Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A philosophical reflection on driverless cars

This is a neat little article from Linkedin about driverless cars.  It forecasts that these marvels have a long time yet before they become pervasive on roadways.  The reason for this, according to the author, are the questions of agency and liability surrounding these cars.  Because the agency for driving decisions, especially split-second ones, will no longer rest with the passenger but with a programmer or algorithm, there arise sticky questions of what these cars should do in the case of an accident.  The author gives the example of whether a car faced with a child in the roadway should swerve into oncoming traffic, thus endangering the passenger and other vehicles but potentially saving the child, or if it should plow forward, thus protecting the passenger/buyer of the car but squashing the hapless kid.

Anyway, it just goes to show that our world is a mix of technical or objective conditions on the one hand, and social ones, such that there is rarely a simple, purely technical innovation that can be rolled out in society.  You always have to consider the social, too.  Technology doesn't exist free of social context.

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