Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Technology and the Value of Trust: Can we trust technology? Should we?

John Danaher
Philosophical Disquisitions
Originally published 30 Mar 21

Can we trust technology? Should we try to make technology, particularly AI, more trustworthy? These are questions that have perplexed philosophers and policy-makers in recent years. The EU’s High Level Expert Group on AI has, for example, recommended that the primary goal of AI policy and law in the EU should be to make the technology more trustworthy. But some philosophers have critiqued this goal as being borderline incoherent. You cannot trust AI, they say, because AI is just a thing. Trust can exist between people and other people, not between people and things.

This is an old debate. Trust is a central value in human society. The fact that I can trust my partner not to betray me is one of the things that makes our relationship workable and meaningful. The fact that I can trust my neighbours not to kill me is one of the things that allows me to sleep at night. Indeed, so implicit is this trust that I rarely think about it. It is one of the background conditions that makes other things in my life possible. Still, it is true that when I think about trust, and when I think about what it is that makes trust valuable, I usually think about trust in my relationships with other people, not my relationships with things.

But would it be so terrible to talk about trust in technology? Should we use some other term instead such as ‘reliable’ or ‘confidence-inspiring’? Or should we, as some blockchain enthusiasts have argued, use technology to create a ‘post-trust’ system of social governance?

I want to offer some quick thoughts on these questions in this article. I will do so in three stages. First, I will briefly review some of the philosophical debates about trust in people and trust in things. Second, I will consider the value of trust, distinguishing between its intrinsic and extrinsic components. Third, I will suggest that it is meaningful to talk about trust in technology, but that the kind of trust we have in technology has a different value to the kind of trust we have in other people. Finally, I will argue that most talk about building ‘trustworthy’ technology is misleading: the goal of most of these policies is to obviate or override the need for trust.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

How pills undermine skills: Moralization of cognitive enhancement and causal selection

E. Mihailov, B. R. López, F. Cova & I. R. Hannikainen
Consciousness and Cognition
Volume 91, May 2021, 103120

Abstract

Despite the promise to boost human potential and wellbeing, enhancement drugs face recurring ethical scrutiny. The present studies examined attitudes toward cognitive enhancement in order to learn more about these ethical concerns, who has them, and the circumstances in which they arise. Fairness-based concerns underlay opposition to competitive use—even though enhancement drugs were described as legal, accessible and affordable. Moral values also influenced how subsequent rewards were causally explained: Opposition to competitive use reduced the causal contribution of the enhanced winner’s skill, particularly among fairness-minded individuals. In a follow-up study, we asked: Would the normalization of enhancement practices alleviate concerns about their unfairness? Indeed, proliferation of competitive cognitive enhancement eradicated fairness-based concerns, and boosted the perceived causal role of the winner’s skill. In contrast, purity-based concerns emerged in both recreational and competitive contexts, and were not assuaged by normalization.

Highlights

• Views on cognitive enhancement reflect both purity and fairness concerns.

• Fairness, but not purity, concerns are surmounted by normalizing use.

• Moral opposition to pills undermines user’s perceived skills.

From the Discussion

In line with a growing literature on causal selection (Alicke, 1992; Icard et al., 2017; Kominsky et al. 2015), judgments of the enhanced user’s skill aligned with participants’ moral attitudes. Participants who held permissive attitudes were more likely to causally attribute success to agents’ skill and effort, while participants who held restrictive attitudes were more likely to view the pill as causally responsible. This association resulted in stronger denial of competitive users’ talent and ability, particularly among fairness-minded individuals. 

The moral foundation of purity, comprising norms related to spiritual sanctity and bodily propriety, and which appeals predominantly to political conservatives (Graham et al., 2009), also predicted attitudes toward enhancement. Purity-minded individuals were more likely to condemn enhancement users, regardless of whether cognitive enhancement was normal or rare. This categorical opposition may elucidate the origin of conservative bioethicists’ (e.g., Kass, 2003) attitudes toward human enhancement: i.e., in self-directed norms regulating the proper care of one’s own body (see also Koverola et al., 2021). Finally, whereas explicit reasoning about interpersonal concerns and the unjust treatment of others accompanied fairness-based opposition, our qualitative analyses data did not reveal a cogent, purity-based rationale—which could be interpreted as evidence that purity-based opposition is not guided by moral reasoning to the same degree (Mihailov, 2016). 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

