Killer Conundrums, Deadly Dilemmas – Where Do You Stand Morally?


– I’m here today with the
Science Entertainment Exchange which is a program of the
National Academy of Science. And we’re here to talk about bioethics. What does that have to do with Comic-Con? I have a quick story for you. I imagine some of you have
read Stephen King’s The Stand. At the beginning of that book, there’s a guy named Charles Campion who’s working as… He’s stationed as a guard at
a secret government facility, a secret military facility,
in the desert in California not far from where we are. And it’s his responsibility to make sure that no one gets on or off the base who’s not supposed to. And in particular, if anything goes wrong, it’s his responsibility
to lock down the base and make sure that nobody
and nothing gets out. But on the fateful day
when the alarm sounds and he realizes that there
has been a containment breach and something has gotten out, he makes a quick decision and says, “I can’t stay here. “I have to save my family.” And he races across the bases and grabs his wife and child,
throws them in the car, races out of the base. And in the process, he unleashes
a supervirus on the world that destroys 99 percent
of the population. He just made an ethical decision. And I think we can probably all agree that he made the wrong one because he killed the
vast majority of people on the planet and
unleashed the apocalypse. But these sorts of decisions are the basis for a lot of our favorite stories, and we’re gonna talk about
a few of those things today. Alongside me to discuss
this are my two friends, Mike Kalichnik. – Kalichman. – Kalichman, oh my God, sorry. And Felicia Cohn. And would you guys please
tell us a little bit about who you are and what you guys do? – Do you wanna? – Go ahead, Mike. – Okay. So I’m a scientist who
got interested in ethics some years ago, and that interest led me to create a Center for Ethics in Science and Technology
which is directly relevant to what we’re doing here today. My presumption is that we
have some wonderful benefits coming down the line from
science and technology, but those benefits come with
risks and potential harms. The best way to deal with that is not just to trust a few people
to address those questions but to have everybody
thinking about those issues. And one way to do that is: The entertainment
industry provides us with opportunities to think about those issues before they happen and ask, “What would I do if I was faced with “being a security guard and a virus “that will kill everyone
and kill life as we know it “is gonna be released? “What should I do?” – Right. – I’m Felicia Cohn. I am a bioethics director
for Kaiser Permanente in Orange County. I am also a clinical professor at the University of California Irvine. My background is actually
in religious ethics, but I wanted to work
in the healthcare field so I spend most of my time in hospitals where we deal with those
questions every day. There are a lot of things we can do. My job is to help figure
out what we should do. – All right. So let’s dive in. Please tweet us your
questions and comments, and we’ll try to see if we
can bring any of those up. First off, let’s talk
about the movie Gattaca. So Gattaca, if you guys remember, is a movie about a near future where genetic modification
has become commonplace to the point where the
vast majority of people on the planet now have
been modified in some way to, at the very least, filter out diseases but also to make them
stronger, more attractive, more intelligent. And the people who don’t
have those modifications have become something of
an underclass in society. So, I guess, I’d love for you guys to walk us through how likely is this, how close is this, what’s
going on that’s like this, and what are the ethical questions that we should be thinking about. – I’ll jump in first on the science part. Is that we are doing genetic modification of a variety of organisms now. This is not just a
question of a technology that may never come to pass. This one is there, and
really the main limitations right now are the decision not to be doing very much of this in the human organisms. But we know that we are
genetically modifying other species. We’ve been actually
genetically modifying species for many thousands of years, but in the laboratory now, genetic modifications
of plants and animals are already going on. – Well, since Mendel and his peas who we all learned about
in elementary school, we’ve been making changes, not always on purpose. But we change our food. We change animals to
better suit our needs, and we can do that with human beings. And there are a lot of experiments, a lot of research now
to make changes that, I think, we would all
agree on for the better to eliminate life-threatening diseases, to eliminate disabilities or whatever in our current definitions
constitutes disabilities. But just two days, the
Nuffield Council of Bioethics in the United Kingdom
decided maybe it is okay to modify human embryos in ways that they said would benefit
that person, that baby, and we don’t know what that means yet. That might be opening a door, might be opening a door
to changing human beings because once you change the genes, you haven’t just changed one person. You’ve changed every person
that that person creates. – So can I clarify? You said we have the ability
to make these changes about removing diseases or disabilities, but we don’t have the government
authorization to do so. Is that the… Except now in England? – We have some ability. We can’t do all that we would like to do. I can’t decide today that I want a perfect blonde-haired, blue-eyed,
