Log In / Edit





Fair Use Notice

© AAAI 2000-2008


  • pmwiki-2.2.0-beta65

edit SideBar

Ethical & Social Implications

Any sci-fi buff knows that when computers become self-aware, they ultimately destroy their creators. From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Terminator, the message is clear: The only good self-aware machine is an unplugged one. We may soon find out whether that's true. ... But what about HAL 9000 and the other fictional computers that have run amok? "In any kind of technology there are risks," [Ron] Brachman acknowledges. That's why DARPA is reaching out to neurologists, psychologists - even philosophers - as well as computer scientists. "We're not stumbling down some blind alley," he says. "We're very cognizant of these issues."
- Good Morning, Dave... The Defense Department is working on a self-aware computer. By Kathleen Melymuka. Computerworld (November 11, 2002)

With respect to social consequences, I believe that every researcher has some responsibility to assess, and try to inform others of, the possible social consequences of the research products he is trying to create.
- from Herbert A. Simon's autobiography, Models of My Life

"Technology is heading here. It will predictably get to the point of making artificial intelligence," [Eliezer] Yudkowsky said. "The mere fact that you cannot predict exactly when it will happen down to the day is no excuse for closing your eyes and refusing to think about it."
- Techies ponder computers smarter than us. By Marcus Wohlsen. The Associated Press via Yahoo! (September 8, 2007)

AAAI logo incorporating HAL's 'eye'    

As computers are programmed to act more like people, several social and ethical concerns come into focus. For example: Are there ethical bounds on what computers should be programmed to do? Sources listed here focus on AI, but also included are works that range more broadly into the general impact of computerization.

ETHICAL & SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS News Sampling from AAAI's AI TOPICS "AI in the news" Collection

Good Places to Start

We have the technology - Bionic eyes, robot soldiers and kryptonite were once just film fantasy. But now science fiction is fast becoming fact. So how will it change our lives? By Gwyneth Jones. The Guardian (April 25, 2007). "Our gadgets are just like our children. They have the potential to be marvellous, to surpass all expectations. But children (and robots) don't grow up intelligent, affectionate, helpful and good-willed all by themselves. They need to be nurtured. The technology, however fantastic, is neutral. It's up to us to decide whether that dazzling new robot brain powers a caring hand, or a speedy fist highly accurate at throwing grenades."

Gianmarco Veruggio - Roboethics [podcast]. Talking Robots (January 3, 2008). "In this interview we talk to Gianmarco Veruggio who founded the association Scuola di Robotica in Genova (Italy) to study the complex relationship between Robotics and Society. This led him to coin the term and propose the concept of Roboethics, or the field of Ethics applied to robotics. He discusses topics such as the use of robots in our everyday environments, the lethality and benefits of medical robots or military robots, augmented humans and robots as human-like artifacts. Should we start thinking like Asimov, deriving laws and limits to apply for the peaceful cohabitation of humans and robots?""

Of Robots and Men - Rights for the Artificially Intelligent (radio broadcast; January 23, 2007). Listen as "KJZZ's Dennis Lambert speaks with Scottsdale attorney David Calverley, whose research into bioethics is driving him to artificial intelligence."

  • Also see David J. Calverley's paper, Additional Thoughts Concerning the Legal Status of a Non-Biological Machine, In Machine Ethics: Papers from the 2005 AAAI Fall Symposium, ed. Michael Anderson, Susan Leigh Anderson, and Chris Armen. Technical Report FS-05-06. American Association for Artificial Intelligence, Menlo Park, California.Abstract: "Law, as a pragmatic tool, provides us with a way to test, at a conceptual level, whether a humanly created non-biological machine could be considered a legal person. This paper looks first at the history of law in order to set the foundation for the suggestion that as a normative system it is based on a folk psychology model. Accepting this as a starting point allows us to look to empirical studies in this area to gather support for the idea that 'intentionality', in the folk psychology sense, can give us a principled way to argue that non-biological machines can become legal persons. In support of this argument I also look at corporate law theory. However, as is often the case, because law has historically been viewed as a human endeavor, complications arise when we attempt to apply its concepts to non-human persons. The distinction between human, person and property is discussed in this regard, with particular note being taken of the concept of slavery. The conclusion drawn is that intentionality in the folk sense is a reasonable basis upon which to rest at least one leg of an argument that a nonbiological machine can be viewed as a legal person."

Surveillance Society - New High-Tech Cameras Are Watching You. In the era of computer-controlled surveillance, your every move could be captured by cameras, whether you're shopping in the grocery store or driving on the freeway. Proponents say it will keep us safe, but at what cost? By James Vlahos. Popular Mechanics (January 2008). "Liberty Island's video cameras all feed into a computer system. The park doesn't disclose details, but fully equipped, the system is capable of running software that analyzes the imagery and automatically alerts human overseers to any suspicious events. The software can spot when somebody abandons a bag or backpack. It has the ability to discern between ferryboats, which are allowed to approach the island, and private vessels, which are not. And it can count bodies, detecting if somebody is trying to stay on the island after closing, or assessing when people are grouped too tightly together, which might indicate a fight or gang activity. 'A camera with artificial intelligence can be there 24/7, doesn't need a bathroom break, doesn't need a lunch break and doesn't go on vacation,' says Ian Ehrenberg, former vice president of Nice Systems, the program's developer. Most Americans would probably welcome such technology at what clearly is a marquee terrorist target. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in July 2007 found that 71 percent of Americans favor increased video surveillance. What people may not realize, however, is that advanced monitoring systems such as the one at the Statue of Liberty are proliferating around the country. ... 'Society is fundamentally changing and we aren't having a conversation about it,' [Bruce] Schneier says. ... In the late 18th century, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham dreamed up a new type of prison: the panopticon. It would be built so that guards could see all of the prisoners at all times without their knowing they were being watched, creating 'the sentiment of an invisible omniscience,' Bentham wrote."

  • Also read this opinion piece: Watching the Watchers - Why Surveillance Is a Two-Way Street. If governments and businesses can keep an eye on us in public spaces, we ought to be able to look back. Op-Ed by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. Popular Mechanics (January 2008). "Today's pervasive surveillance may seem like something out of 1984, but access to technology has become a lot more democratic since Orwell's time."
  • Also listen to this podcast: America’s New Surveillance Society. By Matt Sullivan. Popular Mechanics (December 7, 2007). "Every day we're being watched a little bit more, by intelligent cameras, unmanned aircraft and newfound gadgetry. We'll get an exclusive report on FAA-approved drone tests by American law-enforcement agencies, suggestions from Instapundit blogger and PM contributing editor Glenn Reynolds on how to watch back, and a first look at a eye-tracking hardware that might make Google millions."

Trust me, I'm a robot - Robot safety: As robots move into homes and offices, ensuring that they do not injure people will be vital. But how? The Economist Technology Quarterly (June 8, 2006). "Last year there were 77 robot-related accidents in Britain alone, according to the Health and Safety Executive. With robots now poised to emerge from their industrial cages and to move into homes and workplaces, roboticists are concerned about the safety implications beyond the factory floor. To address these concerns, leading robot experts have come together to try to find ways to prevent robots from harming people. Inspired by the Pugwash Conferences -- an international group of scientists, academics and activists founded in 1957 to campaign for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons -- the new group of robo-ethicists met earlier this year in Genoa, Italy, and announced their initial findings in March at the European Robotics Symposium in Palermo, Sicily. ... According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's World Robotics Survey, in 2002 the number of domestic and service robots more than tripled, nearly outstripping their industrial counterparts. ... So what exactly is being done to protect us from these mechanical menaces? 'Not enough,' says Blay Whitby, an artificial-intelligence expert at the University of Sussex in England. ... Robot safety is likely to surface in the civil courts as a matter of product liability. 'When the first robot carpet-sweeper sucks up a baby, who will be to blame?' asks John Hallam, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. If a robot is autonomous and capable of learning, can its designer be held responsible for all its actions? Today the answer to these questions is generally 'yes'. But as robots grow in complexity it will become a lot less clear cut, he says."

AI Magazine cover

Machine Ethics: Creating an Ethical Intelligent Agent. By Michael Anderson and Susan Leigh Anderson. AI Magazine 28(4): Winter 2007, 15. "The newly emerging field of machine ethics (Anderson and Anderson 2006) is concerned with adding an ethical dimension to machines. Unlike computer ethics -- which has traditionally focused on ethical issues surrounding humans’ use of machines -- machine ethics is concerned with ensuring that the behavior of machines toward human users, and perhaps other machines as well, is ethically acceptable. In this article we discuss the importance of machine ethics, the need for machines that represent ethical principles explicitly, and the challenges facing those working on machine ethics. We also give an example of current research in the field that shows that it is possible, at least in a limited domain, for a machine to abstract an ethical principle from examples of correct ethical judgments and use that principle to guide its own behavior."

Machine Ethics - special issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems 21(4): July/August 2006. As stated in the introduction: "This special issue stems from the AAAI 2005 Fall Symposium on Machine Ethics. The symposium brought together participants from computer science and philosophy to clarify the nature of this newly emerging field and discuss potential approaches toward realizing the goal of creating an ethical machine"

