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The judgement – news from the future

18. October 2018

The defendant is sentenced to two years’ driving ban with accompanying preventive detention for serious bodily injury. A three-month simultaneous training course and a digital idiot test must be completed before a driving licence can be issued. Despite the clear verdict, judges and prosecutors are not entirely sure whether a serious miscarriage of justice has taken place. In the dock was a self-driving car that had seriously injured a passer-by during an evasive manoeuvre. The owner of the car, who could not intervene, could not be reproached, neither could the manufacturer, and the supplier of the licensed and certified software could claim, just like the owner, not to have been directly involved in the accident.

Sounds kafkaesque, but could become reality in the near future. Will there be such a thing as machine ethics until then? Will artificial intelligence also be able to learn to decide between good and evil, wrong and right? Can an intelligent machine have emotions, act morally? A computer-aided robot can work faster than any human being, can beat the world champion in chess and program itself faster than the best IT specialist could ever do. And yet he remains a machine, without feelings, emotions or even morality. But back to our accused. For science and research, politics and business, and not least for the judiciary, these are urgent questions that need to be answered soon.