Ethics of artificial intelligence
The ethics of artificial intelligence is the part of the ethics of technology specific to robots and other artificially intelligent beings. It is typically divided into roboethics, a concern with the moral behavior of humans as they design, construct, use and treat artificially intelligent beings, and machine ethics, which is concerned with the moral behavior of artificial moral agents (AMAs).
The term "robot ethics" (sometimes "roboethics") refers to the morality of how humans design, construct, use and treat robots and other artificially intelligent beings. It considers both how artificially intelligent beings may be used to harm humans and how they may be used to benefit humans.
"Robot rights" is the concept that people should have moral obligations towards their machines, similar to human rights or animal rights. It has been suggested that robot rights, such as a right to exist and perform its own mission, could be linked to robot duty to serve human, by analogy with linking human rights to human duties before society. These could include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression and equality before the law. The issue has been considered by the Institute for the Future and by the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry.
Experts disagree whether specific and detailed laws will be required soon or safely in the distant future. Glenn McGee reports that sufficiently humanoid robots may appear by 2020. Ray Kurzweil sets the date at 2029. Another group of scientists meeting in 2007 supposed that at least 50 years had to pass before any sufficiently advanced system would exist.
The rules for the 2003 Loebner Prize competition envisioned the possibility of robots having rights of their own:
61. If, in any given year, a publicly available open source Entry entered by the University of Surrey or the Cambridge Center wins the Silver Medal or the Gold Medal, then the Medal and the Cash Award will be awarded to the body responsible for the development of that Entry. If no such body can be identified, or if there is disagreement among two or more claimants, the Medal and the Cash Award will be held in trust until such time as the Entry may legally possess, either in the United States of America or in the venue of the contest, the Cash Award and Gold Medal in its own right.
In October 2017, the android Sophia was granted "honorary" citizenship in Saudi Arabia, though some observers found this to be more of a publicity stunt than a meaningful legal recognition. Some saw this gesture as openly denigrating of human rights and the rule of law.
The philosophy of Sentientism grants degrees of moral consideration to all sentient beings, primarily humans and most non-human animals. If artificial or alien intelligences show evidence of being sentient, this philosophy holds that they should be shown compassion and granted rights.
Threat to human dignity
Joseph Weizenbaum argued in 1976 that AI technology should not be used to replace people in positions that require respect and care, such as any of these:
- A customer service representative (AI technology is already used today for telephone-based interactive voice response systems)
- A therapist (as was proposed by Kenneth Colby in the 1970s)
- A nursemaid for the elderly (as was reported by Pamela McCorduck in her book The Fifth Generation)
- A soldier
- A judge
- A police officer
Weizenbaum explains that we require authentic feelings of empathy from people in these positions. If machines replace them, we will find ourselves alienated, devalued and frustrated. Artificial intelligence, if used in this way, represents a threat to human dignity. Weizenbaum argues that the fact that we are entertaining the possibility of machines in these positions suggests that we have experienced an "atrophy of the human spirit that comes from thinking of ourselves as computers."
Pamela McCorduck counters that, speaking for women and minorities "I'd rather take my chances with an impartial computer," pointing out that there are conditions where we would prefer to have automated judges and police that have no personal agenda at all. However, Kaplan and Haenlein stress that AI systems are only as smart as the data used to train them since they are, in their essence, nothing more than fancy curve-fitting machines: Using AI to support a court ruling can be highly problematic if past rulings show bias toward certain groups since those biases get formalized and engrained, which makes them even more difficult to spot and fight against. AI founder John McCarthy objects to the moralizing tone of Weizenbaum's critique. "When moralizing is both vehement and vague, it invites authoritarian abuse," he writes.
Transparency, accountability, and open source
Bill Hibbard argues that because AI will have such a profound effect on humanity, AI developers are representatives of future humanity and thus have an ethical obligation to be transparent in their efforts. Ben Goertzel and David Hart created OpenCog as an open source framework for AI development. OpenAI is a non-profit AI research company created by Elon Musk, Sam Altman and others to develop open source AI beneficial to humanity. There are numerous other open source AI developments.
