Arisia Bans Rosenberg, Authorizes Membership Refunds

The Arisia, Inc. Executive Board announced today that Noel Rosenberg, removed as President yesterday, has been permanently banned from the convention.

The action came on the heels of revelations in Crystal Huff’s post “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again.” charging the convention with failing to enforce its code of conduct in situations where she had been the victim.

And the Arisia committee has continued to be rocked by statements from people inspired by Huff’s post to go public with their own criticism of Arisia’s handling of incidents they reported.

…This year (2018) was my first Arisia. I knew it was a stretch for me to go, but because Arisia is an important event to my partners I wanted to give it a try. While playing in a Dungeons & Dragons game, one of the other players repeatedly and intentionally misgendered me. When I corrected him, he rolled his eyes at me. This game had a sign up sheet, and was part of a three part series. Given that we were using character names, I don’t remember the name of the person who had done this.

…After the report was filed I was told that staff would find and follow up with the person who had aggressively misgendered me and then be in touch. I received two emails, both of which felt formulaic and left me with a sense that my hurt wasn’t important to Arisia….

… In June 2013, J and I had to recap the events in detail because Morgon wanted to get back on staff. In response to our reiterated complaints, Arisia finally banned him from being on staff—though not from attending—and gave him a wide path to reinstatement: “After Arisia 2014, he is welcome to ask the EBoard to change this decision if: he apologizes for his actions at Arisia 2011, he has a position lined up and agreed to pre-con by the area-head responsible, and he presents a letter from a doctor saying he is capable of volunteering for that position.”

This is why I haven’t attended Arisia since 2011. I didn’t and don’t give a shit about whether serial harassers get teachable moments. (I also don’t feel it’s the place of a convention to request any kind of medical documentation of, presumably, a person’s mental health.) I felt absolutely unsupported by Arisia’s executive team at the time and after.

As these reports have come out, Arisia has been losing staff and volunteers:

Mark Amidon

I have just notified the head of Programming and my track’s Head that I will not be attending Arisia 2019. I will not be a guest, panelist, moderator, nor Assistant Track Head.

Tamar Amidon

I am withdrawing from attending and staffing Arisia 2019. Maura’s report on her treatment, the results of that, and then putting the predator back onto staff as an ADH enraged me, Finding out that one of my kids had issues with that predator, when she was 14, around the same time, makes it impossible for me to even be in the same room as some of those involved with the extremely bad decisions made all over that case.

Today’s Arisia Eboard statement makes membership refunds available, and tells fans the next open-to-the-public corporate meeting will happen November 11.

Update from the Eboard: 10/28

We are announcing that Noel Rosenberg is banned from attending Arisia and Arisia functions permanently. This decision will be reported to the corporate membership at the next corporate meeting. Per policy, this decision may be overturned by the corporate membership, or revisited by a future Eboard if new information comes to light.

We are also examining some of our previous IR decisions in light of new information.

We understand that some people will still not want to attend Arisia 2019 or feel unsafe doing so. Although normally Arisia memberships are non-refundable (but are transferable) the board has authorized refunds to people who request them. Email reg@arisia.org so we can help with this request.

The Eboard is continuing to discuss and explore further options and will continue to share updates.

The next Corporate Meeting will be at 2PM on 11/11/18 at Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville and is open to the public. Information on public transit and parking available here: http://artsatthearmory.org/about/getting-here/

As before, please send further questions about this situation, our Code of Conduct, or disciplinary policy in any capacity to incidents@arisia.org. This email address goes to the Incident Response Team Heads, Conchair team, and Executive Board. We are working on additional steps that we will announce in the coming weeks.

Signed,
The Arisia Executive Board

Arisia Announces Rosenberg Out

A day after Crystal Huff posted “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again.” charging the convention with failing to enforce its code of conduct in situations where she had been the victim, Arisia’s president resigned, and the convention’s executive board issued this statement on Facebook:

Effective immediately, Noel Rosenberg is no longer President of Arisia, Inc. On October 26th, at an emergency meeting of the other members of the Arisia Executive Board, the first step we took was to ask Noel to resign as President of Arisia Corporate and we have accepted that resignation. The Arisia 2019 Conchair has informed the Eboard that Noel is no longer the Operations Division Head, and will not be placed in any other staff positions.

Yesterday we issued a short statement that “the Arisia Executive Board takes our Incident Response process and the safety and concerns of our community very seriously.” We mean that, but we acknowledge that we failed severely in this case. We will work harder to live up to our values going forward, and in order to begin to regain the trust of our community, we are going to acknowledge and apologize for our failures, and take immediate and decisive action.

