A voting-based system for ethical decision making


Public Domain

Cesare Maccari

The problem of ethical decision making presents  a grand challenge for modern AI research. Arguably the main obstacle to automating ethical decisions is the lack of a formal specification of ground-truth ethical principles, which have been the subject of debate for centuries among philosophers (e.g., trolley problem). We present an algorithm to automate ethical decisions; using machine learning and computational social choice (new theory of swap-dominance efficient voting rules), we propose to learn a model of societal preferences, and, when faced with a specific ethical dilemma at runtime, efficiently aggregate those preferences to identify a desirable choice. Finally, we implement and evaluate a system for ethical decision making in the autonomous vehicle domain, using preference data collected from 1.3 million voters through the Moral Machine website. Our proof of concept shows that the decision the system takes is likely to be the same as if we could go to each of the 1.3 million voters, ask for their opinions, and then aggregate their opinions into a choice that satisfies mathematical notions of social justice.