1. Within the realm of the Star Trek show, Mr. Spock seemed to present continuous questions about the ethics of space travels with his crew. Do you think character has any role in business ethics? Why or why not? How does character and personal integrity pertain to you in your profession or future profession? Answer must be at least 300 words. No references or citations are necessary.
This unit introduces the concept of business ethics related to morality through the famous Star Trek series and films. The characters of Captain Kirk, Spock, and Bones provide some interesting situations, which question business ethics and the decision making around it. The assignment for this unit will provide an opportunity to use the CSU Online Library to find an article that discusses the concept of business ethics and decision making within an organization.
Star Trek began as a science fiction television series (original series) running from 1966-1969. The show’s popularity vaulted it into four additional series and 12 films. The plot around Star Trek involved the travels of a space vehicle named the USS Enterprise, which began as a space exploration vessel and evolved into the story of quite fascinating heroic interstellar adventures. People might consider the composition of the USS Enterprise’s crew members before their time, which comprised of both human and alien characters. Remember equal rights and diversity were not popular thoughts in the 1960s and 1970s.
Captain James T. Kirk attempted to lead his crew “where no man has gone before.” As the Enterprise encountered significant challenges, Captain Kirk managed to lead his crew, demonstrating superb leadership traits. Although Captain Kirk was born on Earth, he lived on Tarsus IV where he witnessed the massacre of 4000 colonists by Kodos the Executioner. This experience fueled his motivation of becoming the youngest captain. The show depicted Captain Kirk as a hard-driving leader who pushed himself and his crew beyond human limits. Cunning, courageous, and confident, Captain Kirk also had a tendency to ignore Starfleet regulations when he felt it was necessary.
Ethics addresses moral concepts, which are a set of standards an individual or group has about what is right and wrong. One might question Captain Kirk’s morality level as he continuously breaks the rules and laws. Taking this one step further, ethics as a discipline examines moral standards to evaluate what is reasonable and has implications for one’s life. Captain Kirk believed the decisions he made were in the best interest of the Enterprise and its crew, in spite of clearly breaking laws.
Leonard Nimoy played Spock for nearly 50 years in the show. In Star Trek, Spock left behind a legacy of one of the most prominent philosophers, who demonstrated a keen sense of ethics and inspiration. Spock showed a mix of human-Vulcan heritage as he moved away from Vulcan training to serve as science officer on the USS Enterprise. Spock trademarked his logic with an unemotional sense of detachment. Spock’s character represented a sort of equality within society where not only Vulcans and humans could co-exist, but all races could work collaboratively in the workplace and as a society. Spock continuously argued with Captain Kirk about a variety of different actions that Spock considered immoral and dishonest. Spock frequently suggested, “in critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see” (Burns & Richards, 1966) as the basis of potentially unethical actions.
Within the business world, employees might find themselves in a similar situation, possibly wavering to the hierarchy of authority within an organization. Arguments against ethics in business suggest a manager’s most important obligation is loyalty to the company, regardless of ethics. Many times, Captain Kirk took this position with his devotion to the operation of the mission. Spock brought forward a logical and rational sense of morality to most situations as he attempted to convince Captain Kirk. Will an employee argue with supervisors about a decision made with questionable ethics? Businesses should support maintaining ethics because they cannot survive without them, and ethics are consistent with profit seeking. In today’s society, consumers appreciate the ethical nature of businesses and, in many cases, will do business with the ones they consider most ethical.
Leonard H. McCoy, nicknamed “Bones,” served as chief medical officer of the USS Enterprise. He demonstrated an almost brotherly relationship with Captain Kirk, who considered him a friend, confidant, and counselor presenting a sense of logic to Captain Kirk’s conscience. Born in Georgia, Dr. McCoy presented a somewhat bigoted approach to Spock’s Vulcan heritage. The constant bickering between Bones and Spock might have been one of the crowning elements of the show’s popularity. Although the entertainment value of the bickering is significant, the content of the bickering provided some true ethical concerns for the Enterprise. McCoy’s extreme moral convictions endeavored one to question the impact on the advancement of scientific exploration in the show. In application to business ethics, this exploration begs the question of whether such extreme morality might impede the effective operation of a business. Should people attribute ethical qualities only to people or also to corporations?
Utilitarianism is another concept brought forward by Star Trek. This ethical theory suggests that the rightness or wrongness of an action determines how much happiness or pain it produces. The production of more happiness is construed as moral and producing more pain results in immoral behavior. Certainly, Captain Kirk always looked for the infliction of less pain in the show’s many adventures. Spock brought forward the famous quote of the “needs of many outweigh the needs of the few,” (Sallin, 1982) which supports the utilitarianism way. Spock would give his life in support of the greater good of the universe.
Star Trek also had a profound influence on the outside world. One might ask whether the show served as Steve Jobs’ inspiration for the iPhone. This show provided a tale of suspense and morality. Captain Kirk believed the decisions he made served the best interests of the Enterprise and its crew, despite clearly breaking the law. Bones and Spock acted as a sounding board and a morality compass, respectively. One might conclude that thinking like Spock, but acting like Captain Kirk, is an ideal blend of business ethics needed in an organization.