The reality of unmanned automobiles is approaching as such corporations as Tesla are testing the possibility of using them. The technology has certain advantages, such as saving time for drivers, preventing DUI incidents, and making roads safe, potentially eliminating the existing limits. All vehicles will be autonomous in the best-case scenario, and traffic-related deaths will become a non-factor, with transit being faster. However, the technology also presents several ethical issues and may have glitches leading to accidents. For instance, it is not entirely clear who will be responsible for an unmanned car hitting a person, those inside or the company. Moreover, whether it will be possible to control a vehicle during emergencies is also a concern. In the worst-case scenario, such cars will have biased AIs that will target people not fitting certain standards or even non-customers (Lester). Realistically, the technology will probably not be widespread in 20 years, confined to the affluent, although they are likely to abuse it and avoid consequences.
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Stoicism is originally an Ancient Greek school associated with Zeno, although its idea can be traced to Socrates, and it attempted to explain the universe, humans, and their relationship. It claims that the world is purposeful and benevolent and supposes that humanity plays a role in following the grand plan by controlling selfish desires and living by reason. Thus, logical thought is an important element of stoicism, ensuring overall harmony and happiness is the ultimate goal. However, the framework faces the same issue as Christianity in general: the nature of evil, which is explained either through human wickedness or the inability to perceive the great purpose. Thus, stoicism is based on logic, self-control, and the pursuit of a higher goal, shared by the world and all living beings.
Pragmatism is a subjective framework equalling reality to a process, which determines its absence of adherence to permanence. It claims that absolutes do not exist, links meaning to consequences, and believes in inherent neutrality (Barger 43). Pragmatism attributes the quality of being good to usefulness, which is evident in whether something helps achieve results (Barger 43). However, as nothing is permanent, it will remain in such a state until losing its utility (Barger 43). As far as the arbiter of usefulness is concerned, a collective’s judgment is regarded more than an individual’s, which is consistent with the pragmatic view on the whole (Barger 43). Transience may be considered a negative due to removing continuity of values and moral orienteers, although it facilitates personal freedom. Altogether, pragmatism emphasizes change, utility, and group opinion on whether something should be considered useful and, consequently, good.
A combination of stoicism and pragmatism may inform a course of action regarding the use of autonomous vehicles, despite the frameworks’ conflicting natures. First of all, the view that the outcome will be for the best no matter what should be adopted to avoid being disappointed in the technology. Everything should be driven by logic: accidents may provoke a reaction to abolish unmanned cars, and the lack thereof is likely to make society view them too positively; both views are extreme. What matters is whether they will be able to reduce accidents and fatalities while improving transit. If one condition is unmet, then society may deem autonomous vehicles useless. Conversely, suppose the technology helps address the primary issues but causes new ones, such as AI bias. In that case, a re-evaluation is necessary to protect the public and change its status. The companies will be the ones hindering the world’s benevolence while unmanned cars themselves are not inherently harmful, so additional chances to improve them may be given.
Barger, Robert N. “Can We Find a Single Ethical Code?” Computers, Ethics, and Society, 3rd ed., edited by M. David Ermann and Michele S. Shauf, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 42-47.
Lester, Caroline. “A Study on Driverless-Car Ethics Offers a Troubling Look into Our Values.” The New Yorker, 2019.