Reaccommodating

That heart transplant probably would've been better served in someone else on the waiting list.

Last year, some folks at MIT implemented a version of the trolley problem they called the Moral Machine, a series of scenarios in which you choose which people and/or pets a self-driving car should sacrifice in a fatal accident.

It is the job of the programming humans to apply the ethical brakes.

But, as has been pointed out, for example by University of Maryland professor Danielle Citron in her 1998 paper Technological Due Process, programmers are bad at that, and on-the-ground humans tend to do what the machine tells them.

That approach might save the parents of young children and kill anti-social nerds and old people whose friends are all dead.

Neither approach is is how today's algorithms value people, because they are predominantly owned by businesses, as Frank Pasquale has written in his book Black Box Society.

The case started when Bob, the senior vice president of Thai ABC Airline, had to implement a new method of re-accommodating passengers in the case of canceled/delayed flights.These values will be determined by car and software manufacturers, and given their generally risk-averse lawyers it's more likely the vehicle will, as in Dexter Palmer's Version Control, try to hand off both the wheel and the liability to the human driver, who will then become, as Madeleine Elish said at We Robot 2016 the human-machine system's moral crumple zone.There are already situations where exactly this kind of optimization takes place and this week we saw one of them at play in the case of the passenger dragged bleeding and probably concussed off United Airlines flight 3411 (operated by Republic Airline).Cue Nicole Gelinas in City Journal, "The customer isn't always right. Her Web site has an extensive archive of her books, articles, and music, and an archive of earlier columns in this series.But an airline that assaults a customer is always wrong." The public largely agrees, so one hopes that what comes out of this is a re-accommodation of values. Illustrations: United jet at Chicago O'Hare; MIT Moral Machine; Danielle Citron. Stories about the border wars between cyberspace and real life are posted occasionally during the week at the Pinboard - or follow on Twitter.

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The simplest possible setting is: kill the fewest people.

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