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  • Writer's pictureJohnny Sundin

Ethics and the Moral Machine!

In a world of new ”smart” machines and Apps programmed and informed by complex algorithms, it is not reassuring to be steered by predicated programming … In fact it’s not desirable and in the unlikely event of unforeseen circumstances a digital Plan B is required. How can a self-drive car be programmed to deal with the sudden appearance of a pedestrian pushing a pram right in the path of the electric vehicle? The sensors smartly inform the vehicle and it will try to avoid killing the pedestrian and child by making the car swerve to one side. The only alternative – is to drive into the concrete hard shoulder which might mean killing the passengers in the collision instead.

Researchers at MIT have analysed our attitudes and moral standing by what we judge the vehicle ought to do. Ultimately everything is programmed by people who have opted for a moral strategy with an idealised collision-free journey on life’s highway. Try out the test on yourself and contribute to their research at the same time, You’ll be confronted with an array of morally weighed choices for paths you might take, forcing you to opt for a particular stance. There’ll be lives on the line. What should the machine think and do? Who shall live and who will be sacrificed?

So far 10 million people have answered the questionnaire in the database. According to MIT’s results, the participants with the greatest moral sympathy to survive the various simulations are women, children, the wealthy and physically fit (!)

We are recognising that the more we allow advanced software, robotic technology and quotidian algorithms into our lives, the more we need to consider right from wrong. What do we really think? What’s the bottom line!?

A sensitive issue if not a moral maze. Imagine the bitter aftertaste and the consequences of poor programming. The good news is, the more we are able to reduce human factor incidents – the more well oiled the machinery will run, apart from when the unexpected occurs, when ethics and machine morality have the last binary say.

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