Science Goes To The Movies: First Man, Driverless Car Ethics, Beetle Battles. Oct 26, 2018, Part 2
Damien Chazelle’s film First Man reconstructs the personal trials of astronaut Neil Armstrong in the years leading up to his famous first steps on the moon—as well as the setbacks and losses that plagued the U.S. space program along the way. This week in “Science Goes To The Movies,” our panel of space exploration experts weighs in. Is this an authentic story of Apollo 11’s triumphs and costs? And what are the stories Hollywood could tell—about the history of space exploration, or its present—that we haven’t heard yet?
If you’re a casual student of ethics—or just even just a fan of the television show The Good Place—you’ve most likely heard of the trolley problem. It goes like this: A runaway trolley is on course to kill five people working further down the track—unless you pull a lever to switch the trolley to a different track, where only one person will be killed. The trolley problem is designed to be moral thought experiment, but it could get very real in the very near future. This time, it won’t be a human at the controls, but your autonomous vehicle. The United Nations recently passed a resolution that supports the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles, which will make it more likely that a driverless car might cross your path (or your intersection). Who should an autonomous vehicle save in the event that something goes wrong? Passengers? Pedestrians? Old people? Young people? A pregnant women? A homeless person? Sohan Dsouza, research assistant with MIT’s Media Lab, discovered that the way we answer that question depends on the culture we come from. He joins Ira to discuss how different cultural perspectives on the trolley problem could make designing an ethical autonomous vehicle a lot more challenging.
The male Japanese rhinoceros beetle lives a life of insect warfare. These large beetles sport elaborate horns that they use in a type of mating ritual joust, defending territories from other males in the hopes of attracting female beetles. But biologist Jillian del Sol noticed that this beetle love fest includes another component—squeaky songs. del Sol, featured in our latest video of The Macroscope series, tells us how males court their potential mates by serenading them and what this tells us about sexual selection among the rhino beetles.