Artificial Ethics, Crowdfunding Maternity Leave, and How To Apologize


Artificial Ethics
 The Trolley Problem is an ethical thought experiment in which sending one innocent person to his or her death saves many lives. If you’re curious about such things, a query on Google Trends shows that interest in the Trolley Problem, until recently relegated to academics, has shot up in recent years. Turns out the Trolley Problem’s underlying issue — pitting human agency against decisions involving life and death — serves as a fruitful way to examine our forthcoming relationships to intelligent and actualized machines such as self-driving cars. In a survey (re/code), Kris Hammond, chief scientist at natural language startup Narrative Science, concludes we’ve nothing to fear. In fact, he argues, the AI-animated machines will likely make better decisions than we might in such situations. Hammond uses the ending of the film I, Robot as an example. In the final scene, a robot has to decide between saving the heroine and saving all of humanity — and chooses the former. Hammond points out that machines coded with our best and most thoughtful logic will of course save humanity. Only in Hollywood are machines experiencing moral lapses.

Crowdfunding What the Rest of the World Recognizes As a Right
 Crowdfunding can lead to breakthroughs that propel entire industries. The need for it can also show us parts of ourselves we might not want to see, like women having to crowdfund their maternity leaves (Vice). As with legal aid in New Orleans, paid maternity leave is squarely in the category of things that shouldn’t have to be crowdfunded. The U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only countries in the world where paid maternity leave isn’t law. That’s shortsighted and it costs businesses money. A lot of money: Women who lack maternity leave are more likely to leave their jobs and turnover of this sort costs American companies $19 billion a year.

Spotlight on Biotech Accelerator IndieBio
 Scientists-turning-into-entrepreneurs has gotten a black eye lately (we’re looking at you, Theranos), but the biotech accelerator IndieBio aims to evolve biohackers into businesspeople who can put their breakthrough ideas into practice. View our new Video Spotlight of IndieBio and, if you like that one, watch ’em all.

How To Apologize
 Even if your goal is not to move fast and break things, sometimes a NewCo moves fast and breaks things. When that happens, there’s a good chance you’ll have to apologize for something. This Ohio State University study lists six elements of an effective apology, the two most important being acknowledging you messed up and offering to fix what you broke.

Bad Metaphor, Sound Observation
 We’re big Walt Mossberg fans here. As a pioneering reviewer of technology products and services, he advocates for users in productive and persuasive ways. We were originally going to cite his otherwise excellent suggestion for new Slack features (re/code) because it deploys a particularly awful tech-review metaphor (it involves diabetes). But, upon reflection, what really strikes us about the piece is how it operates on the assumption that Slack is now a given in fast-moving offices. It has become so embedded in office life so quickly that many (most?) of us can’t live without it. That’s amazing for a company that had barely 20,000 users two years ago. But with so many people using it, the Slack-must-be-better pushback is inevitable. Perhaps Mossberg weighing in on this means that the topic has jumped the well, you know.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Want to follow the biggest story in business? Get our NewCo Daily and Weekly newsletters.

Leave a Reply