We failed by allowing Noel to be part of any Incident Response process while he was the subject of a serious incident investigation. To be clear, he was not a part of the investigation which related to him. He was not privy to any information collected, nor was he involved with the discussion or voting on the results. He was still, in his capacity as President, participating in other incident investigations. That was an error of our judgment and we apologize for this. We will work with the Corporation to improve our policies so that this does not happen again.

We failed by mentioning a subject’s name at the September corporate meeting. We apologized at the time. However we understand that can’t make up for the error. We have ensured that the person’s name is not recorded in the minutes or printed in Mentor.

We failed to give the corporate membership sufficient transparency ahead of the 2018-2019 officer elections, and we apologize for this. While we did mention the Incident Report at the election meeting, we did not give the Corporation sufficient notice or detail to make an informed decision. Again, we will visit this with the Corporation to ensure it cannot happen again.

We have accelerated the creation of a webpage to act as a centralized, public location for our disciplinary policy process. This is intended to clarify and and make more transparent our processes as well as codifying, when possible, best practice into procedure. Please keep in mind that putting this together correctly takes time but the work in progress can be found here: https://corp.arisia.org/DisciplinaryProcessInformation.

We are conducting a review of our Code of Conduct and Incident Response Process to ensure that it meets its goal of ensuring the safety of our community. We are reaching out to a third party consulting company for review and assistance and will report back to the Corporation.

Please send further questions about this situation, our Code of Conduct, or disciplinary policy in any capacity to incidents@arisia.org. This email goes to the Incident Response Team Heads, Conchair team, and Executive Board. We are working on additional steps that we will announce in the coming weeks.

Signed,
The Arisia Executive Board

However, there was nothing contrite about Rosenberg’s resignation email to the corporate list.

Date: Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 15:56
Subject: [Arisia DH] My role in Arisia
To: Arisia Corporate <corp@arisia.org>, Arisia Divheads List </corp@arisia.org>

I take issue with what Crystal has said, both about me and about Arisia, most of which is at best misleading and at worst flat out untrue.

Nevertheless, it is clear that I cannot lead Arisia at this time and I have become too much of a distraction. Therefore, in the interests of Arisia I am resigning as president effective immediately. I have also tendered my resignation as Division Head for Operations for Arisia ’19, and the Convention Chair has accepted my resignation.

I make this decision with a heavy heart, as I know what the truth is regarding these accusations. I have worked on this convention for more than a quarter century, and have been served on the Eboard for a number of those years.

-Noel Rosenberg

Just last month Rosenberg ran for President unopposed, receiving 42 of 54 valid votes, with 6 noes and 6 abstentions.

Marie Brennan’s Twitter thread epitomized the early reaction to Arisia’s statement:

Pixel Scroll 10/26/18 Eight Scrolls A File

(1) CRYSTAL HUFF AND ARISIA NEWS DEVELOPMENTS. During the day, Noel Rosenberg resigned as Operations Division Head and President of Arisia Inc. on the Arisia Corporate Members mailing list, per a report by Kris Snyder on Facebook.

Huff’s initial public response was:

Arisia continues to hear from program participants, for example, this group — “Public Statement Re: Arisia Convention Performances”.

We at the Post-Meridian Radio Players are committed to supporting Crystal Huff following her bringing to light the deeply upsetting actions taken by Arisia leadership to shield and promote her assailant.

As a performance group, we have long appreciated our working relationship with the Arisia convention. That relationship ends immediately, unless the called-for changes in leadership take place.

Sonya Taaffe offered a historical perspective on “Safety concerns at Arisia”

…As a member of the Readercon convention committee in 2012, I had a ringside seat when the similar failure of a convention to abide by its own stated policies led to the creation of its safety committee, the total overhaul of its code of conduct as well as incident report protocols, and the resignation of all members of the Readercon board. All steps including public statements of apology and accountability were necessary to restore the trust of a membership built over decades and burned in hours. I do not joke when I say it was a near-death experience for the convention. We still work to make its reputation inclusive, responsive, and safe, as opposed to tarnished by double standards and more tolerance for perpetrators than victims.

It is my sincere hope that the executive board of Arisia can heed the lesson of Readercon in choosing from this moment forward which kind of convention it wishes to be.

This is a more explicit version of the statement Nalo Hopkinson tweeted yesterday.

