← Technological Analysis of Back to the Future II (1985)

Principle Characters'
Computing-Related Decisions

Ethical Analyses of Each Main Character

Doc Brown

The Doc  the time machine for the gain of his friend for whom he cares -- he sees Marty’s son getting arrested in the future and having his life ruined so he steps in. Doc and Marty manage to save Marty Jr. but they get badboy Griff arrested. Here, a utilitarian perspective would say the benefit of saving Marty Jr. outweighs the harm of getting Griff arrested so this is alright. However, because Griff is arrested, a Kantianism perspective would say Doc ignores the fact that Griff is also a moral agent by letting him get arrested and therefore the decision is morally wrong. However, Griff is arguably responsible for getting himself arrested.

  • Conclusion: Doc Brown acts morally throughout the movie.

Marty (2015)

Marty goes through with Needles’s shady deal and goes behind his boss’s back -- Kantianism would say that if treated as a universal moral law, nobody would follow their superior thus the decision is unethical. Virtue ethics would value loyalty as opposed to being prideful. Needles pressured Marty in a way he knew he couldn't refuse. Second formulation of Kantianism would say he used Marty as a means to an end.

  • Conclusion: Marty (2015) acts immorally.

Marty (1985)

Marty finds an almanac that contains the results of every sports event and realizes he can take it back to 1985, bet on a few sports, and make a lot of money for himself. However, the Doc makes him throw it away. If it weren't for the Doc, Marty would have gone through with it. Assuming the Doc hadn't stopped him, Marty’s decision is morally incorrect. From a utilitarian perspective, Marty would have robbed the racetracks and betting booths for his personal gain -- this is wrong. Social contract theory says that if everyone bought almanacs from the future and used it to bet and win sports events, the tracks would lose money -- this is also wrong.

  • Conclusion: Marty (1985) acts wrongly.

Biff (2015)

Biff in 2015 realizes the potential of the time machine when he sees Marty trying to use the Almanac for personal gain, he decides to steal the time machine to give his past self the Almanac. From a utilitarian perspective, Biff would have robbed the racetracks and betting booths for his personal gain -- this is wrong. Social contract theory says that if everyone bought almanacs from the future and used it to bet and win sports events, the tracks would lose money -- this is also wrong.

  • Conclusion: Biff acts wrongly.