Categories: Animal Rights

Indian citizens would prefer to save the life of a domestic cat over a human in a runaway car

The result is interesting. Massachusetts Institute of Technology are running a test called the Moral Machine. They’re doing this because with the onset of artificial intelligence computers will have to make ethical decisions about saving lives in respect of driverless cars. It may well apply to many other scenarios as well.

Screenshot from Moral Machine

You can visit their website and even create your own scenario which would demand making ethical decisions. I suspect that the results will go into algorithms to allow artificial intelligence to make wiser ethical decisions.

I am unable to find the broad range of results but one result apparently is clear. Let’s say you’re in India and you’re driving a car down a main road. The car is out of control and you have a choice between hitting a pet or a group of pets on the road or changing direction and hitting people. According to the Moral Machine results Indian citizens would rather knock down humans than pets.

The strong implication is that the citizens of India place more value on pets than humans. This is obviously a very interesting outcome. It may be Hindu based as 79.8% of the population of India practices Hinduism. Most Hindus are vegetarian. However most Hindus believe that non-human animals are inferior to human beings which does not support that theory.

The results clearly vary between the wide range of cultures across the planet. There will be differences in Asia compared to Europe for example. In countries were elderly people are treated with more respect such as in South Asia and East Asia there will be less of a preference for saving the lives of youngsters over elderly people.

In countries where there is high inequality people’s preferences will veer towards saving executives (high pay) over the lives of homeless people (e.g. Russia).

I would have thought that on almost every occasion the citizens of countries would make a moral decision to save the life of a person over that of an animal. It is probable, too, that when push comes to shove people would save the lives of adults over children but to save the life of a pet over a human would be highly unusual but that appears to be the outcome of this moral dilemma coming out of India.

Source: MIT Moral Machine and

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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