Computers, Information Technology, the Internet, Ethics, Society and Human Values

Philip Pecorino, Ph.D.

Queensborough Community College,  CUNY

Chapter 13 Artificial Intelligence and Being Human


COMPUTER AS JURY Case: Placing Responsibility onto Computers

the case: Computer as Jury

Copyright (C) 1996 by Thomas Lapp

"The Computer Goes to Court"
Part 1

The liberal state of Calidonia, because of the increase in crime in the state, has found itself with the problem of having many more criminals to try in the courts than it has time to try them. In an attempt to decrease the length of time it takes to hear a case, as well as to attempt to hold "fair" trials, the state of Calidonia has recently revamped its judicial system in a radical new way.

Normally, one would say that the best way to judge someone accurately would be to have as much information about the case as possible. However, in courtrooms, not all of the information about a case is admissible as evidence. Of course, this does not stop a fast-talking lawyer into saying something, having it objected to, and struck. The result is that the jury hears something that they are told that they should disregard. This is naturally going to influence what they know, even if they cannot use it directly in making their decision.

We now introduce Calidonia's effort at a better judicial system. In courtrooms in the state, the jury box now is empty because the jurors are no longer anywhere near the courtroom. They are often in their homes, connected to the Judicial Computer System (JCS) through either their home computer or a terminal which is loaned to them during the period in which they serve as a juror. All of the evidence in the case is sent to them through a filter, and all information sent to the jury is approved by the judge so that everything the juror gets is "admissible to the record".

A future developoment is also proposed below:

Lemon county of Calidonia is facing a problem of crime backlog even worse than the state in general. In order to move cases through the system even faster (yet with the same or better level of justice), the county is proposing replacing the people in the jury box with a single computer system which has been programmed with all pertinent legal precedents and has software which allows it to make decisions based on the facts given to it and its database of precedents.

Do you think that Lemon county should start to use this system? Would it be ethical? Discuss your answers from different ethical perspectives.

end of case presentation

analysis and paper   Team from University of Malta & University of Limerick

We have chosen the case study “Computer as Jury” as we were all interested

in the issue. We then identified three ethical theories that we thought were

relevant, after discussing online. Debating first of all in a general way then

narrowing these opinions down to look at three theories of primary

interest. Those were Social Contract Theory, Kantianism and

Utilitarianism. We divided up into three pairs each pair taking an ethical

theory then debating the pros and cons of the case study through that

ethical theory, this is the main body of this report, which follows.


Medical Diagnosis Case

RISKS-LIST: RISKS-FORUM Digest Monday 6 January 1992 Volume 13 : Issue 01
Date: Sun, 5 Jan 92 13:21 EST
From: "Warren M. McLaughlin"
Subject: Life-and-Death Computer

The Washington Post, 5 Jan 1992, page C6 (the editorial page):

As technologies become more powerful, the distinction between a helping tool and a decision-making tool keeps gaining importance. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of the new diagnosis-aiding computers, which offer doctors the benefit of a gigantic data base -- far larger than their own experience could be -- compiled from the results of many thousands of cases nationwide. By conglomerating and analyzing the results of these cases, the computer can read out a series of alternative treatments, a probability rating on the success of a given procedure or -- most controversially -- the statistical risk of a patient's dying upon arrival in an intensive care unit in a given condition. Physicians with access to such a machine now bear a responsibility at least as weighty as that of diagnosis itself: that of balancing the computer's seemingly precise numbers and instant certainties with the knowledge that its results are dependent upon human judgement.

According to the staff in a Michigan hospital using a program of this type called APACHE, the computer's predictions of a patient's statistical probability of dying -- calculated to two decimal points -- are used strictly as tools, rather as any doctor might estimate, say, a 10 percent chance of survival from a given operation. A better description of risk, in that scenario, need not govern the doctor's (or the family's) decision as to whether the risk should be taken, only inform it better than individual experience ever can. But the incomplete results of a different study performed in France suggested that doctors with access to that kind of risk data were more likely than others to terminate care. The fear among practitioners is that hospital administrators or health bureaucrats, all increasingly beleaguered and pushed by public pressure toward cost-cutting, might see computer-confirmed statistics on death risk as a road to easier triage.

Given the capability for vastly enhanced diagnosis by means of computers, the medical profession will be stuck with the same responsibility -- also vastly enhanced -- as before: first, to recognize that a computer can serve the cause of accurate diagnosis only on the basis of properly entered information by the physician using his or her senses; second, to keep in mind a fact much of the general public has trouble with, which is that a statistic about the probability of an event bears no causal relationship to that event.

What are the main ethical dilemmas facing a doctor using such a system? What would different ethical theories tell us to do when faced with the possibility of commissioning such a system? Would you, as a hospital administrator, actually commission such a system if the technology was demonstrated to provide accurate statistical results?

Sex and Robots   FEMBOTS

Gynoids and  androids  Gynoid (from Greek γυνη, gynē - woman) is a term used to describe a robot designed to look like a human female, as compared to an android modeled after a male. What is the impact on humans and on human relationships of fembots or androids that are created to offer humans not simply entertainment but opportunities for emotional experiences heretofore found only in relationships with actual human beings?

What is the impact of humans who spend a good deal of time in relationships or interactions with gynoids and androids in which they experience forms of intimacy or physical interactions or  violence, including perpetrating violent acts on the AI entities?

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Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution.                @copyright 2006 Philip A. Pecorino                       

Last updated 8-2006                                                              Return to Table of Contents