Kris Snyder, who works on Arisa and chaired the con in 2016, says “I believe Crystal that Noel violated her consent,” but sees a number of other things differently than Huff described them.

…I have received training for working with people who have been subjected to trauma and sexual violence. I have an extensive abuse and trauma history myself. I understand that it can take years to fully process a traumatic event like sexual assault or rape. I support Crystal’s right as a victim to evolve her understanding of what took place, and to make decisions later about how to handle the situation that are different than the ones she initially made.

I take issue with her characterization of how members of Arisia handled the situation. I do not like that she now demonizes people for actions (or lack thereof) that she specifically requested of them.

I don’t doubt that there were some people in leadership positions within the community that downplayed or dismissed the situation. That was not OK. I was not one of them. In 2012, when Crystal started enforcing boundaries with Noel, she sent several of us an email complaining about his actions but addressed it “To you guys as my friends and not as people in charge of things.” Once Arisia officially instated a disciplinary process in the spring and summer of 2013, Crystal was approached to make a report about Noel’s behavior. She declined, as was and is her right to do. Members of the eboard asked Crystal multiple times between 2013 and 2017 if she wanted to make a report and encouraged her to handle this through process. She said no….

(2) BOOK BURNING. “Iowa man burns LGBTQ children’s books from public library to protest pride festival”The Hill has the story.

An Iowa public library is considering legal options after a man checked out and burned children’s books to protest the city’s Pride festival and story time.

Paul Dorr posted a live video on Facebook on Friday that showed him throwing at least four books with LGBTQ themes into a fire inside a trash can, The Des Moines Register reported on Monday.

Dorr’s video was posted just before the beginning of the second annual OC Pride, a three-day weekend of “love, acceptance and pride” in conservative Sioux County in northwest Iowa.

Libraries here struggle to stock decent, recent books for kids as it is. Hhere’s a call to answer this crime by donating to the library —

(3) IT GOES ROUND. Alastair Reynolds saw “File 777” discussing “Paternoster Elevators” and says he knew about one in a familiar building that had, in fact, claimed a victim —

Years later I reasoned that the story must have been a carefully engineered rumour designed to stop people using the elevator in a way that wasn’t intended, not because of the risk of injury (or death) but because it caused problems with the mechanism, perhaps leading to the elevator shutting down or needing maintenance. I could well imagine that the authorities would “leak” a story like that just to stop students larking around and causing expensive breakdowns.

But (being a grisly sort of fellow) the File777 article prompted me to read up a little bit more paternosters and their history of accidents, and rather shockingly the first such account I read about was indeed one in the Claremont Tower, in 1975:

(4) ROLL THE BONES. Publishers Weekly has learned “‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ To Become a Board Game”.

Osprey Games will publish Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Board Game of English Magic, a game set in the world of Susanna Clarke’s novel, coming in June 2019. Players will take on the role of four principle characters from the novel—Jonathan Strange, Mr. Norrell, Miss Redruth, or John Segundus—and “travel around England and Europe, attending social engagements and performing feats of magic in the hope of becoming the most celebrated magician of the age. On their travels they encounter a host of familiar characters, from the jovial Mr Honeyfoot and beautiful Lady Pole to the extraordinary Stephan Black and the enthusiastic Lord Portishead. All the while they will be building up their magical abilities, as the gentleman with the thistledown hair is weaving his magic in the background and must be stopped for any player to have a chance of claiming victory.” The game was created by designers Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello, who have previously brought the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Marvel Universe to the tabletop. The game is illustrated by Ian O’Toole.

(5) THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Clip and keep this handy if you aspire someday to be making the rounds to promote your book: “Notes and Advice From a Book Tour”

  1. Authors: Want to make friends with the bookseller hosting you on the tour? At the end of your presentation, just before the signing part, encourage the people at the event to buy a book from the bookstore (even if it’s not your own book!). Most people at your event have probably gotten a book from the store already (and probably your book, because they want you to sign it), but some haven’t, and some people forget that there’s a high correlation between a bookseller hosting future events, and the bookseller doing well with the current events. So remind people to buy books from the bookstore at your event, and to support them the rest of the time as well.

(6) SABRINA REVIEW. The BBC’s Annabel Rackham answers a burning question: “Does Netflix’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch reboot live up to the hype?” She says the show is more feminist, but “more innocent than Riverdale.”

Whilst Sabrina in 90s-sitcom form didn’t realise she had magic powers until her 16th birthday, the new Sabrina is already well aware of her supernatural skills.