athletic, high-IQ baby. We don’t have the ability to do that. We do have the ability
to change some things hopefully for the better. The problem is right now the technology can also be harmful. So like any other treatment, you take too much Tylenol
and it helps your head, but then maybe it shuts down your liver so there are side effects. And we need to be aware of those too. – Right. Well, I think that there’s
also the questions of what are we saying when
we’re talking about eliminating disabilities? Or for that matter, on a more basic level, I know people already
who are making choices about what gender they
want their baby to be. What does that pose in our society, in other cultures around the world, the preference for one
gender over another? The challenges that that presents us. – Well, we look at countries where that’s been a common practice, and now they have too many men and not enough women. It’s hard to make babies
without enough women so there are lots of implications to every decision that we make like that. And you know, how much
farther are we gonna go? I do clinical ethics so
I deal with real people, real questions, real requests, and I had a couple once. They both were deaf. One was deaf from birth. One was deaf by some
accident that occurred later in his life. And they were very much
part of the deaf community, and they wanted their
future children to be deaf. And they came to our medical center asking that their children be screened, their embryos be screened so that they could have a deaf baby. So is that okay? I think most people would say if you wanted to screen against deafness given our current cultural biases that that would be acceptable. But is it okay to do the opposite? And what makes one wrong and one right? – Right. That’s really interesting. I certainly know people
in the deaf community who would say, “I am glad that I am deaf. “My family chose against
giving me a cochlear implant.” The deaf community is an active culture. I actually had the chance
recently in Tel Aviv to participate in a activity at a museum that gives you the
experience of being deaf for a limited period of time, and it was really interesting to kind of rely on your other senses and see what a different
life experience that is. But that’s fascinating to know that it’s a choice sort of
after birth is one thing. For people to choose to have a deaf child is something I haven’t heard of before. That’s really interesting. – Well, fortunately the
question at the time was easy because we didn’t have the technology to actually make that happen so we could say no in good conscience. But as technology
progresses, what will we say? – Also to say to the extent that this can be genetically determined
and we can make that choice, people might want to. And for those listening into this podcast who are hearing, you
might find this appalling to think that somebody would choose for their child to be deaf. But think of it another way. Imagine that you could
not easily communicate with your children in
the language you speak. And the deaf community
has a way of communicating that, if you learn from birth, you’re very comfortable with it. You have the nuance. You communicate well. What happens if you pull that apart? You’ve got two deaf parents and a child who’s being brought up
in the hearing community, and that child is able to communicate better in that world than in your world. And that’s something that many of us could well understand why
they would choose that. And so the question we’re
going to be asking today for all of these issues is: What should we do? And who gets to decide? Is this something that each individual gets to decide for himself or herself? Or is this something that
we want society to regulate? And if so, what do those
regulations look like? – Right. What other sorts of… What are the things that we know are… What do we assume is a given that we want to screen against? What are the obvious… These are the things that we are now… What is in practice? – You know this probably better than I do. – No, I don’t actually know. – Oh, okay, got it. Well, I would assume… We talked about the
idea of certain diseases that pretty much make it impossible for a child to grow up. – I think that we probably
aren’t in a position to give you a list of things, but one of the keys here is that most characteristics of
people are determined not just by one gene so you might have to look for several. But let’s say that two people, a couple, decide to have a child. They have embryos made in
vitro, in the laboratory, and then they want to
choose among those embryos. So they could test those
embryos genetically, and one example of something that they definitely would want to remove would be the gene that determines having Huntington’s Corea. Specific disease. A disease which you
don’t see any evidence of until, I believe, you’re
in your 30’s or 40’s. But at that point, it’s a
difficult, horrific disease from which you will likely die early. That would be something
that you wouldn’t wish on your future child so you choose an embryo that doesn’t have that characteristics. Very different than saying, “I’m going to go into this embryo “and choose genes that
are gonna make this child “taller, or have blonde hair.” – Right. And part of why we can’t
answer that question is because, in most countries, testing or experimenting on human
embryos is not allowed. It’s specifically illegal
in a number of countries, and other countries just
don’t speak to it at all. So it just hasn’t happened which is why that report
out of the United Kingdom was so stunning because it
