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Joan and I bought a new car recently. It almost makes me obsolete. It will brake if there’s something in front. It will brake if there’s something behind. It will slow down when the car in front slows down. It will stay in its own lane. It will warn me if I’m not paying enough attention.
All these programs run on what’s called an algorithm. Basically, that’s a computer program, a step by step set of coded instructions that’s supposed to take into account all possible circumstances.
An algorithm has no ethical principles. It is utterly amoral. It just does what it’s told to do.
I wonder what it would do with the classic question posed by ethicists. There’s a beautiful maiden strapped to the railway tracks. And a runaway train coming. You can’t stop the train. But you could throw a switch and divert the train onto a different track, where it will wipe out a work crew.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: ethics, algorithms, cars