Machines are sometimes designed to deceive us. The button at a crosswalk may have no effect on the signal but only induce pedestrians to pay attention to it. The door closing button in an elevator may be a dummy that gives people a sense of control. The progress bar for computer downloads may only give the impression that the download is progressing. Historically, a phone system that reached the wrong number may have patched the call through anyway to make callers think they made the mistake. The close button at the corner of a pop-up ad may only generate another ad. Netflix may switch from a personalized evaluation to a standard list of pop movies, without notice, when the system is overloaded. The posted wait time at an amusement park queue may be a deliberate overestimate to reduce customer impatience.
Some argue that deception by machines is ethical as long as it is beneficial or at least benign. It has been compared to a magician whose deception is tolerated because it amuses us, or to a doctor who tones down a diagnosis to avoid upsetting the patient. Are these comparisons legitimate?
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