I admit it: I’m an aggressive driver. Rendered as an exponential value, I’d be a Type A¹³. When I drive, it’s simply and strictly for the purpose of getting from Point A to Point B in the shortest possible time. I have neither understanding of nor patience for drivers without the same degrees of intention and courtesy that I do. (If you’re leaving Houlton, Maine, knowing you’re going to take a left-hand exit in Miami, Florida, do you really have to drive in the left lane of I-95 the whole way?)
But according to the eggheads at MIT, I’m benign, beneficent, and beatifically buoyant compared to self-driving vehicles: “Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill“.
Imagine, if you will (or if you can) the degree of academic detachment required to reduce a philosophical quandary to the level of computer programming and to anthropomorphize said computer and the programs it runs to the extent that a life-and-death scenario could be blithely characterized as:
an impossible ethical dilemma of algorithmic morality.
Algorithmic morality. Wow! I can think of many phrases that induce cold shivers. But that one positively chills me to the bone. And if that’s not enough intellectual gymnastics at the expense of common sense and humanity for you, try this:
Jean-Francois Bonnefon at the Toulouse School of Economics in France and a couple of pals … say that even though there is no right or wrong answer to these questions, public opinion will play a strong role in how, or even whether, self-driving cars become widely accepted.
Translation: Unless some governmental bureaucrats — who are probably even more detached than the academic jugheads who conduct these moot studies — shove self-driving cars down the throats of the motoring public, people will likely be more comfortable determining their own fates than they will be surrendering them to some morally conflicted algorithm. If that’s any kind of a revelation to Jean-Francois and his lab-bound buddies, they’re in deeper trouble than we’ll be on highways traffic-jammed with self-driving killing machines.
Speaking of revelations, this one must have taken the boys at the Toulouse School of Economics, as well as the sunnily sibylline scribes at MIT, completely off guard:
People are in favor of cars that sacrifice the occupant to save other lives—as long they don’t have to drive one themselves.
We’re in deep trouble, kids. The only thing that makes me feel any better about any of this is the idea of putting Jean-Francois and his pals, along with the editorial board from MIT Technology Review, in a self-driving car and wishing them bon voyage on their ethically challenged trip of algorithmic morality from Houlton to Miami. It’s a safe bet some of my righteously road-raged brethren would love to play chicken with those eggheads.
I get pretty pissed when I drive. But I’m not programmed to kill.
Image courtesy of ClipArtsFree.net.