Online Gaming Framework Could Help Iowa Cities Make Future Ethical Flood Prevention Decisions

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A mitigation game called “Water Ethics Web Engine,” created by a University of Iowa graduate student, could help cities make ethical decisions about flood prevention and management based on their priorities. citizens.


A “you prefer” style online game, developed by a graduate student at the University of Iowa, could provide municipalities in Iowa with an ethical framework for flood control practices.

The Mitigation Game, titled “Water Ethics Web Engine” is a data framework that shows what a group of people would prefer to do in the event of a flood. The game was released recently, but its research began in 2019. It is the first framework and game of its kind.

The answers provided in the game are intended to help decision makers understand the ethical position of citizens when creating an action plan against a predicted flood.

Gregory Ewing, UI graduate student and game developer, said flood mitigation technology was advancing rapidly. He said the game was developed to ensure ethical uses of new technology.

People can control where flooding occurs, where to release water from dams, and more specifically how much water.

Because specificity is controlled by artificial intelligence or algorithms created by other scientists, more ethical questions arise when flood action plans are discussed, Ewing said. He said one of the reasons he developed the game was to respond to places where flooding causes the least damage.

“You end up with this question, ‘Well, and if there’s a flood, how should this algorithm make a decision based on what humans want? ” “, did he declare.

Ibrahim Demir, IU Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering and Associate Researcher at the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research, is overseeing the project.

He said one of the challenges of being an engineer is considering how ethical a decision is, especially with flood control.

“For engineers, it’s not just an environmental, economic or even social challenge, it’s also an ethical dilemma,” said Demir.

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The game consists of several style questions that you prefer. The quiz participant must choose between two scenarios and decide which one is the most ethical for them. There is no right or wrong answer.

A question asks if the participant prefers to flood an elementary school or flood a corporate chemical plant. For each choice, the participant receives a graduated mark for the type of damage that could be caused.

After the participant completes the quiz, they are shown different sliding scale graphs of how their answers compare to the answers provided by other participants. It determines whether the participant cared more or less about environmental impacts, private costs, death or injury, or federal and state costs.

The compiled data can be used later to help determine where policymakers should focus flood prevention measures more quickly, based on what citizens believe to be more ethical.

Ewing said he made the framework flexible so that it could be changed according to the needs of policymakers. The questions can be changed for other natural disaster situations, such as forest fires, he said.

Ewing said he hoped the framework could help policymakers respond faster and more effectively in the future.

“You can theoretically use this model to make decisions in response to the priorities of the people who will be affected,” he said.

Ewing said the framework can be used for other natural disasters, not just flooding. But policymakers should not view this data framework as the only solution to the ethical dilemmas that arise around natural disasters, he said.

They should always consult the other guidelines and resources available to them when faced with these events, he said.

“This is only a fraction of what can be done in response to flooding,” he said. “You can’t just say, ‘Welcome, we’ve got it, wash your hands’ and say it’s perfect. “


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