September 27, 2022

IS YOUR TOASTER A MORAL AGENT?

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.