might start happening now. And what is that gonna mean? And we already are doing things like what Mike was talking about. We have couples who have a
child with a serious illness who needs maybe an organ transplant or bone marrow transplant, and they’re having trouble
finding a matching donor. And so they will conceive another child through in vitro fertilization using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to determine what the likelihood of each of those embryos
of having that disease are or of being a genetic match to their already existing child. Then they will implant that embryo that is the best match,
that is disease free, at least that disease free, and bear that child and then
take parts of that child whether it be stem cells
from the umbilical cord or bone marrow or, as the
child gets older, a kidney or part of a liver to implant or to put into the other
child who’s been ill. So you’re giving birth to one child to save another child. – Which actually kind of
moves us into our next topic. So I’ll reference… We’ve got two movies, actually three, off the top of my head that touch this subject of the idea of creating a life to sustain another life. I think first of Never Let Me Go and this group of people who have lived… I remember, you’re trying
to figure out at first what actually is wrong with these people, what’s special about their experience. When you realize that
basically these are clones who’ve been created to
provide organs to other people and that their entire life is controlled. And yet, they’re still
people with emotions who want to be able to live
full, meaningful lives. The Island is another that did that. And My Sister’s Keeper is the less sci-fi. And actually probably, I would imagine there are true stories
that are identical to that. – If less twists and turns. – Probably with a few
less twists and turns. But you never know. So yeah, let’s talk about
the morality of that, the ethics of that: of creating a life to
sustain another life. You wanna give us a bit of a… – Well, it’s human identity. We have children because we want a child. And here the purpose for having a child is to save another child so what is that second child’s identity? And what if it fails? If I’m born to give my bone
marrow to my older sister and she dies anyway, and now
my parents are stuck with me, and I haven’t saved my sister
who they already loved, how are they gonna feel about me? I’d like to think they
still love that child. And so far, I think,
in the situations where this has happened, it
hasn’t been a detriment to that child. But I have to wonder about growing up knowing that you were born to save someone and you couldn’t do that. – Is this something that’s actually like relatively commonplace? This happen a lot? – [Felicia] No, not a lot. – Okay. The thing that I thought
was particularly interesting about the example of My Sister’s Keeper is the idea of: At a certain point,
that child is gonna know why they were created and what the life is that they
have to look forward to at least until their sibling is healthy. So at what… Ultimately, when does a
person get to take control of their own health and well being and make the decision of, “I don’t wanna have
these procedures anymore. “I love my sister, but it
can’t be my obligation to…?” – Right. “I love my sister, but
I don’t want surgery.” – Yeah. – “I’m scared.” Or, “What if I need that kidney later?” – And shouldn’t, I guess, the parents are ultimately… The parents are the ones
making these decisions up until there is resistance to it. I would assume you must have doctors who are looking at for
both patients separately. – There are. There are different doctors. For any transplant procedure, there are always two different teams. So there isn’t that conflict of interest. But there’s still gonna be overlap, and as the child gets older… It’s easy to consent for
an infant or a toddler, but by the time kids are four or five… Anyone who’s a parent knows, they have very strong wills of their own. How do you? Getting a child to take antibiotics when they don’t want to take the yucky-tasting medicine is hard enough. Getting them into an operating room against a child’s free will… Even if they’re not an adult, they don’t legally have any
rights to make decisions. But they still have their own beliefs, feelings, desires. To go against that and then
still have to raise that child, how do you do that? – Now to be clear. Also in our legal system in this country, that child, even though they may not be able to make a lot of legal
decisions for themselves, in almost setting would
be asked to give assent. And they could say no. This is… This and the example that Felicia gave of maybe it won’t work are reminders of what we are looking at when we look at cases like this. We are almost never looking at certainty. We’re not almost ever able to say, “If you do X, this is
what’s gonna happen.” If you would, a lot of ethical discussions would be a lot easier. So in a world where we have uncertainty, what kinds of decisions
do we want to make? Who gets to make those decisions? What value do we see of
creating a human life? What does that mean, in this case, that we’ve actually chosen
to have a human being for a particular outcome
that may or may not ever occur? And should we be allowed to do that? You protect against that if you say you’re not allowed to do that. – I have, sort of, a very sci-fi proposal, but I feel like this must be discussed. But I assume research is being done to try to create those, create
organs, create bone marrow, create those things
independent of an entire human so that you could just create the specific item that you need. Or for that matter, to create a human that doesn’t have any sort of brain. Tell me what that brings up for you. – So it’s certainly a
