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Here’s a terrible idea: Robot cars with adjustable ethics settings | Patrick Lin via WIRED

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21 August 2014



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Why not let the user select the car’s “ethics setting”? The way this would work is one customer may set the car (which he paid for) to jealously value his life over all others; another user may prefer that the car values all lives the same and minimizes harm overall; yet another may want to minimize legal liability and costs for herself; and other settings are possible.

Plus, with an adjustable ethics dial set by the customer, the manufacturer presumably can’t be blamed for hard judgment calls, especially in no-win scenarios, right?

Even if an ethics setting lets the company off the hook, guess what? We, the users, may then be solely responsible for injury or death in an unavoidable accident. At best, an ethics setting merely punts responsibility from manufacturer to customer, but it still doesn’t make progress toward that responsibility.

In an important sense, any injury that results from our ethics setting may be premeditated if it’s foreseen.

Read more by Patrick Lin on WIRED.

If you liked this article, you might also be interested in our Reader polls on autonomous cars, some of which were cited in this piece.




Hallie Siegel robotics editor-at-large
Hallie Siegel robotics editor-at-large





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