Tomorrow is good: By the time you get to the Moral Lab – Innovation Origins

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I had no idea you could be anti time, but it is possible. In fact, that’s a reference to the Dutch title of a booklet about the Mastboomhuis museum. The Mastboomhuis is the only Dutch example of a historic house ‘suspended in time.’ A form of preservation where everything, including the neglected repairs and leftover piles of mail, remains exactly the same as it was left. It is an enchanting experience, wherein you physically step back in time. Back into the life of Henri Mastboom. As such, the rather ill-tempered Henri was quite averse to progress. He was literally anti time.

Whereas I am ahead of time as far as you can be ahead of time. As a sympathizer of the Design Thinking school of thought, my mission in life is to help design a brighter future. That’s why I’m so pleased that the Dutch Design Week is kicking off this weekend. A week in which the entire city of Eindhoven is dedicated to shaping the future. And this time the Dutch Design Week is all the more special for me because we are part of it ourselves.

The ethical conscience within my research group has joined forces with the designers collective We Are. This has led to a veritable moral laboratory. In this moral laboratory we examine how artificial intelligence should be programmed when it comes to making ethical decisions. In a time when chatbots and robot assistants give us solicited and unsolicited advice and when we no longer make our own choices – but choices are made for us – we have to make sure that the artificial intelligence that is advising us and that is making those choices for us, is doing so on the basis of our own ideology. Only then will we be able to fully embrace and trust artificial intelligence. That’s how we design a future that allows people to leave decisions up to technology without any misgivings.

Henri Mastboom would have found our exhibition ‘Moral Lab’ at the Dutch Design Week utterly appalling, and I think that’s the greatest compliment that you can give us.

About this column:

In a weekly column, written alternately by Bert Overlack, Mary Fiers, Peter de Kock, Eveline van Zeeland, Lucien Engelen, Tessie Hartjes, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to figure out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally joined by guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions to the problems of our time. So that tomorrow is good. Here are all the previous articles.

 

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