Conference: "Moral Algorithms: the Ethics of Autonomous Vehicles"

Self driving cars
April 18, 2016
All Day
Film/Video Theater, Wexner Center for the Arts


The Center for Ethics and Human Values and its co-sponsors present a one-day conference on Moral Algorithms and Self-Driving Cars.


The development of autonomous vehicles requires us to operationalize moral judgment. If vehicles are to make decisions that minimize harm in crash imminent situations, we need to address vexing questions of what constitutes the minimization of harm. Under what conditions is it permissible to cause harm to some in order to avoid harm to others? Are the numbers of victims and the severity of harm all that matters morally or does it matter, also, whether we cause the harm or merely allow it to occur? Does it matter whether the harm that we cause is the instrument of avoiding the harm we prevent or merely an unintended side-effect? These questions can no longer be confined to the seminar room. They arise in the laboratory as we design intelligent systems to make decisions formerly left to humans. To address these situations, we need to develop “moral algorithms,” algorithms that resolve “tragic choices” in morally defensible ways.

In a short TED-Ed presentation, "The Ethical Dilemma of Self-Driving Cars," Patrick Lin, nicely introduces the ethical problems that are brought to the fore as we turn critical decisional control over automated systems.

Recordings of the conference sessions are available here.


Conference Schedule:

9:00a - 9:15a: Introductions

9:15a - 10:30a: Session 1: Current & Near-Future Technological Capabilities
What is the technology for autonomous vehicles capable of producing? What’s on the horizon for this technology?

11:00a - 12:15p: Session 2: Moral Values and Constraints
What are the relevant moral questions and issues at stake? What moral values are involved?

12:15p - 2:00p: Lunch break

2:00p - 3:15p: Session 3: Psychological Aspects of Dilemmatic Choice
How do humans make decisions about how to resolve these questions and issues? How do they retrospectively evaluate their decisions?

3:45p - 5:00p: Session 4: Law & Public Policy
What challenges face us in accounting for the moral issues surrounding autonomous vehicles?

5:00p - 6:00p: Reception


Conference Co-Sponsors:

With additional support from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

The conference is free and open to the public. No registration required.

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