Choose at Your Own Risk


How technology is changing our choices and the values that help us make them.


You’re sitting at your desk, with the order in front of you that will enable the use of autonomous lethal robots in your upcoming battle. If you sign it, you will probably save many of your soldiers’ lives, and likely reduce civilian casualties. On the other hand, things could go wrong, badly wrong, and having used the technology once, your country will have little ground to argue that others, perhaps less responsible, should unleash the same technology. What do you choose? And what values inform your choice?

We like to think we have choices in all matters, and that we exercise values in making our choices. This is perhaps particularly true with regard to new technologies, from incremental ones that build on existing products, such as new apps, to more fundamental technologies such as lethal autonomous robots for military and security operations. But in reality we understand that our choices are always significantly limited, and that our values shift over time in unpredictable ways. This is especially true with emerging technologies, where values that may lead one society to reject a technology are seldom universal, meaning that the technology is simply developed and deployed elsewhere. In a world where technology is a major source of status and power, that usually means the society rejecting technology has, in fact, chosen to slide down the league tables.

Read full article in Slate.