As this senior class approaches the end of our college career, the question of living ethically becomes even more relevant as we enter into the working world. I say even more relevant because we should have been (and should currently be) striving to live as best we could during college. While the question of how to live ethically should not have been put on pause, I believe that some of us fell into inaction during these four years. Due to the stress of the academic year and the many social distractions available, I feel that I did not fully strive to live the most responsible life that I could. Honestly, I don’t believe I will ever live a completely morally responsible life, being human. But I certainly can improve. And now that I will be applying the talents I have cultivated throughout my schooling at a “real world” job, I must make sure that these talents are being used responsibly.
But what does that mean, exactly? I believe that to responsibly use my talents I must carefully consider what I am working on and what I am doing outside of work. As to the first consideration, obviously I should work on a project where my talents would benefit others, but the world is not always clear-cut as to what is the greatest good and I have personal desires to consider. While working at a non-profit would definitely be more directly applicable to helping the world than optimizing stock trading algorithms, I am unsure if I would find the work satisfying, and I would prefer larger paycheck from the for-profit company. Even if I did work for a non-profit in computer science, it is still unclear if that would be where I could have the most impact. The ultimate results of our actions are unclear. Similarly to Sophie, I had a time where I was disheartened by the fact that computer science is often not directly applicable to solving the dire problems in the world. But while an algorithm cannot build a bridge, I know that programming can be utilized to help solve these problems when used in conjunction with other talents.
Ultimately, I will have to balance my personal desires with my moral compass to ensure that I am working at a job that is benefitting others. But working at an ethically responsible job is not the end of my moral obligation, and my talents are not just those I will use at work. I believe that to be a good person you must strive for virtue in all aspects of life. Things like maintaining interpersonal relationships or volunteering in your local community are not things you do at your job, but are still extremely important to living a responsible life.
But let us say for the sake of the argument that I have found a good, righteous company to work for. I know that what I am working on will help the world. I still have not fully fulfilled my obligation, as I must work to the extent of my ability. I cannot simply strive for mediocrity. I have an obligation to use and develop my abilities as best I can, as we see in the Parable of the Talents. And while I will still fall short of this obligation, just as with all the other moral imperatives spoken about previously, by striving for it I will be a better person.