That’s not the only difference – the modern Sabrina is as Kelly-Leigh puts it, “woke”. She’s a feminist icon for a new generation of teens and is not afraid to question the archaic rules of the satanic cult she’s a part of.

Also, Sabrina’s cutting rebuttals of everything high priest Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) says is her way of bringing down the patriarchy, and I for one loved it.

(7) TOP WITCH. Vulture rates “The Best Teen Witches of Pop Culture, From Buffy to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.

Queenie, American Horror Story (Class of 2013)

Most Likely to Defect From the Coven: Queenie’s power was so great she thought she might be the Supreme, and she was one of two witches who survived the Seven Wonders, which is a pretty great reward for all the crap she had to deal with during AHS: Coven.

Activities: Witches’ Council; voodoo; practicing the Seven Wonders

Senior Quote: “I grew up on white-girl shit like Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Cracker. I didn’t even know that there were black witches. As it turns out, I’m an heir to Tituba. She was a house slave in Salem. She was the first to be accused of witchcraft. So, technically, I’m part of your tribe.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 26, 1966 — Jerry Lewis’ Way … Way Out had fun with the genre.
  • October 26, 1984 — The Terminator premiered.
  • October 26, 2015 Supergirl premiered on television.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born October 26, 1934 – Dan McCarthy, the grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and colour graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice.
  • Born October 26, 1942 – Bob Hoskins, Oscar-nominated Actor from England who is famous for his quirky character roles and is known in genre circles for the Hugo-winning Who Framed Roger Rabbit (for which he received a Saturn nomination) and Super Mario Bros. He played Professor George Challenger in the most recent film version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and also appeared in Snow White and The Huntsman, Hook, the Hugo-nominated Brazil, A Christmas Carol, Son of The Mask, and as the voice of The Badger in an animated version of The Wind in The Willows.
  • Born October 26, 1942 – Jane Chance, 66, Teacher, Writer, and Lecturer who specializes in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien – with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter, for which she has received three Mythopoeic Award nominations, including Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England, Tolkien the Medievalist, The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power, and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”.
  • Born October 26, 1959 – Jennifer Roberson, 59, Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is a desert-based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed most is her Sherwood duology that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood, telling that tale from the perspective of Marian. She has been Guest of Honor at more than a dozen conventions, including a Westercon, and a novel she co-authored received a World Fantasy Award nomination. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1959 – François Chau, 59, Actor from Cambodia who is most known to genre fans as Jules-Pierro Mao on the Hugo-winning series The Expanse, but who has also had recurring roles on Lost and Gemini Division, and appeared in episodes of the TV series The Flash, Intruders, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Time Trax, The Invisible Man, The X-Files, Alias, Medium, and Awake, as well as lending his voice to numerous videogames.
  • Born October 26, 1962 – James Pickens Jr., 56, Actor and Producer who played the FBI’s Deputy Director on 21 episodes of The X-Files; he also appeared in genre films Rocket Man, Sphere, Venom, and Red Dragon, and had guest roles in episodes of The Pretender and Touched by an Angel.
  • Born October 26, 1962 – Cary Elwes, 56, Actor, Director, and Producer from England who is unquestionably most famous for his role as the pirate Westley in The Princess Bride; he alsoplayed astronaut Michael Collins in the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, voiced historical roles in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, appeared in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Ella Enchanted, Shadow of the Vampire, Saw, and Saw 3D, had parts in episodes of Stranger Things, The X-Files, The (new) Outer Limits, and Night Visions, and has provided voices in animated features and series including Quest for Camelot, The Adventures of Tintin, Hercules, Batman Beyond, Sofia the First, and Family Guy.
  • Born October 26, 1963 – Keith Topping, 55, Writer from England. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published a number of non-fiction reference works – frequently in collaboration with Martin Day and/or Paul Cornell – for various genre franchises, including The Avengers, The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written four novels in the Doctor Who universe, and co-authored The DisContinuity Guide.
  • Born October 26, 1971 – Jim Butcher, 47, Writer who was nominated for the Compton Crook Award for the first novel in his Dresden Files urban fantasy series, now up to 15 novels and countless short fiction works, which became immensely popular and was made into a TV series lasting one season. He has also written half a dozen novels in his Codex Alera series and contributed a novel to the Spiderman universe. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including an Eastercon (the UK natcon).
  • Born October 26, 1976 – Florence Kasumba, 42, Actor of German Ugandan heritage who has done films in English, German, and Dutch languages. She is best known for her role as Ayo in the Marvel universe movies Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, but she also had a role in the Hugo-winning Wonder Woman, played the Wicked Witch of the East in the TV series Emerald City, and voices a character in the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NO PUMPKIN SPICE HERE. In the Washington Post story, “Halloween cocktails can be lame. These Stephen King and ‘Beetlejuice’ drinks are scary good”, Fritz Hahn says two Washington bars are specializing in Beetlejuice and Stephen King cocktails for Halloween (one is having a Pet Sematary night for animals to spend time with their drinking owners).

