Moral distance towards one's actions

Using transaction and automation technologies one can act in another place at another time just by pushing a button. The reaction to my action can take place later and/or somewhere else. There is a distance between my action and the effect. I do not have to face the consequences in direct confrontation with my physical natural presence. The triggering of emotions will also therefore be more distant. The classical example of this kind of automated action is the pilot bomber in the aeroplane, who does not have to face the consequences of his act. The fact that there are actually people killed by the pilot's action is not perceivable to the pilot himself so social and moral feelings do not evolve, at least not immediately. Today, in 2006, basic processes of infrastructure in many realms of society are outsourced, which means that a job can be done, an infrastructure may be maintained, thousands of miles away. I saw the electricity network of a Western European country being maintained by Indian professionals in one of the Indian multinationals in Bangalore. People in the West European country do not know their electricity infrastructure is dependent on people doing their job in India. When there is a thunderstorm in Western Europe the Indian workers read it on their screens and act according to the information on their screens. One has to trust the screens, the West Europeans and the Indians to be able to act upon their desire for well-being and survival.

This is an interesting reversal of moral distance. In natural presence Indian people would not feel morally inclined to take responsibility for a thunderstorm in Western Europe. Because of the mediation of presences (human and non human), the possibility of triggering events by one's actions - pushing buttons with an effect somewhere else actually diminishes the moral distance that people would have in natural presence. Of course, one can argue that this it is an economic model, often based on exploitation of cheap labour, and it is a professional environment, so morality functions differently. However, it is important to realise that the 'social engineering' in some of the outsourcing businesses is very refined and profound. It would be very interesting to conduct further research into this issue of diminishing moral distance between 'people who do not know each other' because of the trusted context in which the mediated presence occurs.