Horizons Newsletter – week 10 // 2021
Horizons is a bi-monthly Dasym Research initiative to show you how the Dasym themes have been in the news. We publish the Horizons on our website and as an email newsletter. If you wish to receive the email, please contact Investor Relations.
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Crowdsourcing morality for autonomous systems
With the advent of autonomous vehicles, robots and autonomous weapons, comes a need to embed some kind of ‘morality’ into these machines. By definition, autonomous systems have to make choices of their own accord, to go left or right, to shoot or not to shoot, and we want these choices to reflect our own values and norms. One way of achieving this is for developers to translate explicit normative rules into code. Another, arguably more democratic way, is to crowdsource morality. For instance, by asking the public to ‘vote’ on all sorts of moral dilemmas (e.g. the well-known trolley problem: whether to sacrifice one person to save a larger number of people) or to let autonomous systems learn from our actual behavior (e.g. from observing how we drive). Interestingly, such forms of crowdsourcing could result in autonomous systems whose behavior aligns with local values and norms, instead of a desired universal morality. The downside, however, would be that those systems – especially if they mimic our behavior – would not be able to make ‘better’ decisions than we do.
The value of sports during the crisis
The accumulation of postponed sports events has led to very inconsistent TV ratings. While the Tour de France and the condensed Champions League tournament had above average ratings, many American sports have lost a third to half of their regular viewers. There is no clear explanation, but it looks like two opposing forces are at play. On the one hand, sports fills the void we experience in a society in shutdown. On the other hand, in a (partial) lockdown we are missing the social interaction that ordinarily makes watching and discussing sports so valuable. With respect to the latter, social media does not seem to offer ample solace; activity around sports matches on Reddit, for example, has also come to a standstill. Despite this lack of interaction, sports will still provide comfort in the coming period, providing a reason not to cancel popular sporting events, even if they go against the coronavirus rules. In addition, sports events may also create demand for online platforms such as Twitch that do succeed in restoring the social component of the sports experience.
Rethink mobility incentives
The pandemic is driving people back into their cars, especially millennials. Research from EY across nine countries shows that 31% of the people without a car intend to buy one and almost half (45%) of them are millennials. Moreover, almost 80% of respondents (more than half of them millennials) say that they will use their cars more for travel in a post-pandemic world. While most new car buyers will buy a car with a combustion engine, 6% are looking for an electric vehicle and 23% for a hybrid model. Government subsidies are helping these people to finance more sustainable cars, but given the trend of increasing vehicle ownership and usage, governments should instead consider incentives that persuade people to get out of their cars. Such incentives could make car ownership more expensive and if our disposable income stays at the same level (or even declines as a result of an economic crisis), people might become more open to other transportation modes (car, bike, train, etc.) and models (ownership, lease, rental, sharing).