[ExI] saving lives

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Mon Sep 26 06:59:07 UTC 2016

I think J.S. Mill got it right: society has a right to intervene when 
some activity is causing harm to others. Not lightly, and not without 
checks that it does work.

Texting while driving seems to be a prime example of adding biggish harm 
externalities. Adding anti-text systems to cars on the other hand might 
make it harder to call for help or break the rules when it is really 
necessary. It is likely easier to use the logging functions of phones 
and phone systems to double the penalty if something goes bad, or 
automatically add a fine for messages sent by the driver, or something 
soft like that.

Saving lives is not enough of a motivation: banning sick people from 
going to work or banning extreme sports would save a measurable number 
of lives per year, but make society less flexible and limit "experiments 
in living". We may still want to add soft pressures in terms of torts, 
insurance and safety regulations to keep people from causing too much harm.

This is why I am somewhat worried about "algocracy", when we move 
societal decisions onto algorithms. Most algorithms are not very 
flexible, and hence limit how humans may act - especially since we 
internalize what we are allowed/able to do.

On 2016-09-25 20:58, William Flynn Wallace wrote:
> Just what are our limits on interference with our private lives?  
> Today in the NYT, an article says that the technology exists to cut 
> off texting while driving.
> Should they?  No question it would save lives of drivers, pedestrians, 
> dogs and cats, and so on.
> Just another tromping on libertarians' rights to be let alone?  
> Actually, I agree with this one.  Drivers have a safe alternative: 
>  they can talk.  Or perhaps they can find a carrier who doesn't block 
> texting.  I would not favor a law.  Parents could then have some 
> control over the smartphone they paid for.
> On the other hand, to put it in the proper perspective, it would 
> prevent many people from making the Darwin list of stupid deaths, and 
> thus prevent cleaning up the genetic pool.
> bill w
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Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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