Bert

Moral dilemma between commitment and self-interest

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So about 3 months ago I was beginning my 3rd quarter in college. It was the first quarter that had many of my classes geared toward my major (electrical engineering). I was not very sure about what I wanted to do over the summer, but I wanted to get more useful experience to help me decide what I want to do for a career. My grandpa was a very good medical doctor who helped create a hospital. He was able to give me the opportunity to get a short term internship at the hospital. He told me that it was a career search program that was not only for serious medical students. I was not considering medicine as a career but I considered it for the experience of being around professionals and research as opposed to no plans for the summer. He had to know in advance if I wanted to do it so I said yes somewhat reluctantly. This was about 3 months before the actual intern. Now it is coming up and I just got out of college for the summer. My classes exposed me and made me more interested in my major more than ever before. Now that it is summer all I want to do is research my major, do projects on my own, or find a related job. So my problem is that there has already been many arrangements made based on my decision 3 months ago. This whole intern was arranged to help expose me to more things, but now I think it is too far off what I want to pursue. I think my grandpa wanted me to do it in the first place because he thought it would help me in choosing a career. Now that I don't think it would, I wouldn't think he would want me to go as bad, but my mom insists that I must stick with it. I do think it is moral to stick with it since I said I was going to and arrangements have already been made, but my self-interests is pulling me the other way. I was wondering what the Objectivist approach to this would be and why.

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I would offer that you take a long-term approach to what you should do. What I mean by that is that everything you choose at this point in your life will have an effect/consequence on your future whether you recognize it right now or not.

From the circumstances you have given I would offer that it might be best to stick with the commitment you have already made. Also from the circumstances that you describe it seems like there have been resources committed to your previous commitment which can also look bad on you for not fulfilling your commitment. I would also offer that you have just begun your education and that there will be time, either off-work time or some time later, to research your major.

So, there is no contradiction of your self interest "pulling" you in an opposite direction as long as you understand that self interest requires one to start with long term thought. So, you might start off by asking yourself, "is this in my best long-term interest?" If the answer is no, rethink your choices and actions.

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So my problem is that there has already been many arrangements made based on my decision 3 months ago. This whole intern was arranged to help expose me to more things, but now I think it is too far off what I want to pursue. I think my grandpa wanted me to do it in the first place because he thought it would help me in choosing a career. Now that I don't think it would, I wouldn't think he would want me to go as bad, but my mom insists that I must stick with it. I do think it is moral to stick with it since I said I was going to and arrangements have already been made, but my self-interests is pulling me the other way. I was wondering what the Objectivist approach to this would be and why.

It looks to me that you are doing the right thing.

  1. You are thinking about and plan to pursue your own long-term self-interest.
  2. You acknowledge you did make a contract, that people are relying on you, and you are prepared to fulfill your commitment.

As for what to do now, I suggest you talk to your grandpa and tell him how your plans have changed. Your contract might be renegotiated or they may be able to find someone else. If not, it's only three months.

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So my problem is that there has already been many arrangements made based on my decision 3 months ago. This whole intern was arranged to help expose me to more things, but now I think it is too far off what I want to pursue. I think my grandpa wanted me to do it in the first place because he thought it would help me in choosing a career. Now that I don't think it would, I wouldn't think he would want me to go as bad, but my mom insists that I must stick with it. I do think it is moral to stick with it since I said I was going to and arrangements have already been made, but my self-interests is pulling me the other way. I was wondering what the Objectivist approach to this would be and why.

It looks to me that you are doing the right thing.

  1. You are thinking about and plan to pursue your own long-term self-interest.
  2. You acknowledge you did make a contract, that people are relying on you, and you are prepared to fulfill your commitment.

As for what to do now, I suggest you talk to your grandpa and tell him how your plans have changed. Your contract might be renegotiated or they may be able to find someone else. If not, it's only three months.

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Not every summer job has to be in the field of your long term goals, especially this early in your education. If you need the money, the position you have lined up beats nothing, and by working with professionals -- any professionals -- you would get more out of it than a job like flipping burgers, if you could find a job at all this late. What chance would you have to get a good technical job this late and with only three quarters of education? You don't know very much about electrical engineering yet, and you don't even know if you will stick with that after more educational experience in related science and engineering fields.

