Student Papers  |    |  June 1, 2017

Moral Machine: Perception of Moral Judgment Made by Machines

Master of Science in Media Arts and Sciences Thesis by Edmond Awad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


While technological development of vehicular autonomy has been progressing rapidly, a parallel discussion has emerged with regard to the moral implications of a future wherein people hand over to autonomous machines the controls to a mode of transportation. These discussions have entered a new phase with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) releasing a 15-point policy that requires manufacturers to explain how their AVs will handle “ethical considerations”. However, there is a huge gap in our understanding of the ethical perception of AI, as there have been few large-scale empirical studies on human moral perception of outcomes to autonomous vehicle moral dilemmas. Additionally, public engagement is a very important piece of the puzzle, especially given the emotional salience of traffic accidents. With that in mind, I co-developed the “Moral Machine” ( Moral Machine is a platform for gathering a human perspective on moral decisions made by machine intelligence, such as AVs. The web site went viral, and got covered in various media outlets. This web site has also been a valuable data collection tool, allowing us to collect the largest dataset on AI ethics ever collected in history (with 30 million decisions by over 3 million visitors, so far). This thesis will introduce the Moral Machine platform as a data-gathering platform. Moreover, insights about the human perception of the different routes to full automation will be covered in the thesis, with the data collected through other online platforms.