Unexpected Side Effects

In the podcast Die Maschine: Kontrolle ist gut, KI ist besser (in German language, by the radio station Deutschlandfunk) a scary fictional story is told from the 21st minute on:

An artificial intelligence has been developed that controls and executes all drug shipments worldwide. Because this was so critical, a special algorithm was chosen to ensure that individual population groups are not disadvantaged under guarantee, an algorithm which is always 100% politically correct.

When the artificial intelligence was activated, things went well at first, but then the number of deaths of diabetics increased in the rich countries. Insulin is lacking everywhere in the hospitals of the industrialised countries. How could this happen?

Well, the system worked exactly as it was designed. However, the artificial intelligence took into account the need for drugs worldwide. But there were not enough drugs like insulin for everyone on earth. Underserved areas, especially in Asia and Africa, received more drugs from the artificial intelligence, while the rich countries received less. Thus the shortage was distributed evenly across the globe.

It is a similar dilemma to two burning houses with people trapped inside, but you only have enough helpers to fight one fire and save the people, not both fires. What are you doing?

These are ethical questions that an artificial intelligence cannot answer automatically. So when artificial intelligence is used to sustain life, we should look very closely. And well-intentioned is certainly not always well done, as the story of the drugs shows.

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