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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Can a machine be ethical? Why teaching AI ethics is a minefield.

Scotty Hendricks
Bigthink.com
Originally published May 31, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Dr. Moor gives the example of Isaac Asimov’s three rules of robotics. For those who need a refresher, they are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The rules are hierarchical, and the robots in Asimov’s books are all obligated to follow them.

Dr. Moor suggests that the problems with these rules are obvious. The first rule is so general that an artificial intelligence following them “might be obliged by the First Law to roam the world attempting to prevent harm from befalling human beings” and therefore be useless for its original function!

Such problems can be common in deontological systems, where following good rules can lead to funny results. Asimov himself wrote several stories about potential problems with the laws. Attempts to solve this issue abound, but the challenge of making enough rules to cover all possibilities remains. 

On the other hand, a machine could be programmed to stick to utilitarian calculus when facing an ethical problem. This would be simple to do, as the computer would only have to be given a variable and told to make choices that would maximize the occurrence of it. While human happiness is a common choice, wealth, well-being, or security are also possibilities.

The article is here.
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