Autonomous or heteronomous?

From self-driven cars to unmanned flights, transportation is transitioning towards autonomy. But from a moral stance- the word “autonomous” means capable of self-governance with a sense of morality. Like children, who, as they get older, become ethically and morally independent and can relate to abstracts. Contrarily, technology isn’t there yet, and neither do we want it to reach that state of complete autonomy to make its own decisions. These so-called “autonomous” technologies learn and act in accordance with approved programming by human decision-makers, and we want technology to be governed by regulations and ensure that they are safe and reliable for long-term human and ecological use. Therefore, technologies should be called “heteronomous”. Perhaps this could hamper typical ‘technology paranoia’ based sci-fi entertainment ideas, but it would create a much-needed common understanding of what technology must look like in our societies.

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Aishwarya Raghunatha
PhD student and Project Engineer