Why machines cannot be moral

AI and Society (3):685-693 (2021)
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Abstract

The fact that real-world decisions made by artificial intelligences (AI) are often ethically loaded has led a number of authorities to advocate the development of “moral machines”. I argue that the project of building “ethics” “into” machines presupposes a flawed understanding of the nature of ethics. Drawing on the work of the Australian philosopher, Raimond Gaita, I argue that ethical dilemmas are problems for particular people and not (just) problems for everyone who faces a similar situation. Moreover, the force of an ethical claim depends in part on the life history of the person who is making it. For both these reasons, machines could at best be engineered to provide a shallow simulacrum of ethics, which would have limited utility in confronting the ethical and policy dilemmas associated with AI.

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Robert Sparrow
Monash University

References found in this work

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Intelligent Virtue.Julia Annas - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong.Wendell Wallach & Colin Allen - 2008 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.
Killer robots.Robert Sparrow - 2007 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 24 (1):62–77.

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