Philosophy of Cognitive Science > Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence > Ethics of Artificial Intelligence > Moral Status of Artificial Systems
Edited by Jeffrey White (Okinawa Institute Of Science And Technology)
|Summary||The moral status of artificial systems is an increasingly open discussion due to the increasing ubiquity of increasingly intelligent machine systems. Questions range from those about the "smart" systems controlling traffic lights to those controlling missile systems to those counting votes, to questions about degrees of responsibility due semi-autonomous drones and their pilots given operating conditions at either end of the joystick, and finally to questions about the relative moral status of "fully autonomous" artificial agents, "Terminator"s and "Wall-E"s. Prior to the rise of intelligent machines, the issue may have seemed moot. Kant had made the status of anything that is not an end in itself very clear - it had a price, and you could buy and sell it. If its manufacture runs contrary to the categorical imperative, then it is immoral, e.g. there are no semi-autonomous flying missile launchers in the kingdom of ends, so no Kantan moral agent could ever will their creation. Even earlier, after using a number of physical models to describe the dynamics of cognition in the Thaetatus, Socrates tells us that some things "have infinity within them" - i.e. can't be ascribed a limited value - and others not. As machines exemplifying and then embodying such capacities typically reserved to human beings (Kant, famously for example, writes that we know only human beings to be able to answer to moral responsibility) are trained and learn, questions of robot psychology and motivation, autonomy as a capacity for self-determination, and so political and moral status under conventional law become important. To date, established conventions are typically taken as a given, as engineers have focused mainly on delivering non-autonomous machines and other artificial systems as tools for industry. However, even with limited applications in for example artificial companions, pets, interesting new issues have emerged. For example, can a human being fall in love with a computer program of adequate complexity? What about a robot sex industry? Artificial nurses? If an artificial nurse refuses a human doctor's order to remove life support from a child because his parents cannot pay the medical bills, is the nurse a hero, or is it malfunctioning? Closer to the moment, questions about expert systems and automation of transport, manufacturing and logistics raise important moral questions about the role of artificial systems in the displacement of human workers, public safety, as well as questions concerning the redirection of crucial natural resources to the maintenance of centrally controlled artificial systems at the expense of local human systems. Issues such as these make the relative status of widely distributed artificial systems an important area of discourse. This is especially true with intelligent machine technologies - AI. Recent use of drones in surveillance and wars of aggression, and the relationship of the research community to these end-user activities of course raise the same ethical questions which faced scientists developing the nuclear bomb in the middle 20th century. Thus, we can see that questions about the moral status of artificial systems - especially "intelligent" and "intelligence" systems - arise from the perspectives of the potential product, the engineer ultimately responsible (c.f. IEEE ethics for engineers), and the "end-user" left to live in terms of the artificial systems so established. Finally, given the diverse fields confronting similar issues as increasingly intelligent machines are integrated into various aspects of daily life, discourse on the relative moral status of artificial systems promises to be an increasingly integrative one, as well.|
Using PhilPapers from home?
Create an account to enable off-campus access through your institution's proxy server.
Monitor this page
Be alerted of all new items appearing on this page. Choose how you want to monitor it:
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
Darrell P. Rowbottom
Learn more about PhilPapers