I have always been fascinated by the dilemma that we as human beings face when we encounter a situation that demands action but there is no easy or obvious answer to the same. My second highest viewed and commented blog of all time on LinkedIn explored this topic here – that was a very personal incident and one where I made a few right choices and one bad one!
Now we extend this dilemma to the machine age where we have bots taking over for us and making decisions on our behalf. But if there are human beings that are at the nucleus of these bots defining, programming and building logic to think on our behalf, are they going to be making these moral decisions on their own or are the humans behind these bots' (nicely obfuscated from the impacted consumer or enterprise) own philosophies and biases being reflected in these inhumane objects?
In the first podcast of the series, Sean Martin and I explored the advent of the autonomous driving era and the somewhat obvious and other less obvious implications and decision making that drives (no pun intended) the autonomous car. For instance, does Waymo (Google's driverless car division) and Tesla behave identically when faced with a choice of hurting the driver, the CEO of a large public company (say the co-passenger) or a homeless man crossing the street when one of them has to be impacted to save the other two?
And in the second podcast, where Marco Ciappelli and I intersected at #BlackHat, we talked about data collection in the IoT world without the obvious consent of the end user. Topically iRobot (the maker of Roomba), had been exposed a few weeks ago for collecting data from the owners of the vacuum (you heard that right) while going about its cleaning mission. At what point does this data collection stop and how does an average user (or an enterprise for that matter) respond to a EULA that needs to be consented to absolve the vendor of any liability before the device or software operates. Hostage situation?
In the third podcast that I did on this topic, I had a great conversation with both Sean Martin and Marco Ciappelli. During our discussion, we delved further into the data collection that these large companies perform and how, as consumers, we are either oblivious to this or are willingly suckered into this by a carrot or two that they throw at us and then act outraged when they offer us uncanny predictions or sell the data to the highest bidders! We even discuss more troubling, and perhaps even more sinister, motivations – hey you need to listen to the podcast so I won’t spill the beans here.
As we engaged with each other, we quickly realized how much there is to talk about, all with an objective to educate, awaken and take action before it is too late. Thus, was born the idea of ‘The Moral Compass’ podcast series. We are stoked about it and we hope you enjoy it as much as we love debating thorny, and not often discussed, topics that affect us as a society.
You'll find the Moral Compass podcast series as part of Marco's The Cyber Society.
We look forward to having you join us there!
About Ashwin Krishnam
Ashwin Krishnan is a technology industry expert with over two decades of experience in cybersecurity and cloud technologies. The author of Mobile Security for Dummies, Ashwin is currently a Senior Vice President of Products and Strategy at HyTrust, a late stage security startup. A recognized thought leader, his speaking engagements include Mobile World Congress, RSA Security Conference, VMWorld, Telecom Industry Association, and Product Camp Silicon Valley.