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Four short links: 28 November 2012

Ethical Machines, Fault Tolerance, Offline HTML5, and Doomy Data

  1. Moral Machinesit will no longer be optional for machines to have ethical systems. Your car is speeding along a bridge at fifty miles per hour when errant school bus carrying forty innocent children crosses its path. Should your car swerve, possibly risking the life of its owner (you), in order to save the children, or keep going, putting all forty kids at risk? If the decision must be made in milliseconds, the computer will have to make the call. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Hystrixa latency and fault tolerance library designed to isolate points of access to remote systems, services and 3rd party libraries, stop cascading failure and enable resilience in complex distributed systems where failure is inevitable. More information. (via Tom Loosemore)
  3. Offline First: A Better HTML5 Experience — can’t emphasize how important it is to have offline functionality for the parts of the world that don’t have blanket 3G/LTE/etc coverage. (280 south from SF, for example).
  4. Disaster of Biblical Proportions (Business Insider) — impressive collection of graphs and data showing commodity prices indicate our species is living beyond its means.
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  • bryan rasmussen

    That moral machines conundrum is the stupidest thing I’ve read since slightly before Mitt Romney lost…

    should your car swerve, possibly risking your life or run into the bus full of school children because no doubt you will survive that no problem.

    Why is the automated car speeding?

    Why is the school bus errant? How does a school bus cross your path on a bridge. Is it that one famous bridge that is also a four way intersection that I just made up in my head?!

    I am looking forward to the day that our google cars will be able to know not just that there is a school bus crossing our path on a bridge but that it has 40 innocent children in it.

    Also 20 not so innocent kids. We should count those too. I figure the 20 non-innocent kids cancel out 20 of the innocent kids.
    Now what, car, are you gonna let me die or 20 innocent kids. The choice just got a lot harder didn’t it car.

    Basically I hate my smart car and I don’t even have it yet.

    • Nathan Torkington

      Bryan, I definitely prefer your vision of the future where every human has an associated PageRank-esque moral attribute, a scalar representation of their moral worth as actor in society. Children, naturally, being new to the world and without a history of clicking on search result advertisements, would have a neutral or zero rank. Those who click ads but do not buy, slowly acquire a negative value. The car would obviously be able to rapidly map out (one server per option) a job to pull up the people the surroundings and their associated moral worth, perform a simple reduce to sum up and compare, then steer the car in the morally correct direction.

      Perhaps in your car’s settings you could choose whether it’s mean or peak moral utility that’s being used. You might even have an option to leave the car on autopilot to cruise the town, running over clickspammers and building up your own moral utility so that, some day, you might walk the street with a carefree heart while busloads of low-value orphans explode around you. It’s Michael Bay meets Jeremy Bentham and they cowrite the new Knight Rider together.

      This is the future I want to live in.