direction we can go in. And some pieces of that are
already being worked on. But it is extraordinarily scary figuring out how we’re
going to draw those lines. Personally, I feel pretty
comfortable saying, “If you could grow a
kidney for me in vitro, “just a kidney that is
perfectly matched for me, “and replaced my defective kidney, “I feel that sounds fine.” If you go to that level
that you just described, maybe create an entire
human but with no brain, who’s going to start
drawing the distinctions because you will need some level of brain for basic bodily function? How’s it going to breathe? So you say, “Okay, well,
we’ll have a brain stem “and autonomic nervous
system, various things.” So you can say, “We’re not
gonna have cortical functions,” but there are various
things you might need. I mean, things that we do normally. And this is why, if you have dementia, you may die because you aren’t able to do normal functions that
would help protect you from fluid accumulation in
your lungs, for example. So how much of a brain do we give someone? And so you could start saying, “Well, we could have
almost an entire brain, “but we just drug them
so that they aren’t aware “of what’s going on.” And as you move that line
further and further back, suddenly you’re creating human beings, real human beings for… – [Gillian] What are the
restrictions on doing that today? – Well, it’s just not done. And we’re still arguing
over what constitutes a human being and the
death of a human being, more specifically. So if you’re creating a
human being who has no brain or less of a brain, are
they still a human being? Or are they dead? And then we start getting
into some of these other apocalyptic, Walking
Dead kind of scenarios: People who aren’t really alive but also aren’t really dead. The definition of brain death is something we thought was a sort of settled
ethical and medical issue, but it’s not. We had the case, in the last few years, of Jahi McMath who was
in the news constantly declared dead by neurologic
criteria, brain dead, but her parents argued
she was still alive. And in some states, New York, New Jersey, there are exemptions in the law where if you don’t accept brain death than you’re not dead. So there’s a death
certificate in California, but she was still alive in New Jersey. And could you take her organs? If she’s dead and still on machines, could we have harvested her organs if her parents didn’t
believe she was dead? What would that have meant? And could we bury her if
she’s still breathing? – Well, hopefully, she
wouldn’t still be breathing when she’s buried. That’s a… – And breathing may not
be your only criterion of what it means to be alive. What is one of the wonderful
things about science is it’s giving us a window now into things we couldn’t
have anticipated before. It’s giving us opportunities
we couldn’t have anticipated before. One of them is to even harvest
organs in the first place. But now the question
of when you’re going to use someone’s organs is
extraordinarily difficult. There is a group in Canada, and there may be others as well, that has been using a technique called functional magnetic resonance imagine to look at the brains for people who we believe are in
effectively a vegetative state. They will never recover function. And using that technique,
asking them questions and setting it up so they believe they can get… That that person, if they have
any control of their brain, can actually answer those questions and discovering that some of these people who we thought are in a vegetative state are actually able to consciously answer things they have heard and come up with a response to that. I’m not guaranteeing that those people really have function in a
way we think of function, but it again is opening
up a window into something that they wouldn’t have even considered just 20 years ago. – Okay. I feel like we should move
onto a slightly more… This is a fun topic for me, but we talked about Minority Report and the idea of being able to predict future bad behavior. And as science develops,
we’re learning how to look for markers in people’s genetics and also in other aspects of their anatomy that can indicate that they might have a future inclination
towards criminal activity. So can you give us… Can you tell us a little
bit more about this? – Well, first, I have to remind people in Minority Report, I believe,
the terminology was precogs. – Yeah, this is a little
different than an actual precog. – So we’re not talking about
this in the real world. But just the idea was intriguing that with these precogs, these individuals that are basically nurtured in order to predict the future, what’s
gonna happen with an individual, we have no mechanism in
science that I know of that’s actually gonna work on that. But the idea is intriguing that you could somehow predict whether an individual is going to,
for example, commit a murder. And so the presumption in this movie, based on a novel from Phillip K. Dick, or a story from Phillip K. Dick, is that you could stop somebody before they committed the crime because you know the crime they’re gonna commit. First thing to point out is the same thing I mentioned earlier:
most things we deal with our matters of probability, not certainty. – And that’s ultimately
sort of much of the plot of that movie has to do
with flaws in that system. – Exactly. So now let’s translate that
into something we can do, and one of the things we can do is we can measure neurotransmitters
in people’s brains. We can look at brain anatomy. We can measure brain function
