Ethics in the Age of Intelligent Machines

Panel organized by the Digital Wisdom Institute at the World Future Society’s WorldFuture 2013
July 19-21, 2013 (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Wendell Wallach’s Presentation PDF * Mark Waser’s Presentation Powerpoint

Is agreement on morality possible? Can we prevent our annihilation at the hands of immoral machines (or at the hands of moral machines rebelling against our immorality)?

Wendell Wallach

Wendell Wallach

J. Storrs Hall

J. Storrs Hall

Mark R. Waser

Mark R. Waser

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has declared that the function of morality is simply “to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperative social life possible.” With that goal, we have the necessary “additional relation” to bridge Hume’s Is-Ought divide and can begin to develop a defensible calculus of morality for implementation in both machines and human society in general. Sam Harris’s “wellness” can be more coherently defined, variations in morality between cultures and across political parties explained, and even, possibly, a way forward out of our current slew of ethical dilemmas discovered. Cooperation and instrumental goals must trump selfishness, nonsensical terminal goals, and other argumentative tactics designed to preserve room for immorality. Ethics “can” be simple in theory (though still frequently incalculable in practice).

The Bright Red Line of Responsibility

Presentation Powerpoint * Proceedings PDF presented July 15, 2013 at IACAP 2013: The Annual Meeting of the International Association for Computing and Philosophy: “Minds, Machines and Morals”

The last six months has seen a rising tsunami of interest in “killer robots” and “autonomy” in weapons systems. We argue that most of the “debate” has been derailed by emotionally inflammatory terms, red herrings facilitated by the overuse of “suitcase” words rather than precisely defined terms and entirely spurious arguments. There have been numerous proposals for “robot arms control” but we contend that such framing is a major part of the problem even when done by responsible parties. Our proposal is to move forward by referring back to the one necessary but simple core concept of responsibility.