certified Ethics Professional qualifications.
In addition to creating tools that can establish business ethics in companies, our project team also studies mechanisms of self-regulation ethics in the market - both in financial and non-financial sectors. In general, this mechanism requires companies to voluntarily introduce ethical standards (codes of ethics) and monitor compliance thereof. We consider what important elements should be included into these mechanisms, how to determine their effectiveness, and so on.
Источник: рассылка HSE Look