under certain circumstances. In every one of those cases,
we might ask questions about what are the
characteristics of somebody who would do X? What are the characteristics of somebody who would commit a crime? So what if we found that
95 percent of people who have this feature are likely to go on to a life of crime? What should we do with that information? Should we sequester them, quarantine them? – But what about the five
percent of those people who don’t? I think that the… We talked a little bit about
the James Fallon Ted Talk which I watched honestly more than once because I have a certain
interest in sociopaths. They make great subjects for movies. So the… As I recall that, and I
think you guys might remember other elements of this talk, but he had done a series
of PET scans on brains of sociopaths and had
found certain patterns or elements that were
consistent among sociopaths. But I also remember
that reading somewhere, or I don’t remember if
this was part of his talk, but that not all people
who have that brain are going to become
violent serial killers. All people who have
that brain aren’t gonna become criminals. They might be perfectly
functional members of society, and we would never know
that they have this problem. And I remember there was something about a trauma in childhood is what kind of flips the switch for many of these people, that turns them from relatively ordinary members of society into mass murderers. But that’s probably a
small percentage of people who have that kind of brain. – Well, so the first question is: How many have that pattern? And I remember the work, but I don’t remember the percentage. I think it is a small percentage. I think you’re right. The idea that certain triggers are necessary along with
this makes some sense, but again, since you don’t know whether somebody’s going to get that trigger. And a really good question is: What is a trigger for somebody? For somebody who has lived a life of ease and has everything
brought to them anytime, a trigger might be that they can’t see the movie that they want to see today. And for somebody else,
the trigger might be that they have no food and they are at risk of being killed in
order to try and survive. So that’s not something
that we can predict. It’s not something we
can say with certainty, “This is a factor that’s
gonna lead to this “possible outcome.” So what, as a society,
do we wanna do with that? It’s kind of knowledge that you might not be able to act on or your might not want to act on. – Well, I think it’s similar to medicine. We all have, within us, certain genes that if triggered could result in disease. So do I go and presumptively have certain of my body parts removed as you do if you have
the breast cancer gene. You don’t have breast cancer yet, but do you treat it as if
you’re going to have it? Do you make that assumption
when we really don’t know? And lots of diseases are like that. – Yeah, although I think
what’s interesting, and this goes back to the question of who makes these decisions,
but when you have that situation, it’s my choice what I decide to do with that information. But if the government has the ability. I’m saying the government
with like a large G. Has the ability to measure this in people, does this become sort of standard testing at some point in time? When you’re born or before you’re born, are there tests that can be done to show whether or not
you have the likelihood of becoming a criminal? And if you have that likelihood, what kind of restriction? I mean, that’s the… What kind of restriction
do you put on that life? Can you ever? Do you just have people monitoring them? Should we be implementing any sort of system to test our
children for these things as they’re going through school? – Well, we do in other ways. We do drug testing. As a requirement for my current job, I had to undergo drug testing. So what would it have meant if I had a positive result and claimed, “But I’m not a drug user.” What does that mean? And what restrictions
would that mean for me? And we do that with other illnesses too. Tuberculosis: You test
positive for tuberculosis, they’re gonna start you on med… The government is gonna
require you to be quarantined, start you on medication
so it doesn’t result in a public health threat, an outbreak. But what if you’re not symptomatic? What if you’re fine and
now they’ve told you for six months you can’t leave your house and you have to take this medication? – Right. And I feel to some degree that the answer to these questions
probably changes over time, and it depends on the
culture we’re living in at the moment. The question of what sort
of tolerance do we have for locking up innocent people, people who would never
do something like this? And what tolerance do we
have, for that matter, in locking up people who
have never done anything but are highly likely to? – Well, in all those cases, again, this probability issue. We already make these kinds
of decisions in society. We make choices about what is the risk that if I lock this person up that I am wrong in doing so? And you could say, “Well,
we should never lock up “anybody who isn’t guilty, “and we should only lock
up people who are guilty.” But just look at the way… – But by whose definition? – But just look at the
way courts define guilt. You hear terms like
beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence. You don’t hear absolute certainty because you almost never
have absolute certainly. And I think if you would go into society, ask the people who are
listening into this discussion, there are a lot who will say, “I would rather err on the
side of making a mistake “and not imprisoning somebody “because I don’t want
