, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 251-260,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 03 Jul 2010

Is there an ethics of algorithms?

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.