Technology and ethics

What are our obligations to the dumb, distracted and unlucky roaming in the street? Are those obligations worth two grand? What about unintended consequences? Doesn’t a system like this invite driver inattention, what behaviorists call learned helplessness, and if in my less attentive state I have another kind of accident, wasn’t my purchase negligent?

wonders a WSJ blog in a discussion about the ethics of advanced pedestrian safety devices in cars while reviewing the new Volvo with pedestrian detection and auto-braking system.

The ethical question in this particular example is mostly in the private sphere. From here, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine questions that straddle the public-private spheres. Staying with transportation, cheap cars detract from the focus on cheaper and efficient public transport; and expensive, but fuel-inefficient cars are a public evil. No easy choices here…


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