How personality shapes third-party moral judgment

Schwartz, F., Djeriouat, H., & Trémolière, B. 
(2021, March 17).
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/4wnhz

Abstract

Although recent research in the moral judgment field has explored third-party judgment, much less is known as to how personality influences these judgments. The present preregistered study addresses this issue by exploring the influence of various personality traits, namely honesty-humility, emotionality, and conscientiousness. Adult participants recruited online (N = 405) read short narratives describing the interaction between two protagonists (“agent” and “victim”). We manipulated the intent of the agent (intent to harm or not) and the outcome for the victim (harmful consequences or no harm). Participants indicated the extent to which they perceived the agent’s behavior as acceptable and blameworthy, and how much punishment they felt the agent deserved, before filling the HEXACO questionnaire. Our results point to a moderate role of honesty-humility, emotionality, and conscientiousness on acceptability of the agent’s behavior, with their relative weight depending upon the type of moral transgression. While higher honesty-humility scores were associated with lower acceptability of moral transgressions overall, higher emotionality was associated with reduced acceptability when the agent attempted to harm, and higher conscientiousness was associated with lower acceptability ratings only when the agent harmed intentionally. We also found a moderate effect of extraversion and emotionality on decisions of punishment and blame of an agent who harmed or attempted to harm. The results suggest that third-party moral judgment is modestly, yet selectively modulated by personality traits and the type of moral transgression.

From the Discussion

However, contrary to our hypothesis, we found that emotionality predicts acceptability of attempted harm, but not accidental harm. Moreover, after adding extraversion to the model in exploratory analyses, emotionality also tended to predict punishment decisions and blame of intentional harm. These results suggest that emotionality may sometimes modulate the intent-based process as much as (or even more so than) the outcome-based process when deciding about moral wrongness. This is consistent with some recent revisions of the dual-process model of moral judgment (Cushman, 2013), which posit that affect may influence both processes. The present findings further converge with the recent observation that distinct emotions may be triggered by the intent to harm on the one hand, and the victim’s harm on the other hand (Hechler & Kessler, 2018). More specifically, anger at an agent who intends to harm is distinct from empathic concern for the victim (Hechler & Kessler, 2018). 

Why did emotionality fail to predict judgment of accidental transgressions in the current study? We see two potential explanations: the contact principle and the action/ omission distinction, which are critical to the judgment of moral transgressions (Cushman, 2013). First, the contact principle of moral judgment suggests that someone who inflicted harm directly (by physical force) is judged more severely than someone who harmed indirectly (Cushman, 2013; Greene et al., 2009). In short, not only the presence of harm induces an emotional response, but also how it has been done (i.e., giving someone poisonous food versus beating someone).The fact that harm is not inflicted directly in all our scenarios may explain why individual differences in emotionality don’t explain the judgment severity of accidental harm. Second, when (accidental) harm results from an action, the transgression is judged more severely than when (accidental) harm results from an omission, an effect known as the “omission bias” (Baron & Ritov, 2004; Spranca et al., 1991). In our study, the victim’s harm resulted mostly from omissions. As a consequence, emotionality may have contributed less to the moral condemnation of harmful omissions than it would have for harmful actions.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Do Brain Implants Change Your Identity?

Christine Kenneally
The New Yorker
Originally posted 19 Apr 21

Here are two excerpts:

Today, at least two hundred thousand people worldwide, suffering from a wide range of conditions, live with a neural implant of some kind. In recent years, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Bryan Johnson, the founder of the payment-processing company Braintree, all announced neurotechnology projects for restoring or even enhancing human abilities. As we enter this new era of extra-human intelligence, it’s becoming apparent that many people develop an intense relationship with their device, often with profound effects on their sense of identity. These effects, though still little studied, are emerging as crucial to a treatment’s success.

The human brain is a small electrical device of super-galactic complexity. It contains an estimated hundred billion neurons, with many more links between them than there are stars in the Milky Way. Each neuron works by passing an electrical charge along its length, causing neurotransmitters to leap to the next neuron, which ignites in turn, usually in concert with many thousands of others. Somehow, human intelligence emerges from this constant, thrilling choreography. How it happens remains an almost total mystery, but it has become clear that neural technologies will be able to synch with the brain only if they learn the steps of this dance.