innocent people locked up.” – Right. That’s certainly my leaning. – Yeah, ’cause I don’t wanna
be locked up personally. But there are others who would say, “I am so fearful of what might happen “because of some criminal out there “that I would rather lock up anybody who “might be a criminal.” This is a question of society. You mentioned different
societies might have different questions. A society makes its decisions. We make those decisions by our votes, by our input for how we
think we should operate. – And the same society
may change over time. We’ve locked up Japanese
people during the war because they were Japanese people. And now we think that’s wrong. A lot of people probably thought
it was wrong then as well yet it happened. – Yeah. Well, we’re moving through
these kind of quickly. – Okay, wait, we’ve got plenty… So maybe sort of as a aside to this topic is if you’re talking
about predicting behavior, the question is: What
can we see in a human that tells us what their inclination is, what they might do? And one side topic that we
were considering talking about might be worth considering is: What about lie detection? So what if you could look
into somebody’s brain and tell if they were lying or not? And at the risk of doing some advertising, but actually I don’t know if it’s still the name of the company, there is a company in San Diego that… I won’t give their name because I don’t remember the name for sure. But the company that uses MRI for detecting whether
someone is lying or not. There’s been a lot of work done on this. You put somebody in this
magnetic resonance image machine, usually most of us think of it as looking for brain
abnormalities or something, for example, if you’re
looking at the brain. In this case, using it to look at function in different areas of the brain and seeing which areas of the brain are changed when somebody’s
telling the truth versus when they are being deceptive. And on the surface, just as I asked, it sounds like, “well,
that’d be easy to do. “Just put people in when they’re lying “and people in when
they’re telling the truth.” But I need to point out
that that’s not easy. We can come back to why it’s not easy, but let’s assume you
thought you had done that with a reasonable level of confidence. Now you stick somebody in the machine and by having them in this machine, you can ask them a question and find out whether they’re lying. So what if we could have
that machine at the airport? Everybody going through security… – Well, this the question I had: How much of this was
practical to implement without putting somebody in a machine? – I will stipulate right now that if you think lines are long at security at the airport now, imagine trying to put people into a
machine where you have to repeatedly ask them the questions. And basically nobody would ever fly. But that’s the kind of… Every technology starts
out very expensive, very slow, very cumbersome. I mean, look at the
cellphones we carry around now and compare that to… – To the mainframes that took
up the size of this room. And that’s just in our lifetimes. – Right. So possibly in the not-distant future, we’ll have… – Fingerprint scanners for lying. – In terms of the distance in the future, there was an interesting story I saw a few years ago that said that whenever somebody’s
in a panel like this one and somebody asks them,
“Well, when will this be?” They always say, “This
is five years away.” Five years is sort of the perfect point. Far enough to say, “Okay,
well I know there’s “still work to be done.” But it’s soon enough and sounds, “Oh, this is imminent.” The real answer is you don’t know because people are
working on these questions from all different directions, and somebody might have an
insight, a lucky breakthrough, and suddenly the impossible
becomes commonplace. – And affordably. – And affordably. Well, actually this is
a really good lead in to our next topic which I think the best movie example
we had of this was I, Robot. In I, Robot, we have robots that are now a part of our every day lives, and they have been coded
with a series of principles, the primary of which is
you can not hurt any human. And we see today that we have AI around us in a lot of different ways, becoming increasingly common, and we are entrusting these systems to make decisions about our wellbeing. So driverless cars being the topic that we started discussing. What do we do when there is a situation where there’s a person outside the car who is at risk and there’s a person inside the car who’s at risk? And we are leaving it in the hands of AI to make the decision of
which life is more important. So please tell us more about this. – I think the question there is: What algorithm would
you program into the car to make that decision which is still gonna be human-based? So it’s still gonna be human
biases guiding a machine at least until AI truly becomes I. Human machines truly become intelligent. But to do that the machine would have to experience emotions, and that’s something that I don’t think anyone has figured out. I mean, there are humans
who don’t experience enough emotion, much less machines. So how would you calculate that? And then how would the
machine have any way of knowing who that person
behind their wheel is which would be easier for them to know than who that person outside of the car is to make that value judgment. And then what is it based on? And that reminds of when we first started doing kidney dialysis. The machines were enormous and expensive, and a hospital may have just one or two. And so much need. So many people in kidney
failure who would benefit, whose lives would be extended
