Emerging technologies like robotics for war and peace stress our moral norms and generate much public interest and controversy. We use this interest to attract participants to an innovative on-line survey platform, designed for experimenting with public engagement in the ethics of technology. In particular, the N-Reasons platform addresses several issues in democratic ethics: the cost of public participation, the methodological issue of feasible reflective ethical equilibrium (how can individuals in a large group, take into account the ethical views of (...) all others?), and the reliability of public participation processes. We sketch the motivation and design of the N-Reasons platform, stressing the need for a practical (fast, low-cost) instrument that makes equilibrium feasible. We focus on the Robot Ethics Survey that featured a set of nine ethical challenges raised by robotics for war and peace. Over 400 people in five disjoint groups participated in this on-line survey experiment. We analyze the results, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the participants’ decisions taken and the reasons supporting these decisions. Both decisions and reasons strongly distinguished lethal military robotics from peace-related robotics. Methodologically, both decisions and reasons over five distinct groups were remarkably consistent. (shrink)
We can learn about human ethics from machines. We discuss the design of a working machine for making ethical decisions, the N-Reasons platform, applied to the ethics of robots. This N-Reasons platform builds on web based surveys and experiments, to enable participants to make better ethical decisions. Their decisions are better than our existing surveys in three ways. First, they are social decisions supported by reasons. Second, these results are based on weaker premises, as no exogenous expertise (aside from that (...) provided by the participants) is needed to seed the survey. Third, N-Reasons is designed to support experiments so we can learn how to improve the platform. We sketch experimental results that show the platform is a success as well as pointing to ways it can be improved. (shrink)
We advocate and share the same theoretical framework for empirical research in ethics as exemplified in Christina Bicchieri’s The Grammar of Society. Our research differs from Bicchieri’s in our approach to experimentation: where she relies on lab experiments, we have constructed an experimental platform based on an internet survey instrument; where she relies on rational reconstructions, we do not. In this paper we focus on four contrasts in our methods: (1) we provide a space to explore ethical influence and norm (...) transmission between participants, belief and choice revision, and reputation over time; (2) we provide ways for participants to expand the context of their and others’ decisions; (3) we focus on more realistic ethical decisions than is allowed by games; and (4) we explain why Bicchieri’s method of rational reconstructions presents challenges to her theory of social norms. Our methods are complementary to Bicchieri’s, and together we can work toward developing more comprehensive empirically informed ethics. †To contact the authors, please write to Peter Danielson, W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia, 227‐6356 Agricultural Road, Vancouver, V6T 1Z2, Canada; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Behavioral science, unified in the way Gintis proposes, should affect ethics, which also finds itself in “disarray,” in three ways. First, it raises the standards. Second, it removes the easy targets of economic and sociobiological selfishness. Third, it provides methods, in particular the close coupling of theory and experiments, to construct a better ethics. (Published Online April 27 2007).
A democratic ethics of biological technology must engage the public. This is not easy to do in a way that satisfies the demands of democratic ethics, or meets the pace of rapidly changing, complex technology. This paper describes a solution proposed by the University of British Columbia’s Norms Evolving in Response to Dilemmas interdisciplinary research group. The solution, the NERD web survey, has three distinct advantages over other methods: it is Deep—the survey provides deep data, particularly when compared to alternatives (...) such as polls and focus groups; Cheap—our survey is cost effective, which is important for a truly democratic tool; and Improvable—the NERD survey is a work in progress, improvable by design. (shrink)
Morality is serious yet it needs to be reconciled with the free play of alternatives that characterizes rational and ethical agency. Beginning with a sketch of the seriousness of morality modeled as a constraint, this paper introduces a technical conception of play as degrees of freedom. We consider two ways to apply game theory to ethics, rationalist and evolutionary game theory, contrasting the way they model moral constraint. Freedom in the rationalist account is problematic, subverting willful commitment. In the evolutionary (...) account, freedom is also problematic, leading to an infinity of possible social norms with dubious normative force. While these two approaches complement each other, we argue that the evolutionary approach is superior on both theoretical and practical grounds. (shrink)
Using a simple learning agent, we show that learning self-control in the primrose path experiment does parallel learning cooperation in the prisoner's dilemma. But Rachlin's claim that “there is no essential difference between self-control and altruism” is too strong. Only iterated prisoner's dilemmas played against reciprocators are reduced to self-control problems. There is more to cooperation than self-control and even altruism in a strong sense.
This collection focuses on questions that arise when morality is considered from the perspective of recent work on rational choice and evolution. Linking questions like "Is it rational to be moral?" to the evolution of cooperation in "The Prisoners Dilemma," the book brings together new work using models from game theory, evolutionary biology, and cognitive science, as well as from philosophical analysis. Among the contributors are leading figures in these fields, including David Gauthier, Paul M. Churchland, Brian Skyrms, Ronald de (...) Sousa, and Elliot Sober. (shrink)