The Wire: Steering the Debate Towards Robot Ethics

ostia_flikrI had a great time talking to Ellen Lebeater at The Wire, Australia about autonomous cars, tunnel problems, and robot ethics. Here’s the teaser from their site.

A world where robots cater to our every whim may still be a futuristic dream, but they may soon be our chauffeurs. Autonomous cars are projected to be on our roads by 2020, run by software designed by humans. But ethicists are now raising questions about who should be programming the car where moral dilemmas are concerned. For example, who your robot car should kill in an unavoidable crash situation.

Listen to the full audio.

Should your driverless car kill you to save a child?

Berry_autonomous_wide2Should your robot driver kill you to save a child’s life?

By Jason Millar, Carleton University

(This article originally appeared on in a longer version)

Robots have already taken over the world. It may not seem so because it hasn’t happened in the way science fiction author Isaac Asmiov imagined it in his book I, Robot. City streets are not crowded by humanoid robots walking around just yet, but robots have been doing a lot of mundane work behind closed doors, which humans would rather avoid.

Continue reading “Should your driverless car kill you to save a child?”

The (Anti-)Magnetic Powers of Garlic

Lehoux - RomansA long time ago it was apparently common knowledge that garlic was the kind of thing that, if you rubbed it against a magnet, would rob the magnet of its magnetism.

Today, despite its ability to rob even the most magnetic among us of our powers of attraction (at close quarters), it is common knowledge that garlic has no (anti-)magnetic powers where loadstones are concerned.

How did this radical shift in knowledge come about?

According to Daryn Lehoux, author of the critically acclaimed book What Did the Romans Know? and yesterday’s expert guest at the Situating Science Summer Camp, claims of garlic’s (anti-)magnetic powers have more to do with how we classify garlic than with our experience of garlic’s effects on magnets per se.

Continue reading “The (Anti-)Magnetic Powers of Garlic”

A Summer Camp for Science and Technology Studies

SitusciFor those of you who miss the summer camp of your childhood as much as I do (Camp White Pine, to be exact), REJOICE!, for the next few days I’ll be blogging about a summer camp I’m attending this week.

But wait, you say, You’re a grad student, and way too old to be at summer camp! True. And false! I am certainly too old for Camp White Pine. But Situating Science, a multi-year, multi-million dollar academic project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC, Canada), started a summer camp for grad students today, and I was one of the lucky few people invited. Continue reading “A Summer Camp for Science and Technology Studies”

Hacking Health Kicks off Ottawa Chapter

hacking health ottawa

Hacking Health held a meeting last night at Hub Ottawa, and it was a full house. It’s very exciting to hear that the health hacker community is getting this kick-start in the nation’s capital. We have amazing technology, healthcare, design, policy, and academic communities here in Ottawa, making it a perfect place to innovate in the digital health space.

You can follow all the Hacking Health Ottawa news on twitter using #HHOttawa. Be sure to come out to future Cafés and the first Ottawa Health Hackathon–it’s bound to be a great opportunity to make a difference.

Award Winning Papers at IEEE Ethics 2014

IEEE Ethics in EngineeringIn case you missed it, the IEEE recently hosted its first International Symposium on Ethics in Engineering, Science and Technology in Chicago this past May. I really enjoyed the conference: it was refreshing to see so many kindred spirits gathering to talk about ethics and engineering.

Two paper awards were handed out, one in the faculty category, one in the student category. I happy to announce that I won 1st prize for my paper Technology as Moral Proxy: Autonomy and Paternalism by Design in the student category, and Tamara Bonaci, Ryan Calo, and Howard Jay Chizeck won 1st prize for their awesome paper, App Stores for the Brain: Privacy & Security in Brain-Computer Interfaces, in the faculty category.

Here’s a link to all of the results and the conference.

A Central Fallacy in Robot Ethics

Funny white robot stay with pen and documentFifteen years ago a team of archaeologists uncovered a strange set of artefacts while on a routine dig in a remote area of China. Their find consisted of thousands of incredibly thin “metallic” tablets, each inscribed with strange markings, all of them stored within a larger “metallic” case. One of the tablets, which the archaeologists dubbed Rosetta II included ancient Greek alongside the strange markings. Carbon dating suggested that each of the tablets was produced during a radically different period in history, with the earliest tablet and storage container suggesting a date on the order of billions of years ago. Naturally the carbon dating was deemed enigmatically inconclusive.

Until recently, that is, when researchers finally uncovered some of the meaning behind the tablets. Continue reading “A Central Fallacy in Robot Ethics”