Self driving cars must learn to kill

As we move towards more technological capability and deferring judgement and decision to artificial intelligence, some difficult ethical questions will come up.

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A recent article in TechnologyReview highlights how self-driving cars will be programmed to make tradeoffs in difficult situations. The use of the image to the left demonstrates the type of situation in which a self driving car may have to deliberately chose to kill one person to save many people.

It gets even more confusing when we think about one adult vs one child, a cyclist vs a car, a passenger vs a pedestrian. There will be a huge new body of research in practical ethics and applied philosophy that companies such as Google will be looking to for guidance.

Beating the government: is big data crucial or creepy?

An article on Thursday in the UK online tech journal ArsTechnica reviews the surprising power of mobile communications data to identify trending unemployment.

PLOS One paper and Journal of the Royal Society Interface paper both published last week look at changes in the frequency, location, and timing of interactions between people via their cellular records. The correlations between these changes and observed layoffs can be used to train models for future predictions.

The article asks: is this harvesting of phone records to get ahead of employment shocks a critical tool for planners and government officials? Or actually a very creepy and invasive use of personal information? Comments welcome!

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This image, unrelated to the unemployment study, shows seasonal population changes in France and Portugal, measured by cellphone activity.