The drinks, meanwhile, are playful and delicious, with names that will have “Beetlejuice” fans exchanging knowing looks. (They’ll be available through early November.) My favorite is the Miss Argentina, a twist on the classic Corpse Reviver #2. Blue Curacao gives it a lovely blue color — a nod to the skin of the undead beauty queen-turned-receptionist in Beetlejuice’s Netherworld — while stripes of Peychaud’s bitters are reminiscent of the “little accident” that sent her to the afterlife.

(12) IS SMOKING REQUIRED? Aliya Whiteley, in “Smoking, Science Fiction, and Addiction” on Den of Geek, asks: if you’re writing a hard-boiled sf novel, should your protagonist smoke?”  Looking at John Constantine in the comics, the movie Watchmen, and Tade Thompson’s novel Rosewater, she answers:  “Yes, sometimes.”

For instance, back in the film noirs of the 1940s and 50s it would have been inconceivable for our hero not to smoke. Look at the thick smoke hanging in the light from the projector in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) or the silhouette of Robert Mitchum, the cigarette smoke rising up and out of the French windows, in Jacques Tourneur’s Out Of the Past (1947) – it was often used as an excuse for intimacy between lovers, the camera closing in on the lips, or to bring movement to a still frame. Great directors used it as a language of its own, and it must be really difficult to decide to not use that language, as a contemporary director, if you’re making a film that deliberately uses noir elements.

(13) WHAT GOES AROUND. Bounding Into Comics, which publicizes comics from JDA and Vox Day, says industry professionals are trying to silence them.

Bounding into Comics has become the latest target of comic book industry professionals’ attempts to silence those whose opinions they disagree with.

On Tuesday, prominent Marvel and DC Comics Colorist Tamra Bonvillain (Doom Patrol, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Uncanny Avengers) issued a call to her followers to unfollow and ignore Bounding Into Comics (henceforth BiC):

(14) RAP SHEET LENGTHENS. “Fatal ‘swatting’ hoaxer faces more charges” — jerk whose swatting lead to death of a gamer had been doing it for years.

This incident arose following a dispute in the Call of Duty video game between two men. One of them owned the home occupied and rented by Mr Finch and this address was given to Mr Barriss as the place to send police.

The two men have been charged for their role in the fatal incident. Both have pleaded not guilty.

US federal prosecutors filed the fresh charges in a California court, claiming that many of the crimes were committed when Mr Barriss lived in Los Angeles.

The charge sheet details incidents in which Mr Barriss is suspected of being involved, between September 2014 and December 2017.

Many of the charges relate to fake calls about bombs planted in schools, federal buildings and universities. Others relate to separate swatting incidents, bank fraud, other hoax calls to police departments and threats of violence.

(15) THE SMELL OF SUCCESS. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports “Swedish Film Cleverly Blurs The ‘Border’ Between Reality And Folklore”.

Ostensibly, the title of the Swedish film Border refers to the internationally recognized demarcation separating one country from another. Its main character Tina (Eva Melander), after all, works at the Swedish Customs Service, where she screens those entering the country for contraband. She’s very, very good at her job: She can literally smell deceit, which, when you think about it, should single-handedly earn her portrait pride of place on the Employee of the Month wall, in perpetuity.

Of course, there’s more to it. If Border were only about Customs practices, howsoever informed they might be by nasal lie-detection, the film would be odd, but relatively straightforward — a kind of Nordic, olfactory-powered superhero yarn, maybe. Happily, this is not the case.

(16) THE WILD LIFE. Timothy the Talking Cat provides “A Helpful Guide to the Wonderful World of Mammals” at Camestros Felapton.

Squirrel: Sinister bastards who crave power and control and off-season nuts. You know they are whispering about you in the trees with their clever little hands and distracting tails.

(17) COOKIE IN A BOTTLE. Treat your palate — “Stroopwafel Liqueur”

Anyone who has visited the Netherlands has undoubtedly come across the country’s famous stroopwafels, a pair of thin, crisp waffles sandwiching a caramel filling. Fans especially enjoy the fantastic aroma that stroopwafel stands emit when making a fresh batch, and many claim that no better treat exists. However, the company Van Meer’s did not agree and decided to up the ante by transforming the stroopwafel into alcohol form.

