It’s a strange feeling, a bit like vertigo, having settled on new moral problems as our topic for this forum, then seeing so many new questions arise as the virus takes hold. Originally, pre-pandemic, we wondered about the new moral problems of our time and how we should we respond to them. Certain fresh issues have gripped us, and to some extent our era has put a new spin on old problems – how should we think about such things as obligations to future people, nuclear weapons, designer babies, AI, cyberwarfare, and social media and the pressure facts seem to be under now?
But entirely new moral issues have since appeared. Should I pay someone to risk infection and do my shopping for me? How can we compare lives and livelihoods? What ought we do with the fact that the virus affects the poor the most? How do we decide who gets medical treatment when our hospitals are overwhelmed? Do our leaders have new duties to the truth? Is it right to expect healthcare workers to risk their lives for us? How can we even begin to think about the moral dimension of so much death?
Some authors have found ways to draw questions about Covid-19 into their reflections, some carried on in other ways, some simply submitted a piece before these new worries pressed in. We are pleased to feature the work of Paula Boddington on the ethics of AI, Ryan Jenkins on predictive policing, Mollie Gerver on refugees, Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael Paul Nelson on a cluster of climate related issues, Katherine Furman on communities and contagion, and Nicholas G. Evans on the ethics of social distancing. As we head into the moral unknown, it’s a kind of reassurance to realise that we have at least some of the tools that will help us to start thinking clearly about our new predicament right now.