  • Guest Editors' Introduction. By Michael Anderson and Susan Leigh Anderson. "Machine ethics is concerned with how machines behave toward human users and other machines. It aims to create a machine that's guided by an acceptable ethical principle or set of principles in the decisions it makes about possible courses of action it could take. As ethics experts continue to progress toward consensus concerning the right way to behave in ethical dilemmas, the task for those working in machine ethics is to codify these insights. Eight articles in this special issue address the issues." [Full text available.]
  • Why Machine Ethics? By Colin Allen, Wendell Wallach, and Iva Smit. "Machine ethics, machine morality, artificial morality, and computational ethics are all terms for an emerging field of study that seeks to implement moral decision-making faculties in computers and robots. Machine ethics is not merely science fiction but a topic that requires serious consideration given the rapid emergence of increasingly complex autonomous software agents and robots. The authors introduce the issues shaping this new field of enquiry and describe issues regarding the development of artificial moral agents."
  • The Nature, Importance, and Difficulty of Machine Ethics. By James H. Moor. "Machine ethics has a broad range of possible implementations in computer technology--from maintaining detailed records in hospital databases to overseeing emergency team movements after a disaster. From a machine ethics perspective, you can look at machines as ethical-impact agents, implicit ethical agents, explicit ethical agents, or full ethical agents. A current research challenge is to develop machines that are explicit ethical agents. This research is important, but accomplishing this goal will be extremely difficult without a better understanding of ethics and of machine learning and cognition."
  • Particularism and the Classification and Reclassification of Moral Cases. By Marcello Guarini. "Is it possible to learn to classify cases as morally acceptable or unacceptable without using moral principles? Jonathan Dancy has suggested that moral reasoning (including learning) could be done without moral principles, and he has suggested that neural network models could aid in understanding how to do this. This article explores Dancy's suggestion by presenting a neural network model of case classification. The author argues that although some nontrivial case classification might be possible without the explicitly consulting or executing moral principles, the process of reclassifying cases is best explained by using moral principles."
  • Computational Models of Ethical Reasoning: Challenges, Initial Steps, and Future Directions. By Bruce M. McLaren. "Computational models of ethical reasoning are in their infancy in the field of artificial intelligence. Ethical reasoning is a particularly challenging area of human behavior for AI scientists and engineers because of its reliance on abstract principles, philosophical theories not easily rendered computational, and deep-seated, even religious, beliefs. A further issue is this endeavor's ethical dimension: Is it even appropriate for scientists to try to imbue computers with ethical-reasoning powers? A look at attempts to build computational models of ethical reasoning illustrates this task's challenges. In particular, the Truth-Teller and SIROCCO programs incorporate AI computational models of ethical reasoning, both of which model the ethical approach known as casuistry. Truth-Teller compares pairs of truth-telling cases; SIROCCO retrieves relevant past cases and principles when presented with a new ethical dilemma. The computational model underlying Truth-Teller could serve as the basis for an intelligent tutor for ethics."
  • Toward a General Logicist Methodology for Engineering Ethically Correct Robots. By Selmer Bringsjord, Konstantine Arkoudas, and Paul Bello. "It's hard to deny that robots will become increasingly capable and that humans will increasingly exploit these capabilities by deploying them in ethically sensitive environments, such as hospitals, where ethically incorrect robot behavior could have dire consequences for humans. How can we ensure that such robots will always behave in an ethically correct manner? How can we know ahead of time, via rationales expressed clearly in natural language, that their behavior will be constrained specifically by the ethical codes selected by human overseers? In general, one approach is to insist that robots only perform actions that can be proved ethically permissible in a human-selected deontic logic--that is, a logic that formalizes an ethical code. Ethicists themselves work by rendering ethical theories and dilemmas in declarative form and reasoning over this information using informal and formal logic. The authors describe a logicist methodology in general terms, free of any commitment to particular systems, and show it solving a challenge regarding robot behavior in an intensive care unit."
  • Prospects for a Kantian Machine. By Thomas M. Powers. "Rule-based ethical theories like Kant's appear to be promising for machine ethics because of the computational structure of their judgments. Kant's categorical imperative is a procedure for mapping action plans (maxims) onto traditional deontic categories--forbidden, permissible, obligatory--by a simple consistency test on the maxim. This test alone, however, would be trivial. We might enhance it by adding a declarative set of "buttressing" rules. The ethical judgment is then an outcome of the consistency test, in light of the supplied rules. While this kind of test can generate nontrivial results, it might do no more than reflect the prejudices of the builder of the declarative set; the machine will "reason" straightforwardly, but not intelligently. A more promising (though speculative) option would be to build a machine with the power of nonmonotonic inference. But this option too faces formal challenges. The author discusses these challenges to a rule-based machine ethics, starting from a Kantian framework."
  • There Is No "I" in "Robot": Robots and Utilitarianism. By Christopher Grau. "Utilizing the film I, Robot as a springboard, this article considers the feasibility of robot utilitarians, the moral responsibilities that come with the creation of ethical robots, and the possibility of distinct ethics for robot-robot interaction as opposed to robot-human interaction." [Full text available for a limited time.]
  • An Approach to Computing Ethics. By Michael Anderson, Susan Leigh Anderson, and Chris Armen. "To make ethics computable, we've adopted an approach to ethics that involves considering multiple prima facie duties in deciding how one should act in an ethical dilemma. We believe this approach is more likely to capture the complexities of ethical decision making than a single, absolute-duty ethical theory. However, it requires a decision procedure for determining the ethically correct action when the duties give conflicting advice. To solve this problem, we employ inductive-logic programming to enable a machine to abstract information from ethical experts' intuitions about particular ethical dilemmas, to create a decision principle. We've tested our method in the MedEthEx proof-of-concept system, using a type of ethical dilemma that involves 18 possible combinations of three prima facie duties. The system needed just four training cases to create an ethically significant decision principle that covered the remaining cases."

Robot Wars. Hack radio program on triple j radio (August 17, 2006). Listen as Kaitlyn Sawrey (host), Luke Williams (reporter), and Dr. Rob Sparrow of Monash University explore the question: "For the countries with big defence budgets robot soldiers might seem like a good, clean way of fighting a war... But can a robot fight a war ethically?"

Robots and the Rest of Us. View by Bruce Sterling. Wired Magazine (May 2004; Issue 12.05). "Since when do machines need an ethical code? For 80 years, visionaries have imagined robots that look like us, work like us, perceive the world, judge it, and take action on their own. The robot butler is still as mystical as the flying car, but there's trouble rising in the garage. In Nobel's vaulted ballroom, experts uneasily point out that automatons are challenging humankind on four fronts. First, this is a time of war. ... The prospect of autonomous weapons naturally raises ethical questions. ... The second ominous frontier is brain augmentation, best embodied by the remote-controlled rat recently created at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn. ... Another troubling frontier is physical, as opposed to mental, augmentation. ... Frontier number four is social: human reaction to the troubling presence of the humanoid. ... If the [First International Symposium on Roboethics] offers a take-home message, it's not about robots, but about us."

  • For more information about the symposium, see Roboethics below.

Machines and Man: Ethics and Robotics in the 21st Century. From the Tech Museum of Innovation. "This section contains four questions examining robotics and ethics. Each question contains audio responses collected from researchers, scientists, labor leaders, artists, and others. In addition, an online discussion area is provided to allow you to post your own comments or respond to the questions."

The Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence. By Margaret A. Boden. From the book: The Age of Intelligent Machines (ed. Kurzweil, Raymond. 1990. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press). "Is artificial intelligence in human society a utopian dream or a Faustian nightmare? Will our descendants honor us for making machines do things that human minds do or berate us for irresponsibility and hubris?"

SENIOR project initiates ethical debate on ICT for the elderly. CORDIS News (March 5, 2008). "Dubbed Assistive Technologies (AT), these technologies aim to improve the day-to-day activities of the elderly, as well as people with disabilities, to supplement their loss of independence. However, while they hold great promise on the one hand, these technologies can also run the risk of further isolating the these population groups. ‘Technology can alleviate the burden of dependency by allowing people to live autonomously at home or in an assisted environment,’ Professor [Emilio] Mordini told CORDIS News. ‘Yet technology can also seriously threaten people's autonomy and dignity,’ he added. For these reasons the project will aim to provide a systematic assessment of the social, ethical and privacy issues involved in ICT and ageing. … Surveillance technology is just one area which is likely to undergo rigorous assessment by the project consortium."

Should computer scientists worry about ethics? Don Gotterbarn says, "Yes!". By Saveen Reddy. (1995). ACM Crossroads. [This article was also republished in the Spring 2004 issue of Crossroads (10.3): Ethics and Computer Science.] "The problem is that we don't emphasize that what we build will be used by people.... I want students to realize what they do has consequences."

  • To learn more about Don Gotterbarn, visit his site. That's also where you'll find, among other things, his list of ethics courses being taught at various educational institutions.

Computer Ethics: Basic Concepts and Historical Overview. By Terell Bynum, Terrell. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2001 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). "Computer ethics as a field of study has its roots in the work of MIT professor Norbert Wiener during World War II (early 1940s), in which he helped to develop an antiaircraft cannon capable of shooting down fast warplanes. The engineering challenge of this project caused Wiener and some colleagues to create a new field of research that Wiener called 'cybernetics' -- the science of information feedback systems. The concepts of cybernetics, when combined with digital computers under development at that time, led Wiener to draw some remarkably insightful ethical conclusions about the technology that we now call ICT (information and communication technology). He perceptively foresaw revolutionary social and ethical consequences."

Why the future doesn't need us. By Bill Joy. Wired Magazine (April 2000; Issue 8.04). "From the moment I became involved in the creation of new technologies, their ethical dimensions have concerned me, but it was only in the autumn of 1998 that I became anxiously aware of how great are the dangers facing us in the 21st century."

  • Then read: Ray Kurzweil's Promise and Peril. KurzweilAI.net (April 9, 2001)."Bill Joy wrote a controversial article in Wired advocating 'relinquishment' of research on self-replicating technologies, such as nanobots. In this rebuttal, originally published in Interactive Week, Ray Kurzweil argues that these developments are inevitable and advocates ethical guidelines and responsible oversight."
  • Then read: Is technology a threat to humanity's future? Seattle Times. (March 19, 2000) "The Seattle Times asked a number of technological pioneers to respond to Joy's jeremiad, which foresees a time when humans lose control of robotic and genetic advances. The responses, reprinted in edited form here in a kind of virtual roundtable, show the level of concern as well as diversity of opinion on the dire notion that humans are becoming obsolete. ... What's important is a vigorous debate."
  • Then read : "Hope Is a Lousy Defense." Sun refugee Bill Joy talks about greedy markets, reckless science, and runaway technology. On the plus side, there's still some good software out there. By Spencer Reiss. Wired Magazine (December 2003; Issue 11.12).
  • Then check our news collection for articles & interviews such as: Singularity - Ubiquity interviews Ray Kurzweil (January 10-17, 2006).
  • Also see Raj Reddy's talk, Infinite Memory and Bandwidth: Implications for Artificial Intelligence: "The main thesis of my talk is that none of the dire consequences of Bill Joy or the predictions of Kurzweil and Moravec about the possible emergence of a robot nation will come to pass. Not because they are incorrect, but because . . ."

Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (actually it's three plus a 'zeroth law') courtesy of the Robotics Research Group at the University of Texas at Austin.

In gadget-loving Japan, robots get hugs in therapy sessions. By Yuri Kageyama. Associated Press / available from The San Diego Union-Tribune & SignOnSanDiego.com (April 10, 2004). "[W]hile proponents say robot therapy is no different from pet therapy, in which animals offer companionship, the idea of children and older people becoming emotionally attached to machines unnerves many people. ... [Toshiyo] Tamura and colleagues recently published research that found that some patients' activity, such as talking, watching and touching, increased with the introduction of the robot in therapy sessions. ... Tamura also found that introducing a stuffed animal shaped like a dog got almost the same effect from patients. But a stuffed animal can't be programmed to, for example, help an Alzheimer's patient remember the names of their visiting children. Neither, of course, can real animals. ... [H]ow robots will change people remains to be seen. Will robots make people lazy if they can do mundane chores? Will they make us more callous or more humane? ... Ranges of appropriate behavior toward robots will have to be socially defined, [John] Jordan said. Might it be weird to pat a robot for bringing a drink? 'Humans are very good at attributing emotions to things that are not people,' Jordan said. 'Many, many moral questions will arise.' ... 'People aren't going to be able to throw away robots even when they break,' [Yasuyuki] Toki said. 'These are major issues that researchers must keep in the back of our minds.'"

Robotics and Intelligent Systems in Support of Society. By Raj Reddy. IEEE Intelligent Systems (May/June 2006) 21(3): 24-31. "Over the past 50 years, there has been extensive research into robotics and intelligent systems. While much of the research has targeted specific technical problems, advances in these areas have led to systems and solutions that will have a profound impact on society. This article provides several examples of the use of such ecotechnologies in the service of humanity, in the areas of robotics, speech, vision, human computer interaction, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence. Underlying most of the advances is the unprecedented exponential improvement of information technology. ... The question is, what will we do with all this power? How will it affect the way we live and work? Many things will hardly change -- our social systems, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our mating rituals, and so forth. Others, such as how we learn,work, and interact with others, and the quality and delivery of healthcare, will change profoundly. Here I present several examples of using intelligent technologies in the service of humanity. In particular, I briefly discuss the areas of robotics, speech recognition, computer vision, human-computer interaction, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence. I also discuss current and potential applications of these technologies that will benefit humanity -- particularly the elderly, poor, sick, and illiterate." [The full-text of this article is available to non-subscribers for a limited period.]

Readings Online

"Data Mining" Is NOT Against Civil Liberties. Letter by the Executive Committee, ACM Special Interest Group on Knowledge Discovery in Data and Data Mining (SIGKDD).

AI Magazine's AI in the news column shines its spotlight on issues such as predictive technology (Fall 2002), humans & robots (Winter 2002), and privacy (Spring 2003).

description|description,0.html | AI & Society, Journal of Human-Centred System. Published by Springer-Verlag London Ltd. "Established in 1987, the journal focuses on the issues associated with the policy, design and management of information, communications and media technologies, and their broader social, economic, cultural and philosophical implications.&quot The table of contents and article abstracts for several issues can be accessed without a subscription.

Proceedings of the AISB 2000 Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics and (Quasi-) Human Rights. One of the many convention proceedings available from The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (SSAISB).

Reinventing Technology, Rediscovering Community: Critical Studies in Computing as a Social Practice. Philip E. Agre, Douglas Schuler, New York: Ablex, et al., editors (1997). Norwood, NJ: Alex. Linking takes you to an in-depth summary of the book, and the authors' home pages which provide generous collections of online articles and papers.

Machine Ethics: Papers from the 2005 AAAI Fall Symposium, ed. Michael Anderson, Susan Leigh Anderson, and Chris Armen. Technical Report FS-05-06. American Association for Artificial Intelligence, Menlo Park, California. "Past research concerning the relationship between technology and ethics has largely focused on responsible and irresponsible use of technology by human beings, with a few people being interested in how human beings ought to treat machines. In all cases, only human beings have engaged in ethical reasoning. The time has come for adding an ethical dimension to at least some machines. Recognition of the ethical ramifications of behavior involving machines, as well as recent and potential developments in machine autonomy, necessitates this. In contrast to computer hacking, software property issues, privacy issues and other topics normally ascribed to computer ethics, machine ethics is concerned with the behavior of machines towards human users and other machines. We contend that research in machine ethics is key to alleviating concerns with autonomous systems --- it could be argued that the notion of autonomous machines without such a dimension is at the root of all fear concerning machine intelligence. Further, investigation of machine ethics could enable the discovery of problems with current ethical theories, advancing our thinking about ethics."

MedEthEx: A Prototype Medical Ethics Advisor. By Michael Anderson, Susan Leigh Anderson, and Chris Armen. In Proceedings of the Eighteenth Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence Conference, July 16 – 20 2006. Menlo Park, Calif.: AAAI Press. "As part of a larger Machine Ethics Project, we are developing an ethical advisor that provides guidance to health care workers faced with ethical dilemmas. MedEthEx is an implementation of Beauchamp’s and Childress' Principles of Biomedical Ethics that harnesses machine learning techniques to abstract decision principles from cases in a particular type of dilemma with conflicting prima facie duties and uses these principles to determine the correct course of action in similar and new cases. We believe that accomplishing this will be a useful first step towards creating machines that can interact with those in need of health care in a way that is sensitive to ethical issues that may arise." A demo is available online.

Ethics dilemma in killer bots. By Philip Argy (National President of the Australian Computer Society). Australian IT (January 16, 2007). "When science fiction writer Isaac Asimov developed his Three Laws of Robotics back in 1940, the first law was: 'A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.' Asimov later amended the laws to put the needs of humanity as a whole above those of a single individual, but his intention was unchanged: that robots should be designed to protect human life and should be incapable of endangering it. So reports out of Korea of newly developed guard robots capable of firing autonomously on human targets are raising concerns about their potential uses. ... Ethicists have always questioned the use of technology in weapons development, but the new robots are causing additional disquiet because of their self-directing capabilities. ... It is the responsibility of all technology professionals to ensure that those in our organisation and within our influence are both responsible and ethical in the way they develop and apply technology."

Georgia Tech's Ronald Arkin (September 12, 2005)."Technology Research News Editor Eric Smalley carried out an email conversation with Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ronald C. Arkin in August of 2005 that covered the economics of labor, making robots as reliable as cars, getting robots to trust people, biorobotics, finding the boundaries of intimate relationships with robots, how much to let robots manipulate people, giving robots a conscience, robots as humane soldiers and The Butlerian Jihad. ... TRN: So what are the boundaries between human-robot relationships? Arkin: I tend not to be prescriptive about these boundaries, that's a question of morality. I am interested in the ethical issues surrounding these questions though, which will lead to the formulation perhaps of a moral code some day. A few of the human-robot interface questions that concern me include: · How intimate should a relationship be with an intelligent artifact? · Should a robot be able to mislead or manipulate human intelligence? · What, if any, level of force is acceptable in physically managing humans by robotic systems? · What do major religions think about the prospect of intelligent humanoids? (The Vatican and Judaism to date have had related commentary on the subject). These are all ethical questions, and depending upon your social convention, religious beliefs, or moral bias, every individual can articulate their opinion. My concern now as a scientist that is concerned with the ethical outcome of his own research is to get the debate going and begin to explore what the appropriate use of this technology from a variety of ethical stances (relativistic to deontological). TRN: And what is the role of lethality in the deployment of autonomous systems by the military? Arkin: ... "

Make Robots Not War. Some Scientists Refuse to Get Paid for Killer Ideas. By Erik Baard. The Village Voice (September 10 - 16, 2003). "As American warfare has shifted from draftees to drones, science and the military in the United States have become inseparable. But some scientists are refusing to let their robots grow up to be killers."

Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence. By Nick Bostrom, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University; Director, Oxford Future of Humanity Institute. "This is a slightly revised version of a paper published in Cognitive, Emotive and Ethical Aspects of Decision Making in Humans and in Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 2, ed. I. Smit et al., Int. Institute of Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, 2003, pp. 12-17."

No Where to Hide. By Alan Cohen. PC Magazine (July 13, 2004). "TIA [Total Information Awareness] demonstrated the fundamental conflict that often arises between technology and privacy: We want the benefits of convenience and safety that new tools can bring us, but at the same time we want to insure our right to be left alone. Often, in the rush for the benefits, privacy suffers. Yet sometimes, attempts to protect our privacy cripple or even jettison a promising technology."

