Friday, January 28, 2005

Difference principle

Under the difference principle it is permitable to continue or even exaggerate inequality if through this it is possible to raise the position of the least advantaged. This inequality is allowable to the point where the ‘absolute position of the least advantaged can no longer be raised.’ How does this apply to digital divides and differences? Are there many scenarios where augmenting the inequality in resources and capabilities is to the eventual benefit of those least advantaged? Does this argument apply to this sort of resource?

1 comment:

  1. I think the difference principle can apply to digital technology. Here's the best exmaple I can come up with right now.

    Currently, many top-level scientists and engineers have the benefit of not only advanced education in their respective fields, but access to powerful supercomputers. If I had a Cray I wouldn't know what to do with it but play Free Cell, but some people can use them to develop technology to benefit others. They can run complicated simulations with supercomputers that might help them develop new medical treatments, build safer automobiles, etc.

    Both supercomputers and advanced medical/technical education are limited resources that society can't give to everyone. According to the Difference Principle, it is then fair that they should go to those who will be best able to use these resources to benefit the less advantaged. So a doctor using a supercomputer to model anti-HIV drugs would be fine under the Difference Principle, although a mad scientist using the same resources to design killer robots (or me to play Free Cell!) would not be.