The Ethical Machine

Blog2. Februar 2012, 16:03
64 Postings

Technology is moving at an incredible pace. And I feel that we should all be on top of these developments - Sarah Spiekermann

Why will I blog about "the ethical machine"? Technology is moving at an incredible pace. And I feel that we should all be on top of these developments. The fact that processing power of machines has been doubling every 18 months for the last decades (so called "Moore's Law") is just the tip of the iceberg.

What I find noteworthy is Ray Kurzweil's "Law of Acceleration". It states that machines' intelligence is growing exponentially. It is growing so fast that we will probably be surprised to see a lot of former techno-fantasies now come true quickly.

Just think of the IBM Watson computer. For a long time (at least until 2005) everyone thought (including computer scientists!) that computers wouldn't be able to understand the finesses of unstructured natural language, metaphors, allegories, etc.

I love Fitt's list that I have used many times to argue on what machines are good at and what humans are good at. It says, for example, that when it comes to true complex and intelligent reasoning, humans are superior to computers. But since last year the IBM Watson computer won against the smartest Jeopardy players on earth, this belief is over. Within seconds the computer was able to answer the most difficult knowledge questions asked in an indirect allegoric style.

So what do such technological developments mean for us?

This is what this blog is going to be about. I will write about technologies and regulation of this technology, about economics and social challenges associated with technology. I will do so both from a bird's perspective and in detail. Especially when it comes to electronic privacy, I will comment in this blog on new privacy legislation and technologies, wars of power for this fundamental human right.

In doing so, I do not see my reflections as a "race against the machine" as Brynjolfsson and McAfee entitled their recent book. I really don't think that we want to become Amish (even though the smartest people recently start to claim that they want to move to the countryside because of the crisis).

Instead, I want to contribute a new idea: "ethical machines". Ethical machines are machines that we fully control, that serve us, make us happy, make us laugh, are beautiful, teach us stuff, remind us of good behaviour and manners while not forcing us to do anything, protect us from spam and - most importantly - act according to the highest moral standards (that we have a hard time to achieve ourselves).

Short: Machines that are our better selves and bodies. Is that possible? Let's start thinking about it.

Autorin: Sarah Spiekermann ist Professorin an der Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, wo sie dem Institut für BWL und Wirtschaftsinformatik vorsteht. Ihre wissenschaftliche Laufbahn hat sie vor allem in Berlin an der Humboldt Universität verbracht. Seit mehr als zehn Jahren lehrt und forscht sie zu sozialen Fragen der Internetökonomie und Technikgestaltung.

Links:

Law of Acceleration

Fitt's list

IBM Watson

  • Bild nicht mehr verfügbar

    Humans are superior to computers? Since last year the IBM Watson computer won against the smartest Jeopardy players on earth, this belief is over.

Share if you care.