(cut)

For the great majority of patients, deep-brain stimulation was beneficial and life-changing, but there were occasional reports of strange behavioral reactions, such as hypomania and hypersexuality. Then, in 2006, a French team published a study about the unexpected consequences of otherwise successful implantations. Two years after a brain implant, sixty-five per cent of patients had a breakdown in their marriages or relationships, and sixty-four per cent wanted to leave their careers. Their intellect and their levels of anxiety and depression were the same as before, or, in the case of anxiety, had even improved, but they seemed to experience a fundamental estrangement from themselves. One felt like an electronic doll. Another said he felt like RoboCop, under remote control.

Gilbert describes himself as “an applied eliminativist.” He doesn’t believe in a soul, or a mind, at least as we normally think of them, and he strongly questions whether there is a thing you could call a self. He suspected that people whose marriages broke down had built their identities and their relationships around their pathologies. When those were removed, the relationships no longer worked. Gilbert began to interview patients. He used standardized questionnaires, a procedure that is methodologically vital for making dependable comparisons, but soon he came to feel that something about this unprecedented human experience was lost when individual stories were left out. The effects he was studying were inextricable from his subjects’ identities, even though those identities changed.

Many people reported that the person they were after treatment was entirely different from the one they’d been when they had only dreamed of relief from their symptoms. Some experienced an uncharacteristic buoyancy and confidence. One woman felt fifteen years younger and tried to lift a pool table, rupturing a disk in her back. One man noticed that his newfound confidence was making life hard for his wife; he was too “full-on.” Another woman became impulsive, walking ten kilometres to a psychologist’s appointment nine days after her surgery. She was unrecognizable to her family. They told her that they grieved for the old her.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

For Whom Does Determinism Undermine Moral Responsibility? Surveying the Conditions for Free Will Across Cultures

I. Hannikainen, et. al.
Front. Psychol., 05 November 2019
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02428

Abstract

Philosophers have long debated whether, if determinism is true, we should hold people morally responsible for their actions since in a deterministic universe, people are arguably not the ultimate source of their actions nor could they have done otherwise if initial conditions and the laws of nature are held fixed. To reveal how non-philosophers ordinarily reason about the conditions for free will, we conducted a cross-cultural and cross-linguistic survey (N = 5,268) spanning twenty countries and sixteen languages. Overall, participants tended to ascribe moral responsibility whether the perpetrator lacked sourcehood or alternate possibilities. However, for American, European, and Middle Eastern participants, being the ultimate source of one’s actions promoted perceptions of free will and control as well as ascriptions of blame and punishment. By contrast, being the source of one’s actions was not particularly salient to Asian participants. Finally, across cultures, participants exhibiting greater cognitive reflection were more likely to view free will as incompatible with causal determinism. We discuss these findings in light of documented cultural differences in the tendency toward dispositional versus situational attributions.

Discussion

At the aggregate level, we found that participants blamed and punished agents whether they only lacked alternate possibilities (Miller and Feltz, 2011) or whether they also lacked sourcehood (Nahmias et al., 2005; Nichols and Knobe, 2007). Thus, echoing early findings, laypeople did not take alternate possibilities or sourcehood as necessary conditions for free will and moral responsibility.

Yet, our study also revealed a dramatic cultural difference: Throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, participants viewed the perpetrator with sourcehood (in the CI scenario) as freer and more morally responsible than the perpetrator without sourcehood (in the AS scenario). Meanwhile, South and East Asian participants evaluated both perpetrators in a strikingly similar way. We interpreted these results in light of cultural variation in dispositional versus situational attributions (Miller, 1984; Morris and Peng, 1994; Choi et al., 1999; Chiu et al., 2000). From a dispositionist perspective, participants may be especially attuned to the absence of sourcehood: When an agent is the source of their action, people may naturally conjure dispositionist explanations that refer to her goals, desires (e.g., because “she wanted a new life”) or character (e.g., because “she is ruthless”). In contrast, when actions result from a causal chain originating at the beginning of the universe, explanations of this sort – implying sourcehood – seem particularly unsatisfactory and incomplete. In contrast, from a situationist perspective, whether the agent could be seen as the source of her action may be largely irrelevant: Instead, a situationist may think of others’ behavior as the product of extrinsic pressures – from momentary upheaval, to the way they were raised, social norms or fate – and thus perceive both agents, in the CI and AS cases, as similar in matters of free will and moral responsibility.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

When does empathy feel good?