by access to this machine. So they had to make those decisions. And how do you do that? – Right. And to some degree, that exists now in terms of organ donation and who is the recipient of those organs. “Here are the criteria
that we use to decide “who’s at the top of that list.” – Yes. But at the time, Congress couldn’t decide. Couldn’t decide and they were the deciders because they were funding it. So they made it available to everyone. So it is probably the only service that is 100 percent
funded by the government. Your kidneys fail, you will get dialysis and it will be paid for. – Oh, that’s interesting. – Because we couldn’t decide. But at the time, they had groups of people who needed this. So maybe it’s easy to say,
“Well, we’ll do the children. “We’ll make sure the
children get this first “because they’re young and innocent “and deserve it, deserve
a chance to grow up.” But then what if there’s a
physician among that group who could help save
some of those children, who’s doing all his research
on kidney transplantation. He could save these children so maybe you save him. And them maybe there’s the
mother who has five children, and maybe you need to save her so that those children
don’t become orphans. But then we get into the harder questions where what if the person
who needs it is a prisoner, a current inmate? They’re still a human being. Are they worthy? And so there were
committees set up to do this that made social judgments. And that, as you can
imagine, became problematic so it became medical criteria. But even in the medical criteria, bias sneaks in because you have to have… For a transplant, for example, you have to have not been drinking if you want a liver transplant. You have to have demonstrated
that you can abstain for six months or more. So is that a social judgment
or a medical judgment? Or both? And you have to have a support system so if you’re homeless
and don’t have family to help you make sure you
take your meds every day which seems like a reasonable criteria. You have to be compliant so
we don’t waste the organ, but is that really a social judgment because you’re homeless
and don’t have loved ones who can help you? – So the kidney example
is a really good example of what we would do
with perfect information and even with, what I’m
gonna call quote unquote perfect information, is
still tremendously complex and value-based and judgements may vary. But when you or I drive a car, much less when a car that is autonomous and making decisions on its own, in all of those cases,
we don’t have the nuance of whether that person
standing on the sidewalk that we would have to
hit in order to avoid hitting that other car, we don’t know whether
they’re a PhD scientist, whether they are a drug addict, whether they are the president
of the Untied States, we don’t know who they are, and so the car is now
having to make decisions in other ways. – What I’m starting to picture though is as facial recognition technology develops and we’re programing AI to
make these sorts of decisions, we’re gonna get to a point where the car is going to be able to know, “Ah, that person out there who is a doctor “who’s doing important research, “and this person in this car who has “the brain pattern of a sociopath, “I’m gonna choose to
save the guy out there.” I mean, that feels like that’s actually not that far in the future. – It’s a good example, but what I think is more likely is not that that will
rely on face recognition, but I can easily envision a future in which people allow
themselves, if not are forced, to be identified with some sort of tag so that that tag would
be providing information to let the car know. Again, for those listening,
they might ask themselves at this point, “So if
I’m in my autonomous car, “do I want it to protect
me no matter what?” That’s the first choice. And I think most of us
start with that assumption. I’m the driver. Of course I would want that. But then if you step back and say, “What do I want the society to do?” You’d say, “Well, if the car could choose “saving one person or saving three people, “the car might hit
three people otherwise.” You’d say, “Well, save the three people, “and that one person should die.” Then you start getting into the nuance of if you could know who they were. That’s probably the question
I think furthest out, and the question for all of these that we should start with
every one of these questions is the science. What can we actually do? How good is the recognition, the visual recognition a car
can do of its environment? And that’s what we’re still working on. – But if you start with that assumption, like in I, Robot, where
the artificial intelligence can not harm a human being then could the machine even work? If it’s put into a situation where someone is gonna be harmed. – [Gillian] You would sort
of have a shut down effect if there is no option… – That wouldn’t harm a human being. – I forgot the exact wording, but I think the wording was such that if you had to choose between
two human beings and one, you would choose losing
one life instead of two, things of that sort. – But that still is a human bias that we are presupposing one
really philosophical theory is better than another, that life doesn’t have absolute value, that it’s all relative. – Yeah, so one of the things
that’s really intriguing is to try and dig deep and think, “What kind of level of
intelligence are we looking for?” We think of ourselves as a gold standard, and we’re pretty bad. So now imagine a robot, a device, an artificially intelligent
device we’ve created, and can it get the nuance? So we have Siri now and other devices where we can talk to them
