Should everything that can be done also be done?
Speaker(s) : Koen De Bosschere, Ghent University
Recently, popular literature has made ethics in computing a hot topic, especially in the context of self-driving cars that will have to make a decision between saving the driver or saving a pedestrian in case of an accident. When talking about ethics in computing, very few people spontaneously think about the estimated 45 000 life-years lost as a consequence of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, or the thousands of people directly killed by smart weapons. The software we build already kills thousands of people every year. Only a few extreme cases end up in the news – the majority is invisible. The self-driving car will not change this. In this presentation, I will argue that due to the nature of computing (global, disruptive, pervasive, …), the societal effects of computing are on a par with those of physics, chemistry of biology. Just like in those disciplines, the question is whether everything that can be done (science), should also be done (ethics). This question goes against the widespread belief that everything that can be done in computing is positive and should be done, and the sooner the better.