With the 21st century bringing in a wave of globalization and technology, one might ask the question of "do ethics matter?" Surely topics which were discussed among ancients might have lost some relevancy in this day and age. On the contrary, now more than ever is a time in which ethics and morality need to be taken seriously and considered by the world. The 21st century is a time of great technology and capability, but going alongside these achievements is the need for responsibility. Both old ethical questions with new faces and unprecedented ethical dilemmas have arisen in our time. Now, more than ever, morality matters.
A prime example of an age-old problem with a new twist is warfare. Nuclear weaponry has changed the nature of warfare from being destructive to potentially apocalyptic. With the very real threat and possibility of long lasting detrimental effects to the planet following nuclear warfare, conventional thinking about warfare and weaponry no longer applies. Rather than a weapon simply destroying the enemy, one now has to consider millions of innocent lives involved with the use of a nuclear weapon as well ramifications to the planet on which we live. What used to be an issue of ending one life has become the issue of potentially ending all life.
Aside from old questions which have new relevancy, there are fresh ethical questions being created from new situations. Once again, with these new questions, we must ask “do ethics matter?” Consider internet piracy and illegal file sharing. Never before in history has the internet and technology so vastly enabled the transfer and acquisition of music in such a way. Precedents are few at best. Ethicists are needed to argue cases so that legislators can determine what the just course of action is. Whether the real enemy is blatant thievery or an overprotective government is a legitimate question worthy of debate.
One more, but by no means the last, example of new ethical debates arising in the modern day is the question of stem-cell research. A century ago, the concept of stem-cell research did not exist. Medical science simply was not advanced enough to reach or even conceive of the possibilities of utilizing stem-cells for research. In the modern day, however, the frontiers for medical advancement are being delved into and the boundaries are being pushed. Stem-cell research requires a firm decision on the part of the public and lawmakers. There is great potential for medical breakthroughs by working with stem-cells, however there are the ethical considerations of acquiring stem-cells and whether it is ethical to use them.
A great deal of careful consideration needs to be taken in the 21st century. The potential for curing cancer and causing human extinction are both within the grasp of humanity at this point in time. It requires a steadfast moral standard for those in power to keep tragedy from tearing the world apart. In regards to the question of whether ethics matter in the 21st century, perhaps the real question is: “has there ever been another time in history in which ethics were more relevant?”