This book explores the role of artificial intelligence in the development of a claim that morality is person-made and rational. Professor Danielson builds moral robots that do better than amoral competitors in a tournament of games like the Prisoners Dilemma and Chicken. The book thus engages in current controversies over the adequacy of the received theory of rational choice. It sides with Gauthier and McClennan, who extend the devices of rational choice to include moral constraint. Artificial Morality goes further, by (...) promoting communication, testing and copying of principles and by stressing empirical tests. (shrink)
This book explores the role of artificial intelligence in the development of a claim that morality is person-made and rational. Professor Danielson builds moral robots that do better than amoral competitors in a tournament of games like the Prisoners Dilemma and Chicken. The book thus engages in current controversies over the adequacy of the received theory of rational choice. It sides with Gauthier and McClennan, who extend the devices of rational choice to include moral constraint. _Artificial Morality_ goes further, by (...) promoting communication, testing and copying of principles and by stressing empirical tests. (shrink)
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)
This collection of essays focuses on questions that arise when morality is considered from the perspective of recent work on rational choice and evolution. The contributors focus especially on modelling games like "The Prisoner's Dilemma". Included are noted philosophers like David Gauthier, Paul Churchland, Brian Skyrms, Ronald de Sousa, and Elliott Sober. This is the seventh volume in the Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science series.
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)
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)
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)
Rationality and evolution are apparently quite different, applying, respectively, to the acts of complex, well-informed individuals and to populations of what may be mindlessly simple entities. So it is remarkable that evolutionary game theory shows the theory of rational agents and that of populations of replicating strategies to be isomorphic. Danielson illustrates its main concepts—evolutionarily stable strategies and replicator dynamics—with simple models that apply to biological and social interactions; and he distinguishes biological, economic, and generalist ways of interpreting the theory. (...) Against the background of isomorphism, he considers three ways in which evolution and rationality differ and how two-level models may combine them. He concludes with a survey of the normative significance of the unification of rationality and evolutionary game theory and some speculation about the evolution of human rationality. (shrink)
Background: Recent studies on public attitudes toward life extension technologies show a mix of ambivalence toward and support for extending the human lifespan. Attitudes toward genetic modification of organisms and technological enhancements may be used to categorize individuals according to political or ideological orientation such as technoprogressive or conservative and it could be easy to assume that these categories are related to more general categorizations related to culture, e.g. between Traditional and Secular-rational values in the World Values Survey. This paper (...) discusses how attitudes toward aspects of radical life extension may be related to cultural values as revealed in an online deliberative survey among university students conducted between January 2012 to January 2013. Survey results suggest that attitudes toward radical life extension tend to be mixed among groups categorized as Traditional, Secular-rational, Survivalist, and Self-expressionist. The study explored the relation between responses of 326 university students to 5 key questions on radical life extension and the cultural values they tend to favor as indicated by their response to 20 statements from the World Values Survey.Design and Method: The survey consisted of 3 stages: an online pre-discussion survey, face-to-face discussion, and post-discussion survey. After completing the 5 main survey questions in stage 1, participants were presented two additional questionnaires: one on cultural attitudes using 20 statements from the 2004-2008 World Values Survey and another on health attitudes with 12 statements from Dutta-Bergman’s 2004 study. In stage 2, participants were engaged in a face-to-face discussion in class focusing on their responses to the five key questions. After the discussion, they were invited to reconsider the choices and reasons they posted in stage 1 in the light of the face-to-face class discussion in stage 2.Results: Responses to the five survey questions showed that there tended to be more individuals across groups who disagreed with adopting technologies that radically extend the human lifespan beyond the current limit of 120 years. Attitudes toward radical life extension did not correspond to cultural attitudes indicated by responses to the WVS questions. The proportion of agreement/disagreement to statements presented in each of the five questions varied across cultural groups and there tended to be more individuals who disagreed with radical life extension in all groups. Changes in responses after the discussion stage were not significant and most respondents maintained their prior views.Discussion: Cultural attitudes associated with familiar technologies may not correspond with attitudes toward newer technologies since beliefs and values may need to be adapted to new imagined situations that the new technologies elicit. Moral understandings associated with familiar technological habits and beliefs are not necessarily carried over to new technologies. (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).
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.
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)
N-Reasons is an experimental Internet survey platform designed to enhance public participation in applied ethics and policy. N-Reasons encourages individuals to generate reasons to support their judgments, and groups to converge on a common set of reasons pro and con various issues. In the Robot Ethics Survey some of the reasons contributed surprising judgments about autonomous machines. Presented with a version of the trolley problem with an autonomous train as the agent, participants gave unexpected answers, revealing high expectations for the (...) autonomous machine and shifting blame from the automated device to the humans in the scenario. Further experiments with a standard pair of human-only trolley problems refine these results. While showing the high expectations even when no autonomous machine is involved, human bystanders are only blamed in the machine case. A third experiment explicitly aimed at responsibility for driverless cars confirms our findings about shifting blame in the case of autonomous machine agents. We conclude methodologically that both results point to the power of an experimental survey based approach to public participation to explore surprising assumptions and judgments in applied ethics. However, both results also support using caution when interpreting survey results in ethics, demonstrating the importance of qualitative data to provide further context for evaluating judgments revealed by surveys. On the ethics side, the result about shifting blame to humans interacting with autonomous machines suggests caution about the unintended consequences of intuitive principles requiring human responsibility. (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: [email protected]. (shrink)
It may seem that there is no need to review such a well-known book. This is the second edition of Peter Singer's text, Practical Ethics. The first edition has been widely used and influential; indeed for many it defines the field of applied ethics. The field is lucky; rarely is such popular work so carefully argued, so factually well informed and so well written. In addition, it is unusual for the author of a basic text to be so daring. Peter (...) Singer deserves credit for placing the interests of animals and famine victims on the agenda of applied ethics, and for making that agenda so prominent in public fora. But it behooves us to scrutinize carefully the power of definitive works as well. What sets the agenda is, for that very reason, more difficult to assess critically. (shrink)
Is game theory good for us? This may seem an odd question. In the strict sense, game theory—the axiomatic account of interaction between rational agents—is as morally neutral as arithmetic. But the popularization of game theory as a way of thinking about social interaction is far from neutral. Consider the contrast between characterizing bargaining over distribution as a “zero-sum society” and focussing on “win-win” cooperative solutions. These reflections bring us to the book under review, Prisoner's Dilemma, a popular introduction to (...) game theory and its relation to ethics by the respected science writer William Poundstone. The book begins with a moral dilemma and ends by discussing the evolution of co-operation. Poundstone emphasizes—correctly, to my mind—the ethical potential of game theory. He concludes his first chapter with this striking claim: “Today's practitioners of game theory are attempting to forge a kind of ethical progress. Is there any way to promote the common good in a prisoner's dilemma? The attempt to answer this question is one of the great intellectual adventures of our time”. (shrink)