Written Assignment 1
In the lecture “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do,” Harvard professor Michael Sandel discusses two types of moral reasoning: categorical and consequentialist. Categorical moral reasoning is a type of deontological moral reasoning based on rights and duties regardless of the consequences. Consequentialist moral reasoning bases morality on the consequences of an act rather than the act itself. Sandel describes what is often called the “trolley dilemma.”
With the advent of self-driving vehicles we have an updated version of the trolley dilemma. The Moral Machine is a project by MIT that is using crowdsourcing to help make autonomous vehicles “moral.” Visit the Moral Machine website provided in the Study Materials for this module and view the short video. Click “Start Judging” at the bottom of the page and go through a few scenarios.
Consider the trolley dilemma that is described in Sandel’s lecture. In an essay of 500 words, discuss the following:
Do you find yourself siding with a consequentialist or categorical (deontological) approach to moral reasoning in this case? Why?
After reviewing the Moral Machine, describe the observations you can make about yourself in how you are judging moral actions. What ethical questions are being raised for you?
Which scenario do you think is most ethical of the two scenarios described below? Which type of moral reasoning (categorical or consequentialist) would support your view? Explain. Consider the legal issues like vehicular manslaughter and liability. Who is accountable? How might laws need to be reexamined to accommodate self-driving vehicles?
The self-driving car with sudden brake failure will continue ahead and crash into a barrier. This will result in the following deaths of the passengers in the car:
The self-driving car with sudden brake failure will swerve and drive through a pedestrian crossing in the other lane. This will result in the following deaths of pedestrians:
(Note that the affected pedestrians are abiding by the law by crossing on the green signal.)
Diagram of Scenario 1 on left and diagram of Scenario 2 on right. For more information on Ethics in the Digital Age see this: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/information-ethics
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