Ferguson, A. M., Cameron, D., & Inzlicht, M. 
(2021, March 12). 
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/nfuz2

Abstract

Empathy has many benefits. When we are willing to empathize, we are more likely to act prosocially (and receive help from others in the future), to have satisfying relationships, and to be viewed as moral actors. Moreover, empathizing in certain contexts can actually feel good, regardless of the content of the emotion itself—for example, we might feel a sense of connection after empathizing with and supporting a grieving friend. Does this feeling come from empathy itself, or from its real and implied consequences? We suggest that the rewards that flow from empathy confound our experience of it, and that the pleasant feelings associated with engaging empathy are extrinsically tied to the results of some action, not to the experience of empathy itself. When we observe people’s decisions related to empathy in the absence of these acquired rewards, as we can in experimental settings, empathy appears decidedly less pleasant. Empathy has many benefits. When we are willing to empathize, we are more likely to act prosocially (and receive help from others in the future), to have satisfying relationships, and to be viewed as moral actors. Moreover, empathizing in certain contexts can actually feel good, regardless of the content of the emotion itself—for example, we might feel a sense of connection after empathizing with and supporting a grieving friend. Does this feeling come from empathy itself, or from its real and implied consequences? We suggest that the rewards that flow from empathy confound our experience of it, and that the pleasant feelings associated with engaging empathy are extrinsically tied to the results of some action, not to the experience of empathy itself. When we observe people’s decisions related to empathy in the absence of these acquired rewards, as we can in experimental settings, empathy appears decidedly less pleasant.

Friday, May 7, 2021

'Allergic reaction to US religious right' fueling decline of religion, experts say

Donald Trump with religious leaders for a national day of prayer in September 2017.
Adam Gabbatt
The Guardian
Originally published 5 Apr 21

Here is an excerpt:

“Many Americans – especially young people – see religion as bound up with political conservatism, and the Republican party specifically,” Campbell said.

“Since that is not their party, or their politics, they do not want to identify as being religious. Young people are especially allergic to the perception that many – but by no means all – American religions are hostile to LGBTQ rights.”

Research by Campbell shows that a growing number of Americans have turned away from religion as politicians – particularly Republicans – have mixed religion with their politics. Campbell says there has always been an ebb and flow in American adherence to religion, but he thinks the current decline is likely to continue.

“I see no sign that the religious right, and Christian nationalism, is fading. Which in turn suggests that the allergic reaction will continue to be seen – and thus more and more Americans will turn away from religion,” he said.

The number of people who identify as non-religious has grown steadily in recent decades, according to Michele Margolis, associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of From Politics to the Pews. More than 20% of all Americans are classed as “nones”, Margolis said, and more than a third of Americans under 30.

“That means non-identification is going to continue becoming a larger share of population over time as cohort replacement continues to occur,” Margolis said. But she agreed another factor is the rightwing’s infusion of politics with theism.

“As religion has been closed linked with conservative politics, we’ve had Democrats opting out of organized religion, or being less involved, and Republicans opting in,” she said.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

A chip off the (im)moral block? Lay beliefs about genetic heritability predicts whether family members’ actions affect self-judgments

Peetz, J., Wohl, M. J. A., Wilson, A. E., 
& Dawson, A. 
(2021, March 18).
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/nfk9e

Abstract

The idea of heritability may have consequences for individuals’ sense of self by connecting identity to the actions of others who happen to share genetic ties. Across seven experimental studies (total N=2,628), recalling morally bad or good actions by family members influenced individuals’ moral self among those who endorse a lay belief that moral character is genetically heritable, but not among those who did not endorse this belief (Study 1-5). In contrast, recalling actions by unrelated individuals had no effect, regardless of lay beliefs (Study 2, 5), the endorsement of other relevant lay beliefs did not moderate the effect of parent’s actions on self-judgments (Study 3). Individuals who endorsed heritability beliefs also chose less helpful responses to hypothetical helping scenarios if they had recalled unhelpful (vs. helpful) acts by a genetically-related family member (Study 5). Taken together, these studies suggest that lay beliefs in the role of genetics are important for self-perceptions.

