Driverless bus

Daniel Sarewitz
Director of Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes,
Arizona University

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to thank you for participating as a subject in the experiment. As a matter of full disclosure, I feel it only right to inform you that the experiment is likely to have very profound impacts on your life. These impacts may be quite positive—indeed, I presume that the anticipation of positive impacts explains why you are willing to take part. For example, many participants, perhaps including yourself, will become considerably more wealthy or healthy as an indirect consequence of the experiment. But I must also point out that the impacts may also be negative. Others may lose their jobs and otherwise find themselves increasingly at a disadvantage within our highly competitive society.

In the interest of openness I want to inform you that the experiment does not conform to the standard methods of rigorous scientific conduct. There is no control case. The experiment will go on, and we will see what happens. And the experiment cannot be replicated. We will be unable to determine what would have happened had we carried out a different experiment, or no experiment at all.

Nor are the subjects of the experiment—that is to say, you, among pretty much everyone else—protected by the ethical safeguards typically used by the scientific community for experiments involving human subjects. For example, prior informed consent is not required of the participants. I am writing to thank you for participating, but that is really more of a courtesy, a formality, than an acknowledgment that you have made a free choice to take part. In reality, you have little choice in the matter.