Thank, then Rank…

Yelp is an app where establishments receive a rating based on the experience they provide. Could this concept also be applied to humans? Today, social media is much like high school, in that the more followers, then the more popular you are. But what if instead of just liking a person’s photos or lifestyle, we would be ranked after every physical encounter. For example, picture someone having a racist meltdown in public… then, the next day their personal rating is down a couple stars and people have provided proof and justification. Do you think this system would make people think twice before they acted?

This scenario, much like the “Black Mirror: Nosedive” episode, is already coming to fruition today with A.I. systems ranking people on dating apps such as Hinge and Tinder. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the ethical implications that arise in such a future.

So, keep this ranking system in mind because I am going to merge it with another futuristic possibility that dawned on me while reading an article reporting the results of an experiment called: “Moral Machine.” This experiment crowdsourced people’s decisions on how self-driving cars should prioritize lives in different variations of the “trolly problem,” which asks the question: “A runaway trolly is about to runover and kill a group of people, but you have access to a lever that can switch the rails, directing the trolly towards a single individual. Would you kill the group or the individual?” However, some of the variations included younger vs. older victims and others included pets and even babies.

Illustration from the MIT article: “Should a self-driving car kill the baby or thegrandma? Depends on where you’re from.”

Difficult decision, right? Well, it turns out that preferences differ widely, depending on country and/or culture. This made me think that if the ranking system mentioned earlier was implemented, then self-driving vehicles would probably take it upon themselves to make the decision of who to spare and who to hit, based on your social status.

These possibilities led me to conclude that we must study the ethics of technology more intensely if we want to display superior morality and equality. We must continue to do these types of experiments and ask these questions because the future is not so far away. Our decisions today, will represent us in the future and we must show those future humans that we held safety and righteousness in the highest regard.



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