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Should we create artificial moral agents? A Critical Analysis

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I recently encountered an interesting argument. It was given in the midst of one of those never-ending Twitter debates about the ethics of AI and robotics. I won’t say who made the argument (to be honest, I can’t remember) but the gist of it was that we shouldn’t create robots with ethical decision-making capacity. I found this intriguing because, on the face of it, it sounds like a near-impossible demand. My intuitive reaction was that any robot embedded in a social context, with a minimal degree of autonomous agency, would have to have some ethical decision-making capacity.Twitter is not the best forum for debating these ideas. Neither the original argument nor my intuitive reaction to it was worked out in any great detail. But it got me thinking. I knew there was a growing literature on both the possibility and desirability of creating ethical robots (or ‘artificial moral agents’ - AMAs - as some people call them). So I decided to read around a bit. My reading eventually led me to an article by Amanda Sharkey called ‘Can we program or train robots to be good?’, which provided the inspiration for the remainder of what you are about to read.Let me start by saying that this is a good article. In it, Sharkey presents an informative and detailed review of the existing literature on AMAs. If you want to get up to speed on the current thinking, I highly recommend it. But it doesn’t end there. Sharkey also defends her own views about the possibility and desirability of creating an AMA. In short, she argues that it is probably not possible and definitely not desirable. One of the chief virtues of Sharkey’s argumentative approach is that it focuses on existing work in robotics and not so much on speculative future technologies.In what follows I want to critically analyse Sharkey’s main claims. I do so because, although I agree with some of what she has to say, I find that I am still fond of my intuitive reaction to the Twitter argument. As an exercise in self-education, I. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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