Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Ethics of Autonomous Cars

The Wired.com article that was read in class discussed several scenarios regarding the ethics of programming autonomous cars to crash into specific targets, in the case of an accident. This is done in an attempt to minimize the most harm possible during the course of a car crash. The first scenario involved an autonomous car programmed with the decision of either crashing into a Volvo SUV, or a Mini cooper. The article was biased towards programming the vehicle to crash into the Volvo SUV, as it is the heavier vehicle and therefore will better absorb the impact of the crash, and is known for its passenger safety. This scenario questions the concept of whether or not it is "fair" or ethically correct to program autonomous cars, to target specific vehicles in the case of an accident, even if it is done in an effort to minimize the most harm possible.

I believe that autonomous cars should not be programmed to crash into certain vehicles in the course of an accident. I believe that it is ethically incorrect and not "fair" to any individuals involved in the situation. Although programming autonomous cars to crash into larger vehicles may seem to be the most reasonable option, there is no way to determine how many people are in each of the target vehicles, nor the age of those individuals. Although in this scenario the Mini Cooper is smaller than the Volvo SUV, there may be a family of six to seven in the SUV compared to one person driving the Mini Cooper. That family of six to seven may include young children or possibly even infants. In this scenario the amount of harm is not being minimized, as there are even more people put in danger of being severely injured or killed. As SUVs are designed to transport larger families, there is a very likely chance that there will be more people in the Volvo SUV than in the Mini Cooper. By programming the autonomous car to target the larger vehicle in the course of an accident, you will most likely be endangering the lives of even more people. If in the course of an accident the autonomous car is programmed to crash into the larger vehicle, the individual(s) in the autonomous car are also put in greater danger than if they were to crash into the smaller vehicle. I believe that all vehicles on the road should have an equal opportunity at safety, and an equal chance of not being hit in an accident.

The second scenario deals once more with a programmed autonomous car faced with an imminent accident, and given the chance to select one of two targets: a motorcyclist wearing a helmet or a motorcyclist without a helmet. The purpose of programming the autonomous car with the capability to make this decision is to minimize the most harm possible, similar to the previous situation. In this scenario, that would mean crashing into the motorcyclist with the helmet. To begin with, I do not believe that autonomous cars should be programmed to crash into specific targets in the course of an accident. However, if a decision had to be made I would say that the motorcyclist without the helmet should be prioritized. The motorcyclist wearing the helmet and making the responsible decision to protect themselves should not be the ones targeted in an accident. The motorcyclist that would most likely be breaking the law should be the one penalized. Although more injury would be inflicted upon the individual not wearing the helmet, programming the autonomous car to crash into them would encourage helmet wear in the future. This would in turn minimize harm in the long run. Prioritizing the motorcyclist with a helmet would encourage motorcyclists to do just the opposite: not wear a helmet.

The article also discusses programming autonomous cars to make decisions through a random-number generator. I believe that this is a much better decision than programming the autonomous vehicles to crash into specific targets. As the article explains, human driving and accidents constantly involve random decisions. We are surrounded by luck, both good and bad. Programming autonomous cars to make random decisions in the course of an accident would be very similar to having a human being drive the car, and how accidents occur today. This would also avoid any selective targeting, which could lead to several controversial issues,

"If the driver is not making control decisions, should the driver be responsible for any outcomes at all?" ~ Alexander Karasulas

I am a strong believer of the fact that if the driver is not in control of the vehicle, then they should not be held responsible for any outcomes in any scenario. If the driver is in control of their car and has an impact on the outcome of an accident, then they should definitely be held responsible for the damage that they have inflicted. However, if a machine is in control of the vehicle and the autonomous car has been programmed to make certain decisions, then the "driver" should not be held responsible. In fact, they should not even be titled the "driver" as they were never in charge of the vehicle and the decisions that it made in the accident. The autonomous car was being run by programmed software, not by the rationality of a human being.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Passion Project Update

Our time for working on our passion projects is coming to a close. Since the last 20% Project Update, I have accomplished a good amount of research. I have now started putting together a few slides, however I still have a long way to go when it comes to the final product. I have gathered some family stories and personal experiences to put into the project. Recently a family from Cuba migrated to the US, and visited our home. They shared several of their experiences from Cuba, and the hardships that they faced. This information will be included in the final project. All of my research about the Cuban government has been completed, and I am finishing up the final details on the Elian Gonzalez and the 13 de Marzo incidents. I am thoroughly enjoying this project, and I cannot wait to present it to the class!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Second Blog Update

After reflecting back on the past two Passion Project weeks, I have gotten a good amount of work done. I haven't gotten as much done compared to the very first few weeks, but I am making good headway. I have finished research with Elian Gonzalez, and am finishing up finding information for the 13 de Marzo Tugboat Massacre. I want to continue my research on the history of Cuba, specifically the types of government it has been run under, as this research was interrupted by the other 2 topics. I also want to incorporate personal stories from my family, and perhaps try to interview a member that has lived many years in the country; my grandmother would be my first option. However, I also have a large amount of family living in Miami that I could also contact. Even though I have already researched much information, there still is much work that needs to be done!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