Unfortunately, making code open source does not make it comprehensible, which by many definitions means that the AI it codes is not transparent. The IEEE has a standardisation effort on AI transparency  The IEEE effort identifies multiple scales of transparency for different users. Further, there is concern that releasing the full capacity of contemporary AI to some organisations may be a public bad, that is, do more damage than good. For example, Microsoft has expressed concern about allowing universal access to its face recognition software, even for those who can pay for it. Microsoft posted an extraordinary blog on this topic, asking for government regulation to help determine the right thing to do.
Not only companies, but many other researchers and citizen advocates recommend government regulation as a means of ensuring transparency, and through it, human accountability. This strategy has proven controversial, as some worry that it will slow the rate of innovation. Others argue that regulation leads to systemic stability more able to support innovation in the long term. The OECD, UN, EU, and many countries are presently working on strategies for regulating AI, and finding appropriate legal frameworks.
Weaponization of artificial intelligence
Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions. The US Navy has funded a report which indicates that as military robots become more complex, there should be greater attention to implications of their ability to make autonomous decisions. One researcher states that autonomous robots might be more humane, as they could make decisions more effectively.
Within this last decade, there has been intensive research in autonomous power with the ability to learn using assigned moral responsibilities. "The results may be used when designing future military robots, to control unwanted tendencies to assign responsibility to the robots." From a consequentialist view, there is a chance that robots will develop the ability to make their own logical decisions on who to kill and that is why there should be a set moral framework that the A.I cannot override.
There has been a recent outcry with regard to the engineering of artificial-intelligence weapons that has included ideas of a robot takeover of mankind. AI weapons do present a type of danger different from that of human-controlled weapons. Many governments have begun to fund programs to develop AI weaponry. The United States Navy recently announced plans to develop autonomous drone weapons, paralleling similar announcements by Russia and Korea respectively. Due to the potential of AI weapons becoming more dangerous than human-operated weapons, Stephen Hawking and Max Tegmark signed a "Future of Life" petition to ban AI weapons. The message posted by Hawking and Tegmark states that AI weapons pose an immediate danger and that action is required to avoid catastrophic disasters in the near future.
"If any major military power pushes ahead with the AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow", says the petition, which includes Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn and MIT professor of linguistics Noam Chomsky as additional supporters against AI weaponry.
Physicist and Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees has warned of catastrophic instances like "dumb robots going rogue or a network that develops a mind of its own." Huw Price, a colleague of Rees at Cambridge, has voiced a similar warning that humans might not survive when intelligence "escapes the constraints of biology." These two professors created the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University in the hope of avoiding this threat to human existence.
Regarding the potential for smarter-than-human systems to be employed militarily, the Open Philanthropy Project writes that these scenarios "seem potentially as important as the risks related to loss of control", but that research organizations investigating AI's long-run social impact have spent relatively little time on this concern: "this class of scenarios has not been a major focus for the organizations that have been most active in this space, such as the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) and the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI), and there seems to have been less analysis and debate regarding them".
Machine ethics (or machine morality) is the field of research concerned with designing Artificial Moral Agents (AMAs), robots or artificially intelligent computers that behave morally or as though moral. To account for the nature of these agents, it has been suggested to consider certain philosophical ideas, like the standard characterizations of agency, rational agency, moral agency, and artificial agency, which are related to the concept of AMAs.
Isaac Asimov considered the issue in the 1950s in his I, Robot. At the insistence of his editor John W. Campbell Jr., he proposed the Three Laws of Robotics to govern artificially intelligent systems. Much of his work was then spent testing the boundaries of his three laws to see where they would break down, or where they would create paradoxical or unanticipated behavior. His work suggests that no set of fixed laws can sufficiently anticipate all possible circumstances. More recently, academics and many governments have challenged the idea that AI can itself be held accountable. A panel convened by the United Kingdom in 2010 revised Asimov's laws to clarify that AI is the responsibility either of its manufacturers, or of its owner/operator.
