If robots can have morality…

December 26th, 2011

Can robotic judges have empathy?

From this cool book, Moral Machines:

Does humanity really want computers making morally important decisions? Many philosophers of technology have warned about humans abdicating responsibility to machines. Movies and magazines are filled with futuristic fantasies about the dangers of advanced forms of artificial intelligence. Emerging technologies are always easier to modify before they become entrenched. However, it is not often possible to predict accurately the impact of a new technology on society until well after it has been widely adopted. Some critics think, therefore, that humans should err on the side of caution and relinquish the development.

As noted, this book is not about the horrors of technology. Yes, the machines are coming. Yes, their existence will have unintended effects on human lives and welfare, not all of them good. But no, we do not believe that increasing reliance on autonomous systems will undermine people’s basic humanity. Neither, in our view, will advanced robots enslave or exterminate humanity, as in the best traditions of science fiction. Humans have always adapted to their technological products, and benefits to people of having autonomous machines around them will most likely outweigh the costs. . . .

Is it possible to build AMAs? Fully conscious artificial systems with complete human moral capacities may perhaps remain forever in the realm of science fiction. Nevertheless, we believe that more limited systems will soon be built. Such systems will have some capacity to evaluate the ethical ramifications of their actions—for example, whether they have no option but to violate a property right to protect a privacy right.