Eben Moglen Interviewed by NPR about Boeing Affair

March 22, 2019

On March 22nd, 2018, NPR published a segment by Martin Kaste titled “Investigators Probe Software’s Role In Deadly Boeing 737 Max Crashes”. The segment contains an interview with Eben Moglen, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and President of SFLC.

Here is an excerpt of what Professor Moglen had to say:

“What we’re looking at in the case of some aerodynamic software taking over for pilots without telling them is an example of why even if you didn’t think this had anything to do with politics, it is still true that systems that don’t explain themselves to human beings who interact with them are dangerous…If we in the 21st century still believe in human autonomy, then we need to put that value into the software that runs our world.”

Martin Kaste also published a longer excerpt of his interview with Professor Moglen here. In this excerpt, Professor Moglen explains the future of autonomous systems:

“In the twenty-first century, there will be two kinds of autonomous systems. There will be autonomous systems made by despotism, most noticeably by the Chinese Communist Party’s economy and society. And they will not explain what they are doing because that’s the whole point: eliminating democracy, freedom of human beings, civil liberty as ideas. The only alternative to that kind of autonomous system is whatever we will invent. That is to say it’s a political task from the part of humanity that believes in freedom to build these technologies to support rather than to threaten human freedom.”

UPDATE: On March 24th, 2019, NPR published an article by Martin Kaste about the interview with Professor Moglen. Here is an excerpt from this article:

“Columbia Law School Professor Eben Moglen, who has long championed transparency in software, says the real lesson to take from the 737 Max is the necessity for autonomous software systems to”explain themselves" to the people using them.

He says software has allowed manufacturers to cut corners and costs on things like camera phones — say, using image-enhancement software to compensate for inferior lenses. “Every smartphone manufacturer I’ve ever dealt with regards the color-enhancement part of its camera software as among its most valuable trade secrets,” Moglen says.

But cheap physical designs are a minor consideration, he says, compared with what the 737 Max situation represents.

Read the full article here.

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