If you don't need the job at all and your grandfather can honestly renegotiate it with a replacement without your reneging on the commitment, as Betsy suggested, then you may get more out of studying yourself -- if you think you will really do that and not just have good intentions. But the job you describe in such a professional atmosphere, intended to help you explore career opportunities, sounds like a wonderful opportunity and it would be very good experience for you. There is a lot of electronic technology in medicine that you could explore, becoming familiar with the practical use of instrumentation and the principles behind it. And there is nothing to stop you from reading and studying whatever else you want to while not working. You can accomplish quite a lot that way.

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I agree with what the others have said here. This early in your education be willing to think quite broadly about your field. As an electrical engineering major, there is a very good chance that you will eventually pursue a highly specialized niche in that field. This summer internship sounds like a great source for personal growth, and there will also be opportunities to find out how your major intersects with the medical field.

Think of it as integration. ;)

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I decided to go but the time i'm staying is only two weeks. I am just going for the experience (no pay) and it is planned that I go around and see everything I am interested in. I agree that being in a professional atmosphere no matter the profession can be benificial and that it is good to look around this early on in my search for a career. Thanks for the advice and if there are any doctors (or others) who think there is a particular interesting aspect that I should see, please let me know.

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I decided to go but the time i'm staying is only two weeks. I am just going for the experience (no pay) and it is planned that I go around and see everything I am interested in. I agree that being in a professional atmosphere no matter the profession can be benificial and that it is good to look around this early on in my search for a career. Thanks for the advice and if there are any doctors (or others) who think there is a particular interesting aspect that I should see, please let me know.

It's hard to get into anything enough in two weeks to understand it beyond the level of a dog and pony show.

They will know more about what technology they have to show you than any of us can tell you from a distance. Various kinds of imaging and techniques for less invasive micro-surgery are very important in medicine now, but they know that and will no doubt show you what they have and a lot of other things. You should probably spend some time doing some general research on your own so that you have a headstart on understanding what they show you and so you are able to probe with more interesting questions in more depth than you could pick up on the fly as you encounter technology and ideas for the first time. That way you can make the most of what little time you have there.

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There is a lot of electronic technology in medicine that you could explore, becoming familiar with the practical use of instrumentation and the principles behind it. And there is nothing to stop you from reading and studying whatever else you want to while not working. You can accomplish quite a lot that way.
- My exact thoughts. You would be amazed at how this could open doors to a terrific future.

It reminds me of something that happened as I approached graduation from college. I knew that I wanted to work for Boeing and be an aircraft structures engineer. I did do that but an opportunity came my way that I still kick myself for. This was 1990, mind you. I had an interview with a small company that went public the week they interviewed me. My mother (see recurring theme of relatives?) worked down the street from this company and suggested I give them a serious look. I would have been employee #65 (or thereabouts) and gotten stock options. What did this company do? They did nothing I was interested in. They built hardware to hook computers together. What fun is that?...right? (This was 1990.) Well, that company was Cisco Systems and if I had taken that job I would be typing this from my yacht in the Bahamas.

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I did do that but an opportunity came my way that I still kick myself for. This was 1990, mind you. I had an interview with a small company that went public the week they interviewed me. My mother (see recurring theme of relatives?) worked down the street from this company and suggested I give them a serious look. I would have been employee #65 (or thereabouts) and gotten stock options. What did this company do? They did nothing I was interested in. They built hardware to hook computers together. What fun is that?...right? (This was 1990.) Well, that company was Cisco Systems and if I had taken that job I would be typing this from my yacht in the Bahamas.

Just as you could have if you had "somehow" had the foresight to buy the right lottery ticket. But you could not have known to do either based on what you knew at the time and you have no reason to kick yourself. That approach would more likely get you into a lot of jobs (and worthless lottery tickets) that you had no interest in, hoping for luck to come your way. Better to systematically pursue what you think is good based on the knowledge you have worked to attain, like you did. Keep doing that. A very large number of startups and quasi-startups with stock options go bankrupt and take the stock certificates with them. Don't take such a job unless you have some reason to want to work there and some reason to expect that it could succeed.

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