When it comes to autonomous cars, get used to hearing about ‘the trolley problem.’
A thought experiment in ethics, the basis of the problem is as follows:
A runaway train is about to mow down five people tied to the tracks. You, standing in the distance, have the option to pull a lever to make it switch to a second set of tracks. On this set of tracks, there is one person tied down. You have two choices:
- Do nothing, and watch as the train kills the five people on the main track.
- Pull the lever to divert the train to a new track where it’d kill one person.
Which is the most ethical choice?
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The problem is the perfect logical aid for attempting to program artificial intelligence met with similar quandaries.
Luckily, this two-year-old seems to have solved it for us. In a rather simplistic solution that I’m almost certain you didn’t think of, the toddler moves the single person to the train track where the other five people are tied down — and proceeds to kill all of them.
A simple solution, but I’m not certain it does much to help programmers design safer cars.