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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Delphi: Towards Machine Ethics and Norms

Jiang, L., et al. (2021). 
ArXiv, abs/2110.07574.

What would it take to teach a machine to behave ethically? While broad ethical rules may seem straightforward to state ("thou shalt not kill"), applying such rules to real-world situations is far more complex. For example, while "helping a friend" is generally a good thing to do, "helping a friend spread fake news" is not. We identify four underlying challenges towards machine ethics and norms: (1) an understanding of moral precepts and social norms; (2) the ability to perceive real-world situations visually or by reading natural language descriptions; (3) commonsense reasoning to anticipate the outcome of alternative actions in different contexts; (4) most importantly, the ability to make ethical judgments given the interplay between competing values and their grounding in different contexts (e.g., the right to freedom of expression vs. preventing the spread of fake news).

Our paper begins to address these questions within the deep learning paradigm. Our prototype model, Delphi, demonstrates strong promise of language-based commonsense moral reasoning, with up to 92.1% accuracy vetted by humans. This is in stark contrast to the zero-shot performance of GPT-3 of 52.3%, which suggests that massive scale alone does not endow pre-trained neural language models with human values. Thus, we present Commonsense Norm Bank, a moral textbook customized for machines, which compiles 1.7M examples of people's ethical judgments on a broad spectrum of everyday situations. In addition to the new resources and baseline performances for future research, our study provides new insights that lead to several important open research questions: differentiating between universal human values and personal values, modeling different moral frameworks, and explainable, consistent approaches to machine ethics.

From the Conclusion

Delphi’s impressive performance on machine moral reasoning under diverse compositional real-life situations, highlights the importance of developing high-quality human-annotated datasets for people’s moral judgments. Finally, we demonstrate through systematic probing that Delphi still struggles with situations dependent on time or diverse cultures, and situations with social and demographic bias implications. We discuss the capabilities and limitations of Delphi throughout this paper and identify key directions in machine ethics for future work. We hope that our work opens up important avenues for future research in the emerging field of machine ethics, and we encourage collective efforts from our research community to tackle these research challenges.