View profile

Polymathic Monthly - Issue #31: Trolley Problem, Biases and What Does Not Change.


Polymathic Monthly

January 27 · Issue #31 · View online

A curation of articles, tech, books and innovation strategy to enrich your career and personal lives.

In 2016 MIT Media Lab set out to determine how human beings would respond to the ‘Trolley Problem’. The ‘Trolley Problem’, as I was asked in my only ethics class in business school, asks ‘if you are the driver of a trolley with faulty brakes, whom would you choose to hit between the five unsuspecting workers directly on your path or you could turn the trolley and hit one unsuspecting worker?’. The answers to this question, and the possible variations, has become important as we deploy autonomous vehicles. Only Germany has come up with anything close to the ethical guidelines for this advancement.
Some two million people from two hundred countries responded to the survey, delivered in the form of the game Moral Machine. Results showed people would spare groups at the expense of individuals, women over men and older people over kids. All seemingly fair. But the results also shows respondents would spare ‘fit’ people over ‘fat’ people and ‘business executives’ (whatever that means) over homeless people.
Here’s my worry; this research will become input into the algorithms and laws that govern autonomous vehicles because it’s the most comprehensive study out there in a world where we rely on ‘data’. But seventy percent of those who played Moral Machines were male college students and so the biases of a non-representative sample of the world will roll right along into the fabric of our new technology…unless we do something about it.
I’d love your perspectives on this…

The recommendations from the last few weeks of reading can be split into two buckets
  • Old books that predicted what today might look like to help figure out what might lie ahead. ‘Futurethink’ by Weiner and Brown provides a few thinking models, ‘Microtrends’ by Penn and Zalesne show that what is old is new and, ‘Small Data’ by Martin Lindstrom takes an anthropological approach to determining trends. You can throw in ‘Future Shock’ by Alvin Toffler, he covered a lot of the ideas that he modernized in those other books.
  • New fiction on masculinity, race and class; ‘How Are You Going To Save Yourself’ by JM Holmes and ‘A Lucky Man: Stories’ by Jamal Brinkley. Some of the stories made me uncomfortable when I read them a few weeks ago. It’s a sensation I still feel as I write this.
I can’t believe January ends in a few days! We’re plugging along with Varuna and the next few weeks will be pivotal. Thanks for the continued introductions, I’m working through them.
As usual, I’d love your book and article recommendations. I’d also appreciate if you shared Polymathic Monthly with one person. One. Yes, Just one.
Till the next issue, all the best!
Did you enjoy this issue?
In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue