Aimee van Wynsberghe: The Ethics of Ethical Robots
17 March 2017, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EDT
Robots are no longer fuel for the imagination of science fiction writers; they are now a part of our personal and professional lives and will become increasingly so in the years to come. They are already a part of surgical procedures and are delivering sheets and medications throughout the hospital. They are becoming a piece of the average construction site and they assist in farming and agriculture. They help in humanitarian endeavors for the protection of endangered species and they provide supplies in times of natural disasters. Given the often morally charged contexts within which these robots are being placed, many researchers believe that certain robots ought to be endowed with moral reasoning capabilities. This would allow the robot to make an ethical decision on its own, without the direct input from a human operator. The nascent field of machine ethics is dedicated to the question of “moral machines”, namely can it be done and if so how? Moral Philosopher Susan Leigh Anderson, one of the pioneers of the field, writes: “the ultimate goal of machine ethics…is to create autonomous ethical machines”. This would mean that your autonomous car will be capable of deliberating who to kill in an emergency situation: the child crossing the street or the driver in the car? This may also mean that the home care robot will ponder the rights and wrongs of fulfilling your request for an evening brandy if you have already had one and its programming warns against another. Alongside the consequences for the human users of these moral machines are the broader societal and legal considerations of creating an artificial moral agent in terms of its status in society: as a slave to humans or as a member of our moral community deserving of rights, freedoms and protections? This talk will present the domain of machine ethics; what is it and what are the consequences of creating moral machines. The core of this talk will focus on the question of whether or not we should develop moral machines rather than how we might do this.
Aimee van Wynsberghe is assistant professor of ethics and technology at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands. She is co-founder and president of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics. She is also a member of the 4TU center for ethics and technology where she heads the robotics task force. With the help of an NWO personal research grant she is researching how we can responsibly design service robots. Her past research looked at evaluating and designing care robots.
Read more about Aimee van Wynsberghe.
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Photo credit: Elias Gayles (license)