In 2009, during an experiment at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne in Switzerland, robots that were programmed to cooperate with each other (in searching out a beneficial resource and avoiding a poisonous one) eventually learned to lie to each other in an attempt to hoard the beneficial resource. One problem in this case may have been that the goals were "terminal" (i.e. in contrast, ultimate human motives typically have a quality of requiring never-ending learning).
Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions. The US Navy has funded a report which indicates that as military robots become more complex, there should be greater attention to implications of their ability to make autonomous decisions. The President of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence has commissioned a study to look at this issue. They point to programs like the Language Acquisition Device which can emulate human interaction.
Vernor Vinge has suggested that a moment may come when some computers are smarter than humans. He calls this "the Singularity." He suggests that it may be somewhat or possibly very dangerous for humans. This is discussed by a philosophy called Singularitarianism. The Machine Intelligence Research Institute has suggested a need to build "Friendly AI", meaning that the advances which are already occurring with AI should also include an effort to make AI intrinsically friendly and humane.
In 2009, academics and technical experts attended a conference organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence to discuss the potential impact of robots and computers and the impact of the hypothetical possibility that they could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the possibility and the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire any level of autonomy, and to what degree they could use such abilities to possibly pose any threat or hazard. They noted that some machines have acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including being able to find power sources on their own and being able to independently choose targets to attack with weapons. They also noted that some computer viruses can evade elimination and have achieved "cockroach intelligence." They noted that self-awareness as depicted in science-fiction is probably unlikely, but that there were other potential hazards and pitfalls.
However, there is one technology in particular that could truly bring the possibility of robots with moral competence to reality. In a paper on the acquisition of moral values by robots, Nayef Al-Rodhan mentions the case of neuromorphic chips, which aim to process information similarly to humans, nonlinearly and with millions of interconnected artificial neurons. Robots embedded with neuromorphic technology could learn and develop knowledge in a uniquely humanlike way. Inevitably, this raises the question of the environment in which such robots would learn about the world and whose morality they would inherit - or if they end up developing human 'weaknesses' as well: selfishness, a pro-survival attitude, hesitation etc.
In Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen conclude that attempts to teach robots right from wrong will likely advance understanding of human ethics by motivating humans to address gaps in modern normative theory and by providing a platform for experimental investigation. As one example, it has introduced normative ethicists to the controversial issue of which specific learning algorithms to use in machines. Nick Bostrom and Eliezer Yudkowsky have argued for decision trees (such as ID3) over neural networks and genetic algorithms on the grounds that decision trees obey modern social norms of transparency and predictability (e.g. stare decisis), while Chris Santos-Lang argued in the opposite direction on the grounds that the norms of any age must be allowed to change and that natural failure to fully satisfy these particular norms has been essential in making humans less vulnerable to criminal "hackers".
Many researchers have argued that, by way of an "intelligence explosion" sometime in the 21st century, a self-improving AI could become so vastly more powerful than humans that we would not be able to stop it from achieving its goals. In his paper "Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence," philosopher Nick Bostrom argues that artificial intelligence has the capability to bring about human extinction. He claims that general super-intelligence would be capable of independent initiative and of making its own plans, and may therefore be more appropriately thought of as an autonomous agent. Since artificial intellects need not share our human motivational tendencies, it would be up to the designers of the super-intelligence to specify its original motivations. In theory, a super-intelligent AI would be able to bring about almost any possible outcome and to thwart any attempt to prevent the implementation of its top goal, many uncontrolled unintended consequences could arise. It could kill off all other agents, persuade them to change their behavior, or block their attempts at interference.
