Science and Engineering Ethics 27 (5):1-20 (2021)

Abstract
Artificial intelligence and robotic technologies have become nearly ubiquitous. In some ways, the developments have likely helped us, but in other ways sophisticated technologies set back our interests. Among the latter sort is what has been dubbed the ‘severance problem’—the idea that technologies sever our connection to the world, a connection which is necessary for us to flourish and live meaningful lives. I grant that the severance problem is a threat we should mitigate and I ask: how can we stave it off? In particular, the fact that some technologies exhibit behavior that is unclear to us seems to constitute a kind of severance. Building upon contemporary work on moral responsibility, I argue for a mechanism I refer to as ‘technological answerability’, namely the capacity to recognize human demands for answers and to respond accordingly. By designing select devices—such as robotic assistants and personal AI programs—for increased answerability, we see at least one way of satisfying our demands for answers and thereby retaining our connection to a world increasingly occupied by technology.
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-021-00334-5
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