Article

Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 251-260

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Is there an ethics of algorithms?

  • Felicitas KraemerAffiliated withSection for Philosophy and Ethics, Eindhoven University of Technology
  • , Kees van OverveldAffiliated withSection for Philosophy and Ethics, Eindhoven University of Technology
  • , Martin PetersonAffiliated withSection for Philosophy and Ethics, Eindhoven University of Technology Email author 

Abstract

We argue that some algorithms are value-laden, and that two or more persons who accept different value-judgments may have a rational reason to design such algorithms differently. We exemplify our claim by discussing a set of algorithms used in medical image analysis: In these algorithms it is often necessary to set certain thresholds for whether e.g. a cell should count as diseased or not, and the chosen threshold will partly depend on the software designer’s preference between avoiding false positives and false negatives. This preference ultimately depends on a number of value-judgments. In the last section of the paper we discuss some general principles for dealing with ethical issues in algorithm-design.

Keywords

Algorithm Image analysis Medical technology False positive False negative