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  • Cited by 8
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2011

26 - Prospects for a Kantian Machine

from PART IV - APPROACHES TO MACHINE ETHICS

Summary

One way to view the puzzle of machine ethics is to consider how we might program computers that will themselves refrain from evil and perhaps promote good. Consider some steps along the way to that goal. Humans have many ways to be ethical or unethical by means of an artifact or tool; they can quell a senseless riot by broadcasting a speech on television or use a hammer to kill someone. We get closer to machine ethics when the tool is a computer that's programmed to effect good as a result of the programmer's intentions. But to be ethical in a deeper sense – to be ethical in themselves – machines must have something like practical reasoning that results in action that causes or avoids morally relevant harm or benefit. So, the central question of machine ethics asks whether the machine could exhibit a simulacrum of ethical deliberation. It will be no slight to the machine if all it achieves is a simulacrum. It could be that a great many humans do no better.

Rule-based ethical theories like Immanuel Kant's appear to be promising for machine ethics because they offer a computational structure for judgment.

Of course, philosophers have long disagreed about what constitutes proper ethical deliberation in humans. The utilitarian tradition holds that it's essentially arithmetic: we reach the right ethical conclusion by calculating the prospective utility for all individuals who will be affected by a set of possible actions and then choosing the action that promises to maximize total utility.

References
Kant, I., Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, translated by Ellington, J., Hackett, 1981.
Kant, I., Bemerkungen in den “Beobachtun- gen über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen” [Unpublished Notes on “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime”], Felix-Meiner Verlag, 1991 (in German, translated by the author).
O'Neill, O., Constructions of Reason, Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Horty, J., Agency and Deontic Logic, Oxford University Press, 2001.
Silber, J., “Procedural Formalism in Kant's Ethics,” Review of Metaphysics, vol. 28,1974, pp. 197–236.
Rawls, J., “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory,” J. Philosophy, vol. 77, no. 9, 1980, pp. 515–572.
Reiter, R., “A Logic for Default Reasoning,” Artificial Intelligence, vol. 13, 1980, pp. 81–132.
Poole, D., “Default Logic,” Handbook of Logic in Artificial Intelligence and Logic Pro gramming, Gabbay, D., Hogger, C., and Robinson, J., eds., Oxford, University Press, 1994.
Gärdenfors, P., Knowledge in Flux: Modeling the Dynamics of Epistemic States, MIT Press, 1988.