  • Also in this issue of PC Magazine: Visiting the Future. Opinion by Michael J. Miller. "As denizens of the 21st century, we can't just look at technology for its own sake. We need to understand how it affects society."

The Future of Computing. By Michael L. Dertouzos. Scientific American (August 1999) "The final way in which new technologies can enable people to do more by doing less is by including everyone in the word 'people.' With some 100 million machines interconnected today, we feel pretty smug. Yet that figure represents only 1.6 percent of the world's population . . . the information revolution, left to its own devices, will increase the gap between rich and poor, simply because the rich will use their machines to become more productive, hence richer, while the poor stand still... We cannot let this happen...."

"Chickens are Us" and other observations of robotic art. By Patricia Donovan. University at Buffalo Reporter (December 4, 2003; Volume 35, Number 14). "Hundreds of artists in all corners of the world -- a number of them at UB -- use emerging technologies as a tool for material and cultural analysis. One of them is conceptual artist Marc Böhlen, assistant professor in the Department of Media Study. His medium is not oil or bronze, but robotics and site-specific data, and his practice combines the structured approach of scientific investigation with artistic intuition, spiced with a deliberate and effective dash of good or bad taste. ... Böhlen considers the media arts in the context of the history of automation technologies. They were invented with the hope of improving everyday life, he notes, and in some ways they have. 'Our unquestioned pursuit of efficiency, however, has made us slaves of automation,' he says, a point made by artists from the mid-19th century on. 'Through our very inventiveness and persistence, we have separated ourselves from the constraints of our natural surroundings. In my work, I attempt to contradict preconceptions of what technical mediation is by a practice that is poetically inspired, radical and technically competent.' To this end, Böhlen builds machines whose functions contradict their assumed utilitarian purpose. ... He says 'the Keeper' is designed to re-imagine -- beyond issues of security and repression -- how machines that use biometric technology are able to control our identities and validate our right to gain access to any space. "

Humanoids With Attitude - Japan Embraces New Generation of Robots. By Anthony Faiola, with Akiko Yamamoto. Washington Post (March 11, 2005; registration req'd.) / also available from The Detroit News (Japan embraces new generation of robots; March 12, 2005) and from The Sydney Morning Herald (We, robot: the future is here; March 14, 2005). "'I almost feel like she's a real person,' said Kobayashi, an associate professor at the Tokyo University of Science and [Saya,the cyber-receptionist's] inventor. Having worked at the university for almost two years now, she's an old hand at her job. 'She has a temper . . . and she sometimes makes mistakes, especially when she has low energy,' the professor said. Saya's wrath is the latest sign of the rise of the robot. Analysts say Japan is leading the world in rolling out a new generation of consumer robots. Some scientists are calling the wave a technological force poised to change human lifestyles more radically than the advent of the computer or the cell phone. ... In the quest for artificial intelligence, the United States is perhaps just as advanced as Japan. But analysts stress that the focus in the United States has been largely on military applications. By contrast, the Japanese government, academic institutions and major corporations are investing billions of dollars on consumer robots aimed at altering everyday life, leading to an earlier dawn of what many here call the 'age of the robot.' But the robotic rush in Japan is also being driven by unique societal needs. ... It is perhaps no surprise that robots would find their first major foothold in Japan. ... 'In Western countries, humanoid robots are still not very accepted, but they are in Japan,' said Norihiro Hagita, director of the ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories in Keihanna Science City near Kyoto. 'One reason is religion. In Japanese [Shinto] religion, we believe that all things have gods within them. But in Western countries, most people believe in only one God. For us, however, a robot can have an energy all its own.'"

Two interviews with Anne Foerst, researcher and theological advisor for the robots Cog and Kismet at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory: "Baptism by Wire - Bringing religion to the Artificial Intelligence lab" & "Do Androids Dream?"

Constructions of the Mind--Artificial Intelligence and the Humanities. Stefano Franchi and Guven Guzeldere, editors (1995). A special issue of the Stanford Humanities Review 4(2): Spring 1995. From the Table of Contents, you may link to several full-text articles.

"It's the Computer's Fault" -- Reasoning About Computers as Moral Agents. By Batya Friedman and Lynette Millett. A short paper from the 1995 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems sponsored by ACM/SIGCHI. "The data reported above joins a growing body of research that suggests people, even computer literate individuals, may at times attribute social attributes to and at times engage in social interaction with computer technology."

Future technologies, today's choices - Nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: A technical, political and institutional map of emerging technologies. Greenpeace UK July 2003. "[W]hile Greenpeace accepts and relies upon the merits of many new technologies, we campaign against other technologies that have a potentially profound negative impact on the environment. This prompted Greenpeace to commission a comprehensive review of nanotechnology and artificial intelligence/robotics developments from an organisation with a reputation for technological expertise - Imperial College London. We asked them to document existing applications and to analyse current research and development (R&D), the main players behind these developments, and the associated incentives and risks."

  • Also see:
    • Nanotechnology: Small wonders. By Mike Toner. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (December 5, 2004). "The National Science Foundation predicts that within a decade nanotechnology will be a $1 trillion market --- and provide as many as 2 million new jobs. ... In his oft-cited 'Engines of Creation,' nanotech pioneer K. Eric Drexler --- formerly a researcher at MIT's artificial intelligence lab --- warned that 'replicating assemblers and thinking machines pose basic threats to people and life on Earth' --- threatening to turn everything on the planet into an amorphous 'gray goo.' Michael Crichton breathed new life into the notion a few years ago with 'Prey,' a sci-fi thriller about the escape of microscopic, self-replicating assemblers from a secret desert research lab. ... Drexler, who now heads the nonprofit educational Foresight Institute, has recanted much of his original claim, but he insists that the industry should have a policy prohibiting 'the construction of anything resembling a dangerous self-replicating nanomachine.'"
    • Mean machines. By Dylan Evans. The Guardian (July 29, 2004). "Computer scientist Bill Joy is not the only expert who has urged the general public to start thinking about the dangers posed by the rapidly advancing science of robotics, and Greenpeace issued a special report last year urging people to debate this matter as vigorously as they have debated the issues raised by genetic engineering."
    • Nanotechnology and Nanoscience. "In June 2003 the UK Government commissioned the Royal Society, the UK national academy of science, and the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK national academy of engineering, to carry out an independent study of likely developments and whether nanotechnology raises or is likely to raise new ethical, health and safety or social issues which are not covered by current regulation."
    • Nanoethics Group: "a non-partisan and independent organization that studies the ethical and societal implications of nanotechnology. We also engage the public as well as collaborate with nanotech ventures and research institutes on related issues that will impact the industry."