The resulting liqueur, which won a gold medal at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, captures both the distinctive smell and flavor of stroopwafels.

(18) THE SITUATIONAL ETHICS OF DRIVERLESS CARS. Mike Kennedy says what he learned from The Verge’s article “Global preferences for who to save in self-driving car crashes revealed”, is “Why I should stay away from school zones with self driving cars around.”

“If self-driving cars become widespread, society will have to grapple with a new burden: the ability to program vehicles with preferences about which lives to prioritize in the event of a crash. Human drivers make these choices instinctively, but algorithms will be able to make them in advance. So will car companies and governments choose to save the old or the young? The many or the few?”

Researchers from MIT have published a paper (Nature: “The Moral Machine experiment”) discussing the results of an online experiment (using a platform they call the Moral Machine) to “explore the moral dilemmas faced by autonomous vehicles”. They gathered 40 million decisions across a variety of languages and cultures. The paper itself is behind a paywall, but the article on The Verge takes a look at their findings. The data itself—and the code the researchers used to perform some of their analyses—is available to the public.

PerThe Verge article, the Moral Machine asked users to:

“make a series of ethical decisions regarding fictional car crashes, similar to the famous trolley problem. Nine separate factors were tested, including individuals’ preferences for crashing into men versus women, sparing more lives or fewer, killing the young or the elderly, pedestrians or jaywalkers, and even choosing between low-status or high-status individuals.”

Millions of users took the quiz. There were some fairly universal agreements. Again, per The Verge coverage:

“[…] the study’s authors found certain consistent global preferences: sparing humans over animals, more lives rather than fewer, and children instead of adults.”

There were also some disagreements, including:

“The study’s authors suggest this might be because of differences between individualistic and collectivist cultures. In the former, where the distinct value of each individual as an individual is emphasized, there was a ‘stronger preference for sparing the greater number of characters.’ Counter to this, the weaker preference for sparing younger characters might be the result of collectivist cultures, ‘which emphasize the respect that is due to older members of the community.’”

Of course, at present self driving cars might be able to tell most animals from most humans, but haven’t a clue about most age differences—nor can they likely tell law-abiding pedestrians from jaywalkers. So, this is mostly academic at present (see, e.g., the reference to MIT, above) but sooner or later some sort of ethical decisions will probably be baked into a car’s programming. Thinking about what that should be now seems sensible.

Taking a step past the automakers themselves, though, The Verge article also asks:

“But how close are we to needing legislation on these issues? When are companies going to start programming ethical decisions into self-driving vehicles?”

[…] the problems ahead can already be glimpsed in Germany, the only country to date to propose official guidelines [Google Translate version] for ethical choices made by autonomous vehicles. Lawmakers tried to slice the Gordian knot of the trolley problem by stating that all human life should be valued equally and that any distinction based on personal features like age or gender should be prohibited. […] if this choice is implemented, it would go against the public’s strong preference for sparing the younger over the elderly. If a government introduces this policy […], how will it handle the backlash “that will inevitably occur the day an autonomous vehicle sacrifices children in a dilemma situation.”

Obviously, much more work remains to be done

(19) PROVED AGAIN. “Archaeopteryx: The day the fossil feathers flew” – Back in the day, noted contrarian (and SF writer) Fred Hoyle claimed the fossil was a fake; disproved then by analysis, and disproved now by precision scanning of fossil halves and “fitting” them together by computer.

Sir Fred was high-profile and if the idea of fakery in a transitional fossil went unchallenged, Archaeopteryx would quickly become a cause célèbre for the anti-evolution movement. And don’t forget, the museum was the scene of perhaps the biggest fossil fake of all time – Piltdown Man.

The astronomer’s accusation could not be allowed to pass.

(20) NOT BIRDBRAINS. “Clever crows reveal ‘window into the mind'” — several assembled a reaching tool out of pieces.

New Caledonian crows are known to spontaneously use tools in the wild. This task, designed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, and the University of Oxford, presented the birds with a novel problem that they needed to make a new tool in order to solve.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Orson Welles On Censoring Horror Comics” on YouTube is an excerpt from an interview Welles gave a British show in the mid-1950s where he says that he personally dislikes horror comics, but feels that they shouldn’t be censored.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 777, er, 770, contributing editor of the day Kendall.]