General Discussion 

In the present research, we examined whether a person’s convictions about their own moral character might be shaped, in part, by the actions of others. Across seven studies, we found evidence that past actions by genetically related family members, and specifically parents, can influence an individual’s sense of moral self –but only if that individual believes that the critical aspect of the self (in our studies, moral character) is genetically inherited (Study 1-5). Past actions by genetically unrelated individuals such as friends or strangers (Study 2), and unrelated family members (Study 5) did not affect participants’ moral self-judgment in the same way, and other lay beliefs(i.e., socialization and the malleability of morality) did not moderate the influence of parents’ actions in the same way (Study 3).

Theoretical Contributions

Self and Identity

This research helps disentangle some of the questions about whether and when other people’s action may influence individuals’ self-concept.  Although the existing literature has demonstrated that the actions of others can indeed have an impact on the self (e.g., people may feel threatened, embarrassed, proud or guilty when reminded of the actions of others and may sometimes believe they will be judged on the basis of others’ actions), past work has not focused on how actions of others might affect self-concept. Further, prior research in this vein has not typically systematically considered whether the effects of others’ actions on the self is the result of that relation being chosen (i.e., friendship), being due to group membership, or being due to genetics(i.e., family). We extend past knowledge in this field by examining whether people’s beliefs about genetic heritability can determine the degree to which family members’ actions predict one’s own self-judgments.   

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Top German psychologist found to have fabricated data—University Investigation Finds Anxiety Expert Pressured Whistleblowers

Hristio Boytchev
Science  09 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6538, pp. 117-118
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6538.117

Here is an excerpt:

Wittchen was one of the top epidemiologists of psychiatry, and TU Dresden “has benefited greatly from him,” says Jürgen Margraf, a psychologist at Ruhr University, Bochum, who has collaborated with Wittchen. “If the commission’s findings turn out to be true, they are very disturbing for the entire field, and that would also have an impact on TU Dresden.” Thomas Pollmächer, director of the mental health center at Ingolstadt Hospital, says the allegations are “startling.” He worries about other possible irregularities in Wittchen’s extensive publication record. “Some time bombs may be ticking,” he says.

The study in question was a €2.4 million survey of staffing levels and quality at nearly 100 German psychiatric facilities. Working for TU Dresden’s Association for Knowledge and Technology Transfer (GWT), Wittchen was the principal investigator of the effort, which aimed to examine workloads at the clinics and inform government regulations.

But in February 2019, German media reported allegations, stemming from whistle-blowers close to the survey project, that study data had been fabricated. The university launched a formal investigation, led by law professor Hans-Heinrich Trute.

After 2 years of work, the commission, in its final report, has found that only 73 of 93 psychiatric clinics were actually surveyed. For the others, the report says, Wittchen instructed researchers to copy data from one clinic and apply them to another.

 “The violations were intentional, not negligent,” the report says. “Wittchen wanted to appear more successful than he was.”

Wittchen told Science he would not answer detailed questions “because they are the issue of legal proceedings.” But he denies any wrongdoing and says the study in question was “scientifically correct.”

The investigation report also shows how Wittchen sought to avoid repercussions. 

In April 2019, he sent an email to Hans Müller-Steinhagen, president of TU Dresden at the time, warning him to “stay out of the project” and stop the investigation, because otherwise there would be a “national political earthquake.” 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Human cells grown in monkey embryos reignite ethics debate

Nicola Davis
The Guardian
Originally published 15 Apr 21

Monkey embryos containing human cells have been produced in a laboratory, a study has confirmed, spurring fresh debate into the ethics of such experiments.

The embryos are known as chimeras, organisms whose cells come from two or more “individuals”, and in this case, different species: a long-tailed macaque and a human.

In recent years researchers have produced pig embryos and sheep embryos that contain human cells – research they say is important as it could one day allow them to grow human organs inside other animals, increasing the number of organs available for transplant.

Now scientists have confirmed they have produced macaque embryos that contain human cells, revealing the cells could survive and even multiply.

In addition, the researchers, led by Prof Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte from the Salk Institute in the US, said the results offer new insight into communications pathways between cells of different species: work that could help them with their efforts to make chimeras with species that are less closely related to our own.

“These results may help to better understand early human development and primate evolution and develop effective strategies to improve human chimerism in evolutionarily distant species,” the authors wrote.

The study confirms rumours reported in the Spanish newspaper El País in 2019 that a team of researchers led by Belmonte had produced monkey-human chimeras. The word chimera comes from a beast in Greek mythology that was said to be part lion, part goat and part snake.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Are Conspiracy Theories Harmless?

Douglas, K. M.
The Spanish Journal of Psychology
(2021). 24, e13, 1-7.

