Machines and the Moral Community

Philosophy and Technology 27 (1):97-111 (2013)
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Abstract

A key distinction in ethics is between members and nonmembers of the moral community. Over time, our notion of this community has expanded as we have moved from a rationality criterion to a sentience criterion for membership. I argue that a sentience criterion is insufficient to accommodate all members of the moral community; the true underlying criterion can be understood in terms of whether a being has interests. This may be extended to conscious, self-aware machines, as well as to any autonomous intelligent machines. Such machines exhibit an ability to formulate desires for the course of their own existence; this gives them basic moral standing. While not all machines display autonomy, those which do must be treated as moral patients; to ignore their claims to moral recognition is to repeat past errors. I thus urge moral generosity with respect to the ethical claims of intelligent machines.

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Author's Profile

Erica Neely
Ohio Northern University

References found in this work

Groundwork for the metaphysics of morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Thomas E. Hill & Arnulf Zweig.
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Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.

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