While the rest of us are still taking baby steps towards the solution of bioethical conundrums involving unborn people, sick people and dying people, more adventurous minds are pole-vaulting ahead to create a bioethics for machines. The recent Singularity Summit in San Francisco, an annual event held to discuss how to prepare for a super-human artificial intelligence which will make human intelligence irrelevant, featured a serious discussion of machine morality.
Wendell Wallach, of Yale University, is trying to create Artificial Moral Agents (AMAs) which have supra-rational faculties. In some respects, they might even be more moral than men. "Is the absence of a nervous system subject to emotional hijacking a moral advantage?" asked Wallach. However, he acknowledged that programming computers with emotions, sociability, embodiment of the world, empathy, consciousness and theory of mind will be extremely challenging.
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