Abstract

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the consequences of conspiracy theories and the COVID–19 pandemic raised this interest to another level. In this article, I will outline what we know about the consequences of conspiracy theories for individuals, groups, and society, arguing that they are certainly not harmless. In particular, research suggests that conspiracy theories are associated with political apathy, support for non-normative political action, climate denial, vaccine refusal, prejudice, crime, violence, disengagement in the workplace, and reluctance to adhere to COVID–19 recommendations. In this article, I will also discuss the challenges of dealing with the negative consequences of conspiracy theories, which present some opportunities for future research.

Conclusions

Conspiracy theories are associated with a range of negative consequences for political engagement, political behavior, climate engagement, trust in science, vaccine uptake, civic behavior, work-related behavior, inter-group relations, and more recently the COVID-19 response.  A significant challenge for researchers is to learn how to deal with conspiracy theories and their associated effects.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Quest to Tell Science from Pseudoscience

Michael D. Gordin
Boston Review
Originally published 23 Mar 21

Here is an excerpt:

Two incidents sparked a reevaluation. The first was the Soviet Union’s launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, on October 4, 1957. The success triggered an extensive discussion about whether the United States had fallen behind in science education, and reform proposals were mooted for many different areas. Then the centenary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) prompted biologists to decry that “one hundred years without Darwinism are enough!” The Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, an educational center funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, recommended an overhaul of secondary school education in the life sciences, with Darwinism (and human evolution) given a central place.

The cease-fire between the evolutionists and Christian fundamentalists had been broken. In the 1960s religious groups countered with a series of laws insisting on “equal time”: if Darwinism (or “evolution science”) was required, then it should be balanced with an equivalent theory, “creation science.” Cases from both Arkansas and Louisiana made it to the appellate courts in the early 1980s. The first, McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, saw a host of expert witnesses spar over whether Darwinism was science, whether creation science also met the definition of science, and the limits of the Constitution’s establishment clause. A crucial witness for the evolutionists was Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph in Ontario. Ruse testified to several different demarcation criteria and contended that accounts of the origins of humanity based on Genesis could not satisfy them. One of the criteria he floated was Popper’s.

Judge William Overton, in his final decision in January 1982, cited Ruse’s testimony when he argued that falsifiability was a standard for determining whether a doctrine was science—and that scientific creationism did not meet it. (Ruse walked his testimony back a decade later.) Overton’s appellate court decision was expanded by the U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), the Louisiana case; the result was that Popper’s falsifiability was incorporated as a demarcation criterion in a slew of high school biology texts. No matter that the standard was recognized as bad philosophy; as a matter of legal doctrine it was enshrined. (In his 2005 appellate court decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Judge John E. Jones III modified the legal demarcation standards by eschewing Popper and promoting several less sharp but more apposite criteria while deliberating over the teaching of a doctrine known as “intelligent design,” a successor of creationism crafted to evade the precedent of Edwards.)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Could you hate a robot? And does it matter if you could?

Ryland, H. 
AI & Soc (2021).
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01173-5

Abstract

This article defends two claims. First, humans could be in relationships characterised by hate with some robots. Second, it matters that humans could hate robots, as this hate could wrong the robots (by leaving them at risk of mistreatment, exploitation, etc.). In defending this second claim, I will thus be accepting that morally considerable robots either currently exist, or will exist in the near future, and so it can matter (morally speaking) how we treat these robots. The arguments presented in this article make an important original contribution to the robo-philosophy literature, and particularly the literature on human–robot relationships (which typically only consider positive relationship types, e.g., love, friendship, etc.). Additionally, as explained at the end of the article, my discussions of robot hate could also have notable consequences for the emerging robot rights movement. Specifically, I argue that understanding human–robot relationships characterised by hate could actually help theorists argue for the rights of robots.

Conclusion

This article has argued for two claims. First, humans could be in relationships characterised by hate with morally considerable robots. Second, it matters that humans could hate these robots. This is at least partly because such hateful relations could have long-term negative effects for the robot (e.g., by encouraging bad will towards the robots). The article ended by explaining how discussions of human–robot relationships characterised by hate are connected to discussions of robot rights. I argued that the conditions for a robot being an object of hate and for having rights are the same—being sufficiently person-like. I then suggested how my discussions of human–robot relationships characterised by hate could be used to support, rather than undermine, the robot rights movement.