FAQ response by Patrick J. Hayes (from our collection). "Q: I am a University Student at ___ . I am part of an honors seminar that will debate whether or not AI is a threat, or could become a threat to mankind and why."

We'll All Be Under Surveillance - Computers Will Say What We Are. By Nat Hentoff. The Village Voice (December 6, 2002). "Orwell died in 1950. Prophetic as he was in 1984, however, he could not have imagined how advanced surveillance technology would become. ... As Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out in the November 17 Los Angeles Times: 'For more than 200 years, our liberties have been protected primarily by practical barriers rather than constitutional barriers to government abuse. Because of the sheer size of the nation and its population, the government could not practically abuse a great number of citizens at any given time. In the last decade, however, these practical barriers have fallen to technology.'"

Too Much Information. Comment by Hendrik Hertzberg. The New Yorker (December 9, 2002). "But the [Information Awareness] Office's main assignment is, basically, to turn everything in cyberspace about everybody ... into a single, humongous, multi-googolplexibyte database that electronic robots will mine for patterns of information suggestive of terrorist activity. Dr. Strangelove's vision—'a chikentic gomplex of gumbyuders'—is at last coming into its own."

Our Concept of Ourselves. By Raymond Kurzweil (1990). From The Age of Intelligent Machines, ed. Kurzweil, R., 447-449. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. "What will happen when all these artificially intelligent computers and robots leave us with nothing to do? What will be the point of living?"

Artificial Intelligence and Ethics: An Exercise in the Moral Imagination. By Michael R. LaChat. AI Magazine 7(2): Summer 1986, 70-79. "The possibility of constructing a personal AI raises many ethical and religious questions that have been dealt with seriously only by imaginative works of fiction; they have largely been ignored by technical experts and by philosophical and theological ethicists. Arguing that a personal AI is possible in principle, and that its accomplishments could be adjudicated by the Turing Test, the article suggests some of the moral issues involved in AI experimentation by comparing them to issues in medical experimentation. Finally, the article asks questions about the capacities and possibilities of such an artifact for making moral decisions. It is suggested that much a priori ethical thinking is necessary and that, that such a project cannot only stimulate our moral imaginations, but can also tell us much about our moral thinking and pedagogy, whether or not it is ever accomplished in fact."

newspaper with link to news index

The Moral Challenge of Modern Science. By Yuval Levin. The New Atlantis (Fall 2006;  14: 32-46). "A few years ago, in the course of a long speech about health policy, President George W. Bush spoke of the challenge confronting a society increasingly empowered by science. He put his warning in these words: The powers of science are morally neutral -- as easily used for bad purposes as good ones. In the excitement of discovery, we must never forget that mankind is defined not by intelligence alone, but by conscience. Even the most noble ends do not justify every means. In the president’s sensible formulation, the moral challenge posed for us by modern science is that our scientific tools simply give us raw power, and it is up to us to determine the right ways to use that power and to proscribe the wrong ways. The notion that science is morally neutral is also widely held and advanced by scientists. ... The moral challenge of modern science reaches well beyond the ambiguity of new technologies because modern science is much more than a source of technology, and scientists are far more than mere investigators and toolmakers. Modern science is a grand human endeavor, indeed the grandest of the modern age. Its work employs the best and the brightest in every corner of the globe, and its modes of thinking and reasoning have come to dominate the way mankind understands itself and its place. We must therefore judge modern science not only by its material products, but also, and more so, by its intentions and its influence upon the way humanity has come to think. In both these ways, science is far from morally neutral."

What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us. By Heather MacDonald. City Journal (Spring 2004; Vol. 14, No. 2). "Immediately after 9/11, politicians and pundits slammed the Bush administration for failing to 'connect the dots' foreshadowing the attack. What a difference a little amnesia makes. For two years now, left- and right-wing advocates have shot down nearly every proposal to use intelligence more effectively -- to connect the dots -- as an assault on 'privacy.' Though their facts are often wrong and their arguments specious, they have come to dominate the national security debate virtually without challenge. The consequence has been devastating: just when the country should be unleashing its technological ingenuity to defend against future attacks, scientists stand irresolute, cowed into inaction. 'No one in the research and development community is putting together tools to make us safer,' says Lee Zeichner of Zeichner Risk Analytics, a risk consultancy firm, 'because they’re afraid' of getting caught up in a privacy scandal. The chilling effect has been even stronger in government. 'Many perfectly legal things that could be done with data aren’t being done, because people don’t want to lose their jobs,' says a computer security entrepreneur who, like many interviewed for this article, was too fearful of the advocates to let his name appear. ... The goal of TIA [the Total Information Awareness project] was this: to prevent another attack on American soil by uncovering the electronic footprints terrorists leave as they plan and rehearse their assaults. ... TIA would have been the most advanced application yet of a young technology called 'data mining,' which attempts to make sense of the explosion of data in government, scientific, and commercial databases." [Other projects discussed in this article: Human Identity at a Distance; LifeLog; CAPPS II, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System; MATRIX, Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange; and FIDNet.] If you kick a robotic dog, is it wrong? By G. Jeffrey MacDonald. The Christian Science Monitor (February 5, 2004). "How should people treat creatures that seem ever more emotional with each step forward in robotic technology, but who really have no feelings?" Also see the two related articles.