First Passion Project Update

In my opinion, these past two Passion Project Fridays have been very productive. This topic is very meaningful to me and I have found myself becoming very engaged with my research. I dedicated the first Passion Project Friday to researching the history and background of Cuba and how the country came to be, especially around the time period when Communism was in effect. I gathered several notes on this information in a document, however, I am considering using a notebook to record my information for the following Friday as I work better with paper and pencil. For the second Passion Project Friday I dove deep into the international affair of Elián González. I am fascinated by this story, and I definitely know that I will be including this important affair in the final product. My first two Passion Project Fridays this year have been very successful, and I hope that they continue to be so for the rest of the year!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Passion Project Reflection

We have now almost reached the halfway mark of our 20% projects. So far I am very proud of how far I have come. For the previous 20% project I completed most of it at home, and even though I learned the same amount as I would have in class, I would prefer to do the majority in class. I have researched as many techniques as I can possibly find for both Watercolor and Oil paintings. I also am about halfway with the ink drawing. I am not sure yet if I am going to do a fourth piece if artwork; I most likely will not as I do not have much time left. Once I have gathered all of the techniques I will then proceed to make paint or draw each of these pieces that I have learned about, practicing and using as many techniques that I have learned. The painting will be done at home but I still have to finish gathering all of the techniques, which should not take too long. I plan on finishing this project early. I am making good progress, and working more efficiently than I did with my previous Passion Project. I am so excited to see how my artwork and the rest of this project turns out!

I have not hit any major roadblocks yet, other than the fact that it was a bit difficult finding oil painting techniques; the Watercolor were very easy to find. However, that didn't last for long as I eventually find some good methods to use. I most likely will not make a PowerPoint slide for each of my pieces of artwork as I want to stray away a bit from PowerPoint for this project, and explain about the paintings verbally and with perhaps another visual aid. This project is going great so far and I can't wait for next Friday to work on it more!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

20% Project Reflection

In Rogate, every year we complete a project known as our Passion Project, or our 20% Project. This year, rather than just do one, we are creating two passion projects for each half of the school year. Now is the halfway mark of our projects, mine being the inhuman treatment of orcas in captivity. This is a very hot topic now in today's news and social media, and I personally feel that it is a major issue to be analyzed and discussed. Currently, I have collected much information and research over the eight days that I have been working on this project. I have studied the opinions of many animal experts and scientists, and have read many articles. I have watched the new film that just recently came out: Blackfish, which is everything and more that my topic is about. More specifically I have gathered much data on the incident at SeaWorld in which an orca trainer was killed by the now- famous Tilikum.

My research and work so far has been going pretty smoothly, other than just a few obstacles. At first, I wasn't able to find many opinions of any experts online and it was difficult getting some fresh thoughts on the topic. However, when I watched Blackfish, there were a few firsthand opinions I was able to get from experts that spoke. It also was difficult deciding where I wanted to go with my project, and what I wanted to do with all of the information I was collecting and learning. It also took some time to decide which topics I really wanted to focus on and emphasize, and which ones were the most important to me. As I got further into my project, I soon sorted all of these thoughts out.

Now that I have all of my information, over the next eight days that we have to work on this project and some time at home too, I am going to work on putting together all of my research into a very interactive presentation. The next steps to finalizing my project will be:
- Come up with some interactive activities to incorporate into my project
- Create questions for the class that will require thought and will give me some opinions on what others think
- Possibly come up with some sort of debate for the class
- Finally, I will stay tuned for any current news that may occur on my topic!

I should be able to finish my project by mid - January if I work hard. If I don't happen to finish it in class, I will finish up anything else at home. I am really looking forward to this project and presenting it, and I am very excited about my topic!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Who Blew the Whistle?

At 11:30 am local time in Washington DC on October 26, 2013, the rally against mass surveillance began. At this time, over thousands of people marched the streets of the National Mall, protesting against the NSA's national surveillance programs. The NSA's Domestic Spying Program was first put into effect by President George W. Bush, weeks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. There are several aspects of these programs, however the basic idea is that with the help of prime telecommunications carriers such as AT&T, the government has become involved in a massive illegal surveillance of the communication between millions of American citizens daily. This has been in action since 2001, as millions of domestic communication records (calls, emails, texts, etc.) have been intercepted and documented to then be analyzed by the US government. The database will be fully operational by September of 2013, when a massive data center is constructed in Utah, to store all of the records it has been collecting since the past decade. "Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases," Bamford wrote, "will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital 'pocket litter.'"  James Bamford national security author). Numerous Americans would not and will not stand for this.
The Stop Watching Us organization is made up of over 100 public advocacy groups, who started the "rally against mass surveillance". All of these groups came together to protest against the NSA's national surveillance programs, and to demand a complete investigation of these spying activities. About 575,000 signatures were collected on a petition, and sent to Representative Justin Amash. Along with the full investigation of the NSA's programs, the letter asked Congress members to repeal Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The letter also asked for whichever officials were responsible for this "unconstitutional surveillance", to face consequences for their actions.
Video made by the Stop Watching Us organization: http://occupywallst.org/article/stop-watching-us-now/
Quote from the petition: “First, we are asking for a congressional investigation so we can shed light on exactly what the National Security Agency is doing. Secondly, we ask for reform of federal surveillance law, specifically Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the state secrets privilege."