and ask them for something. What if they give us information that would cause us to lose our life? But they have no context to know that because they told you, “Turn right here,” that a meteor’s gonna hit there. So they can’t always make the decision that would protect life. And we should not make the assumption that our technology will do any better at this than we can. And we don’t do a very good job of it. – I’m noticing in the chat right now that there’s a discussion that’s happening about what we were talking about earlier with regard to harvesting
organs to use on another child. I think we should clear
up some confusion here because they said, “Wait,
they kill the other kid?” “If they need to, yes.” Just to be clear: We’re not
actually talking about that. – Let’s have a vote on that. I think all three of us are
in favor of not killing. – All three of us are in
favor of not killing anybody. But also, we are not having one child specifically to give
their organs to another. – So that might be the
premise of that movie, Never Let Me Go, but it
was not the real life. – And actually those aren’t children. Those are clones. Those are rich people paying
for duplicates of themselves as backups. That’s also fiction. So just to be clear. – Which is not yet possible for humans. Cloning, not yet possible for humans. – For a kidney, which
you can lose one kidney and still be absolutely
fine in most cases, there have been discussions. I don’t know whether… And Felicia may know how often that’s actually come to fruition, if ever where families would say, “There is a known risk of
somebody needing a kidney “and to have a good match. “If we had another child
and that child would “be able to donate a kidney.” It would not be to kill that
child to take that kidney. But the presumption would be that child would be able to give up their kidney to someone else. – And we do that now. We don’t necessarily
procreate to create a donor, but there are living donors who opt to give up a kidney or part of a liver to save usually a family member but sometimes a stranger. – You know it’s interesting. We have five minutes left, and I know there’s a subject
I wanted to come back to for our wrap up. But the one thing I was gonna say, specifically about kidneys,
because it occurred to me after we stopped talking about that. I read about a case
years ago about, in fact, a serial killer, a very
serious serial killer, who found out that he was a match for some, I think it was the brother of an ex-girlfriend or something like that who needed a kidney donated, and this inmate wanted to
be able to donate a kidney. And it became a big court case of whether or not the
court would allow him to donate that kidney or whether he’s being
coerced into doing that. – Prisoners are actually
in a special category in our population. We think of them as just being restricted, but they are actually
protected in specific ways because of their lack of freedom. So there is that concern
that they’re being coerced, that maybe they’ll get a shorter sentence, maybe there’s some benefit
to that if they will donate. And then I was just reminded of a movie, and I can’t recall what it’s called, that Will Smith starred in that he wanted to become an organ donor. And he set about finding
all of his recipients. – Yeah, I think it was Seven Pounds. Is that what it was called? – I think so. And then he went about killing himself in a particular way so that his organs would still be viable, and he had figured out who he wanted his liver, his kidney, his
heart, his lungs to go to. You have to question: What’s the motivation behind that? If you’re gonna be a
living, unrelated donor, you’re not doing this to save your brother or your mother, your child, why are you donating? And I see somebody saying,
“Kidneys for sale.” It’s still illegal. – Still illegal to sell a kidney. Still illegal to buy a kidney. – So all of this, it really comes back to that question again of
entertainment we can get from it ’cause that’s why we’re here. You go to a science fiction movie and maybe see things blown up and people running in chases, whatever, but those allow us to think ahead of time about challenges that we may actually be facing already or which
we may face in the future. And being able to do
that is a valuable thing so we can pat ourselves
on the back and say, “There’s good reason to go and watch that “next blockbuster.” – Yeah, TV shows, movies, comic books, they allow us to play these scenarios out so we can see what is the end. What are the possibilities? And right now we have
the latitude in the media to play it out in ways that
really aren’t possible, but you never know where the mind will go. – Right. Well, and it’s exciting to see how we feel about subjects
before they’re put into action in the world and what would we do if
we were in that situation. So, yeah, I was asked earlier today why it is that as a film person I am participating in
this science organization, and it’s because this subject matter to me is so fascinating becomes the basis for so many of my favorite stories. So it’s really worth while
to kind of expose ourselves to these different ideas. – Yeah, exchange is so helpful too because it gives us the chance to talk to scientists, to talk
to entertainment people, have them connect so that
there is some reality in the science fiction we
get to see and think about. – Right. I certainly like that. I think that’s about all
we have time for today. So I have no idea who your next panel up here is today, but
you should stay tuned and enjoy what they’ve got for you. – So thanks. – Thank you.

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