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Alexander Pearce was not a Tasmanian

Published on June 19th, 2016

Peter Whish-Wilson (a Tasmanian Greens Senator) and Scott Stringer (a West-Coast Councillor) want to bring the skull of the infamous Irish cannibal convict Alexander Pearce back to Tasmania. Apparently they believe this is his home. The skull was sold by a surgeon to the American Natural Scientist Samuel George Morton after Pearce’s execution at Hobart Gaol in July, 1824.

There are a number of problems that I can see with this endeavour. And all of them stagger belief that they weren’t already identified within the political backdrop of the Greens Party or the relevant West Coast Council.

The Irishman was a Convict

First and foremost there is the question of Alexander Pearce’s posthumous right to be buried in his native soil. That native soil would not be Tasmania.

Pearce was sentenced to seven years at Armagh, Ireland in the year 1819. He escaped in Van Diemen’s Land (present Tasmania) in 1822 and was sent to the notoriously hard penal colony of Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s West Coast. Pearce’s escape from that colony involved the cannibalisation of other prisoners and this infamous convict story has become part of our penal history.

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Discussing the Ethics of Driverless Cars

Published on May 21st, 2016

This morning we got into a discussion about the complexity of designing ethical driverless cars that meet social expectations. That’s a hard subject to articulate. Mostly because there isn’t just one ethical framework; but also because there is probably no way to produce an ethical car that passengers would step inside for a journey. We can’t even produce a safe car. Imagine if the car could insist, for the greater good, that you die.

When I see discussion about the design of an ethical driverless car the question, at least for me, becomes “Which ethical framework are we talking about?” Utiliarianism? Kant’s Categorical Imperative? Ethical Rights analysis? There is no hard and fast ethical regimen that would hold true in all cases.

In Utilitarian analysis, for the greater good, the car might be designed to sacrifice one driver so the family of five in another car survives. But what if the other car was at fault? Is it ethical to sacrifice the single driver so an oncoming carload who made an error would be spared? Do we count five lives against the one life; or, do we count each life as being of equal value to the individuals involved? Are younger lives more valuable than older lives? Would your gender, weight, health, criminal record or race be taken into account? Who makes that judgement? In the real World the Utilitarian perspective is a very cold calculation.

And if we run with Kant’s Categorical Imperative then the maxim might be something like: “All cars will kill all drivers all the time.” Or, “No cars will kill any drivers any of the time.” I’d take a punt that the second is the maxim that makes sense. Ethical driverless cars should never kill drivers.

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Prisons are full of Naughty People

Published on April 18th, 2016

The go-to political and media punching bag has long been our prison system. Escapes have a certain glamour. Crime is rating high on the Idiot Box. There are people in prison extorting, getting drunk, corrupting guards, raping, bashing and stealing. Riots. Hunger strikes. You name it, the prison system is a microcosm of the outside World without that ethical signature we think of as civilisation.

That’s the real trouble with all these stories. The latest article about Risdon Prison this last week was the shock horror front page revelation that prisoners are using an illicit mobile phone network within the prison to send out selfies that other people post on Facebook pages in the prisoners’ names.

Oh, for fuck sake. The headline should have simply read “Breaking News: Prisons are full of Naughty People”.

Considering the Australian prison system houses over 30,000 inmates and releases 50,000 inmates a year back into society; considering those inmates have friends and family that visited them (or forgot to visit); and considering this country has 24 million residents, of which only half a million live in Tasmania – it’s probably not much news to anybody that Tasmania’s prisoners use illicit mobile phones.

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More Articles on StevenClark.com.au

  1. Discussing the Ethics of Driverless Cars
  2. Prisons are full of Naughty People
  3. Starting on Next Year’s Scrumpy
  4. Our Australian Faux-Mamajuana is Lovely
  5. Post-Diversity & Missing the Diversity Dividend

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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