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Sunday, November 26, 2023

How robots can learn to follow a moral code

Neil Savage
Originally posted 26 OCT 23

Here is an excerpt:

Defining ethics

The ability to fine-tune an AI system’s behaviour to promote certain values has inevitably led to debates on who gets to play the moral arbiter. Vosoughi suggests that his work could be used to allow societies to tune models to their own taste — if a community provides examples of its moral and ethical values, then with these techniques it could develop an LLM more aligned with those values, he says. However, he is well aware of the possibility for the technology to be used for harm. “If it becomes a free for all, then you’d be competing with bad actors trying to use our technology to push antisocial views,” he says.

Precisely what constitutes an antisocial view or unethical behaviour, however, isn’t always easy to define. Although there is widespread agreement about many moral and ethical issues — the idea that your car shouldn’t run someone over is pretty universal — on other topics there is strong disagreement, such as abortion. Even seemingly simple issues, such as the idea that you shouldn’t jump a queue, can be more nuanced than is immediately obvious, says Sydney Levine, a cognitive scientist at the Allen Institute. If a person has already been served at a deli counter but drops their spoon while walking away, most people would agree it’s okay to go back for a new one without waiting in line again, so the rule ‘don’t cut the line’ is too simple.

One potential approach for dealing with differing opinions on moral issues is what Levine calls a moral parliament. “This problem of who gets to decide is not just a problem for AI. It’s a problem for governance of a society,” she says. “We’re looking to ideas from governance to help us think through these AI problems.” Similar to a political assembly or parliament, she suggests representing multiple different views in an AI system. “We can have algorithmic representations of different moral positions,” she says. The system would then attempt to calculate what the likely consensus would be on a given issue, based on a concept from game theory called cooperative bargaining.

Here is my summary:

Autonomous robots will need to be able to make ethical decisions in order to safely and effectively interact with humans and the world around them.

The article proposes a number of ways that robots can be taught to follow a moral code. One approach is to use supervised learning, in which robots are trained on a dataset of moral dilemmas and their corresponding solutions. Another approach is to use reinforcement learning, in which robots are rewarded for making ethical decisions and punished for making unethical decisions.

The article also discusses the challenges of teaching robots to follow a moral code. One challenge is that moral codes are often complex and nuanced, and it can be difficult to define them in a way that can be understood by a robot. Another challenge is that moral codes can vary across cultures, and it is important to develop robots that can adapt to different moral frameworks.

The article concludes by arguing that teaching robots to follow a moral code is an important ethical challenge that we need to address as we develop more sophisticated artificial intelligence systems.