Dubai's Moral Machine tests future AI decision making at Davos

Published January 23rd, 2017 - 05:52 GMT
The Moral Machine is set in 2050, where everything that can be is automated.  (Shutterstock)
The Moral Machine is set in 2050, where everything that can be is automated. (Shutterstock)

The Moral Machine from Dubai's Museum of the Future has thrown up some surprising results in a survey of over 1,000 presidents, CEOs and other leaders at the the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The Moral Machine is an exhibit at the WEF, developed and designed by Dubai's Museum of the Future and the Dubai Future Foundation. It explores the role of super intelligent machines in global decision-making.
The Moral Machine is set in 2050, where everything that can be is automated.

Should we support potentially dangerous research or prioritise safety over possible medical breakthroughs? Should we build a secure but inaccessible Internet of Things or support an open system that encourages innovation but may be more vulnerable?

As much as 77 per cent of leaders preferred supporting human capital than investing in automation; and 67 per cent of leaders preferred supporting farming and organic agriculture than investment in space and space travel.
Also, 57 per cent of leaders preferred to prioritise bio-safety instead of support breakthrough biotechnology research.

Confidence in leader's abilities to advise machines on the difference between right and wrong was also surprisingly low.  Less than 14 per cent of leaders felt that they were the right ones to be teaching machines the difference between right and wrong. Over 86 per cent felt "citizens" or "experts" should make these kinds of decisions, not senior leadership.

These results are surprising given the future-focused outlook of many sessions in Davos, and may reflect the overall mood inherent in this year's theme of "responsive and responsible leadership".

Participants were asked to train a super-advanced machine learning algorithm to decide between various social and moral dilemmas. These dilemmas reflect the hard decisions that society will have to make in the 21st century, in a way that a computer can understand.

The World Economic Forum attracts some of the most influential leaders in the world, including leading experts in "Fourth Industrial Revolution" technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics.

Who will teach the ethical machines?

Ethical values are already being programed into our computers. For example, if a self-driving car crashes, who should it save? The driver or a pedestrian? A young person or the old?

Algorithms will play an ever larger role in our lives as the technology continues to develop. The input from global leaders to the Moral Machine at Davos suggests surprising results. Today, over 75 per cent of US stock markets trades are conducted by machines. Many more important financial, logistical and social functions are guided, or entirely made, by computers.

Abdullah bin Touq, acting CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, said: "The Dubai Future Foundation is dedicated to supporting positive efforts to shape the future. The Moral Machine is part of our efforts to understand how advanced technologies like artificial intelligence will interact with society and government. The responses of the Moral Machine will help shape future projects by the Foundation on the ethics of artificial intelligence."

Share your opinion

The Foundation plans to continue to teach the Moral Machine with input from experts and citizens around the world. People from around the world can now share their ideas about how these questions should be dealt with in the 21st century by going to the project's website. An online version of The Moral Machine can be found at

The Dubai Future Foundation was launched to help explore emerging technologies and translate them into policies, prototypes and strategies for the city of Dubai. Its activities include programs such as the Dubai Future Accelerators, the 3D Printed Office of the Future, the Museum of the Future, the Global Blockchain Council, the Dubai Future Academy and more.  

Copyright 2021 Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group

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