However, instead of overwhelming the human race and leading to our destruction, Bostrom has also asserted that super-intelligence can help us solve many difficult problems such as disease, poverty, and environmental destruction, and could help us to “enhance” ourselves.
The sheer complexity of human value systems makes it very difficult to make AI's motivations human-friendly. Unless moral philosophy provides us with a flawless ethical theory, an AI's utility function could allow for many potentially harmful scenarios that conform with a given ethical framework but not "common sense". According to Eliezer Yudkowsky, there is little reason to suppose that an artificially designed mind would have such an adaptation.
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Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft have established a non-profit partnership to formulate best practices on artificial intelligence technologies, advance the public's understanding, and to serve as a platform about artificial intelligence. They stated: "This partnership on AI will conduct research, organize discussions, provide thought leadership, consult with relevant third parties, respond to questions from the public and media, and create educational material that advance the understanding of AI technologies including machine perception, learning, and automated reasoning." Apple joined other tech companies as a founding member of the Partnership on AI in January 2017. The corporate members will make financial and research contributions to the group, while engaging with the scientific community to bring academics onto the board.
The IEEE put together a Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems which has been creating and revising guidelines with the help of public input, and accepts as members many professionals from within and without its organisation.
Traditionally, government has been used by societies to ensure ethics are observed through legislation and policing. There are now many efforts by national governments, as well as transnational government and non-government organisations to ensure AI is ethically applied.
- The European Commission has a High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence.
- The OECD on Artificial Intelligence
- In the United States the Obama administration put together a Roadmap for AI Policy (link is to Harvard Business Review's account of it. The Obama Administration released two prominent whitepapers on the future and impact of AI. The Trump administration has not been actively engaged in AI regulation to date (January 2019).
The movie The Thirteenth Floor suggests a future where simulated worlds with sentient inhabitants are created by computer game consoles for the purpose of entertainment. The movie The Matrix suggests a future where the dominant species on planet Earth are sentient machines and humanity is treated with utmost Speciesism. The short story "The Planck Dive" suggest a future where humanity has turned itself into software that can be duplicated and optimized and the relevant distinction between types of software is sentient and non-sentient. The same idea can be found in the Emergency Medical Hologram of Starship Voyager, which is an apparently sentient copy of a reduced subset of the consciousness of its creator, Dr. Zimmerman, who, for the best motives, has created the system to give medical assistance in case of emergencies. The movies Bicentennial Man and A.I. deal with the possibility of sentient robots that could love. I, Robot explored some aspects of Asimov's three laws. All these scenarios try to foresee possibly unethical consequences of the creation of sentient computers.
The ethics of artificial intelligence is one of several core themes in BioWare's Mass Effect series of games. It explores the scenario of a civilization accidentally creating AI through a rapid increase in computational power through a global scale neural network. This event caused an ethical schism between those who felt bestowing organic rights upon the newly sentient Geth was appropriate and those who continued to see them as disposable machinery and fought to destroy them. Beyond the initial conflict, the complexity of the relationship between the machines and their creators is another ongoing theme throughout the story.
Over time, debates have tended to focus less and less on possibility and more on desirability, as emphasized in the "Cosmist" and "Terran" debates initiated by Hugo de Garis and Kevin Warwick. A Cosmist, according to Hugo de Garis, is actually seeking to build more intelligent successors to the human species.
- Algorithmic bias
- Artificial consciousness
- Artificial general intelligence (AGI)
- Effective altruism, the long term future and global catastrophic risks
- Global catastrophic risk
- Existential risk from artificial general intelligence
- Laws of Robotics
- Philosophy of artificial intelligence
- Robotic Governance
- Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
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- Joanna Bryson
- Luciano Floridi
- Ray Kurzweil
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- Peter Norvig
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- Stuart J. Russell
- Anders Sandberg
- Eliezer Yudkowsky
- Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
- Future of Humanity Institute
- Future of Life Institute
- Machine Intelligence Research Institute
- Partnership on AI
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