Monthly Archives: May 2014

Curbing Online Abuse


Murder, robots, and math

“It happens quickly—more quickly than you, being human, can fully process.

A front tire blows, and your autonomous SUV swerves. But rather than veering left, into the opposing lane of traffic, the robotic vehicle steers right. Brakes engage, the system tries to correct itself, but there’s too much momentum. Like a cornball stunt in a bad action movie, you are over the cliff, in free fall.

Your robot, the one you paid good money for, has chosen to kill you. Better that, its collision-response algorithms decided, than a high-speed, head-on collision with a smaller, non-robotic compact. There were two people in that car, to your one. The math couldn’t be simpler.

This, roughly speaking, is the problem presented by Patrick Lin, an associate philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University. In a recent opinion piece for Wired, Lin explored one of the most disturbing questions in robot ethics: If a crash is unavoidable, should an autonomous car choose who it slams into?”

Sexual assault in virtual worlds

The gamer’s dilemma: An analysis of the arguments for the moral distinction between virtual murder and virtual paedophilia

Most people agree that murder is wrong. Yet, within computer games virtual murder scarcely raises an eyebrow. In one respect this is hardly surprising, as no one is actually murdered within a computer game. A virtual murder, some might argue, is no more unethical than taking a pawn in a game of chess. However, if no actual children are abused in acts of virtual paedophilia (life-like simulations of the actual practice), does that mean we should disregard these acts with the same abandon we do virtual murder? In this paper I shall outline several arguments which attempt to permit virtual murder, whilst prohibiting virtual paedophilia.

Rape in Virtual Worlds

Kim Correa loves the online game DayZ, which lets you interact with other humans during a zombie apocalypse. DayZ’s appeal is that it allows weird, spontaneous interactions between players. It also allows really terrible ones. Kim talks about her experience of being raped in a virtual world — something she doesn’t quite know what to do with. We also talk to writer Julian Dibbel, who wrote about how one online community dealt with a virtual rape back in 1993.

Digital life after death?

The immortality of one’s digital accounts is one of the more morbid philosophical wrinkles of modern life.

Even when you’re gone, your Facebook and Twitter accounts remain. Sometimes they serve as poignant monuments to the life of the deceased; sometimes as secret repositories of photos and memories nobody else can access; sometimes as havens for haters and trolls.”

Killer robots

“Activists with The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots say the technology must be stopped now to prevent it becoming part of modern warfare. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss how the ethics of autonomous robotics goes far beyond killer weapons.

  • Ian Kerr, hold the Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology at the University of Ottawa. He is also the co-author of the forthcoming book Robot Law, and is a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. He was in Ottawa.
  • Kathleen Richardson is an anthropologist, robot expert, and research associate at University College London. She was in Cambridge, England.
  • Daniel H. Wilson is an artificial intelligence and robotics expert. He is also the author of the Robopocalypse and it’s upcoming sequel Robogenesis. He was in New York.”