Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Overphilosophizing robot cars

Brad Templeton has a fantastic post about the philosophical implications of self-driving cars, specifically that they're overemphasized when considering the technology:
The morbid focus on the trolley problem creates, to some irony, a meta-trolley problem. If people (especially lawyers advising companies or lawmakers) start expressing the view that “we can’t deploy this technology until we have a satisfactory answer to this quandry” then they face the reality that if the technology is indeed life-saving, then people will die through their advised inaction who could have been saved, in order to be sure to save the right people in very rare, complex situations. Of course, the problem itself speaks mostly about the difference between “failure to save” and “overt action” to our views of the ethics of harm.
In general, people vastly overemphasize ethical and philosophical issues when pondering the future, and underemphasize practical considerations. Our current lives are of course past people's future lives: how often do you consider the ethical ramifications of technologies or social habits that seem mundane but are actually relatively new (television, supermarkets, cars, white-collar work, garbage disposal etc.)? The future, as lived by those experiencing it, is probably going to feel much like life feels now.

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