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Monday, August 30, 2021

Why a Virtual Assistant for Moral Enhancement When We Could have a Socrates?

Lara, F. 
Sci Eng Ethics 27, 42 (2021). 


Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) be more effective than human instruction for the moral enhancement of people? The author argues that it only would be if the use of this technology were aimed at increasing the individual's capacity to reflectively decide for themselves, rather than at directly influencing behaviour. To support this, it is shown how a disregard for personal autonomy, in particular, invalidates the main proposals for applying new technologies, both biomedical and AI-based, to moral enhancement. As an alternative to these proposals, this article proposes a virtual assistant that, through dialogue, neutrality and virtual reality technologies, can teach users to make better moral decisions on their own. The author concludes that, as long as certain precautions are taken in its design, such an assistant could do this better than a human instructor adopting the same educational methodology.

From the Conclusion

The key in moral education is that it be pursued while respecting and promoting personal autonomy. Educators should avoid the mistake of limiting the capacities of individuals to freely and reflectively determine their own values by attempting to enhance their behaviour directly. On the contrary, they must do what they can to ensure that those being educated, at least at an advanced age, actively participate in this process in order to assume the values that will define them and give meaning to their lives. The problem with current proposals for moral enhancement through new technologies is that they treat the subject of their interventions as a "passive recipient". Moral bioenhancement does so because it aims to change the motivation of the individual by bypassing the reflection and gradual assimilation of values that should accompany any adoption of new identity traits. This constitutes a passivity that would also occur in proposals for moral AIenhancement based on ethical machines that either replace humans in decision-making, or surreptitiously direct them to do the right thing, or simply advise them based on their own supposedly undisputed values.