Here’s a moral conundrum for you, regarding that evergreen topic of driverless cars.
In the event of an unavoidable collision, should the car ‘decide’ to sacrifice its passengers if in doing so fewer lives will be lost overall?
Tricky one, that, so researchers carried out a study to gauge people’s reactions to the concept. The research was carried out in the US, which isn’t really noted for its warm’n’fuzzy altruism, but more for its robust ‘F*** you, Jack’ approach to life.
The results surprised me. It seems the frontier town attitude has softened since the days of the Gold Rush. Over 80% of people replied ‘Yes.’ Bet that gives all you transatlanteans a nice feeling in your underwear. All together now. ‘Awwwwwww.’
Well as we say in Essex, ‘old you ‘ard, boy. That means ‘Take pause.’
The study also found that, of the people interviewed who said the car should sacrifice its passengers for the greater good, only 3% said they would be happy to travel in a vehicle that would offer up their souls so others would be saved. That’s quite a disparity, and I suspect that the tiny minority fibbed so they didn’t look like selfish gits. It was this finding that left me not imitating a goldfish.
It’s a real moral dilemma isn’t it? Yes, I agree with the principle, but not if it applies to me and mine. This didn’t surprise me at all. Your nearest and dearest will always take precedence over the rest of the world. You might be willing to take a bullet for the team, perhaps, but you won’t force others to come to the same decision.
This is fraught with problems, isn’t it? How does the car make the decision? There will have to be some sort of computer algorithm, and just before impact you really don’t want the ‘Windows has detected a problem and will shut down’ screen, now do you?
Suppose you get a renegade programmer who decides to play at being a deity? That would be a bit problematic too, wouldn’t it?
Or a program that is designed to cheat. VW is shelling out billions because its emissions control software was designed to cheat the tests. Here we’re talking about cheating death, not about nitrogen oxides.
Which would you go for. The car that will kill you to spare others? Or the car that will protect you at all costs? The choice is yours.