Armchair warlords and robot hordes. Comment and Analysis by Paul Marks. New Scientist (October 28, 2006; Issue 2575: page 24 |subscription req'd). "It sounds like every general's dream: technology that allows a nation to fight a war with little or no loss of life on its side. It is also a peace-seeking citizen's nightmare. Without the politically embarrassing threat of soldiers returning home in flag-wrapped coffins, governments would find it far easier to commit to military action. The consequences for countries on the receiving end - and for world peace - would be immense. This is not a fantasy scenario. ... 'Teleoperation [remote control] is the norm, but semi-autonomous enhancements are being added all the time,' says Bob Quinn of Foster-Miller, a technology firm in Waltham, Massachusetts, owned by the UK defence research company Qinetiq." [Also see this related article.]

Rob Kling, 58; Specialist in Computers' Societal Effect. By Myrna Oliver. Los Angeles Times (May 26, 2003). "Rob Kling, an author and educator regarded as the founding father of social informatics -- how computers influence social change -- has died. ... Concerned that all discussion of computers focused on technology, Kling studied government, manufacturers and insurance companies to determine how computers affect society and require choices that consider human values as well as technological values. ... 'Many people, particularly white-collar workers, have a view that the best factory is one where almost nobody is there,' he said in a speech to the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility meeting at Chapman University in 1985. 'Most functions are automated. In this view the factory is a production machine, a gadget, and there's no honorable role for people except to fill in where the machines aren't good enough yet.'"

Programming doesn't begin to define computer science. By Jim Morris ["professor of computer science and dean of Carnegie Mellon University's West Coast campus']. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 4, 2004). "Computer scientists must know enough history and social science to chart and predict the impact of computers on the intersecting worlds of work, entertainment and society. To do this, they must understand the modern world and its roots. To participate in today's debates about privacy, one must understand both computers and society."

Rise of the machines. Next News by James M. Pethokoukis. USNews.com (April 22, 2004). "But [Bill] Joy is probably just as well known for his belief that the accelerating technologies of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics pose a dire threat to humanity by opening the way to new weapons of mass destruction such as tiny, replicating nanobots run wild. But Joy isn't the only techie who frets about what his own labors might one day help create. Hugo de Garis is a Belgian-born associate professor of computer science at Utah State University. A former theoretical physicist, de Garis now researches neural networks, a branch of artificial intelligence. ... Yet de Garis worries that one day supersmart machines -- or artilects (for artificial intellects) -- will dominate humanity. ... De Garis admits some ambivalence himself. He is involved with building artificial brains -- the precursors to the artilects -- but he's also raising the alarm about their political effects. How could such conflict be prevented? I recently E-mailed de Garis that exact question. His response: 'Ah, the $100 trillion question. I wish I knew. I haven't yet found a plausible way out of this terrible dilemma. ... "

  • Read Hugo de Garis' essay, The Artilect War (short), that is referenced in the article above.
    • Excerpt: "I think it should be obvious to nearly everyone reading this essay that it is only a question of time before millions of people start debating the 'artilect issue', e.g. "How far up the intelligence curve should the artificial brain industry be allowed to progress in producing artificially intelligent products? Should any constraints be placed on them at all? If progress should be stopped after reaching a certain intelligence level, can it be stopped?" In time, this debate will heat up to such a point that I believe it will become the dominant issue of our age. It will color and define the 21st century and beyond.

Ethics for the Robot Age - Should bots carry weapons? Should they win patents? Questions we must answer as automation advances. View by Jordan Pollack. Wired Magazine (January 2005; Issue 13.01). "While our hopes for and fears of robots may be overblown, there is plenty to worry about as automation progresses. The future will have many more robots, and they'll most certainly be much more advanced. This raises important ethical questions that we must begin to confront. 1. Should robots be humanoid? ... 2. Should humans become robots? ... 4. Should robots eat? ... 6. Should robots carry weapons? ... "

Oppenheimer's Ghost - Can we control the evolution and uses of technology? Editorial by Jason Pontin. Technology Review (November / December 2007). "Oppenheimer believed that technology and science had their own imperatives, and that whatever could be discovered or done would be discovered and done. 'It is a profound and necessary truth,' he told a Canadian audience in 1962, 'that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them.'"

Infinite Memory and Bandwidth: Implications for Artificial Intelligence - Not to worry about superintelligent machines taking over, says AI pioneer Dr. Raj Reddy. A more likely scenario: people who can think and act 1000 times faster, using personal intelligent agents. By Raj Reddy. Originally presented as a talk at the Newell-Simon Hall Dedication Symposium, October 19, 2000. Published on KurzweilAI.net February 22, 2001. "The main thesis of my talk is that none of the dire consequences of Bill Joy or the predictions of Kurzweil and Moravec about the possible emergence of a robot nation will come to pass. Not because they are incorrect, but because we live in a society in which progress depends on the investment of research dollars."

Biocyberethics: should we stop a company from unplugging an intelligent computer? By Martine Rothblatt. KurzweilAI.net. "Attorney Dr. Martine Rothblatt filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent a corporation from disconnecting an intelligent computer in a mock trial at the International Bar Association conference in San Francisco, Sept. 16, 2003. The issue could arise in a real court within the next few decades, as computers achieve or exceed the information processing capability of the human mind and the boundary between human and machine becomes increasingly blurred." You can also access a webcast and a transcript of the hearing via links from the article.

Robots 'R' us? The machines are getting smarter every day. Human beings better be thinking about science fiction becoming reality. Opinion by Charles Rubin. post-gazette.com (May 14, 2006). "After decades of slow change and unfulfilled promise, it may be that robots and artificial intelligence are on the verge of transforming what people do and how we do it. Yet popular culture has long reflected how the rise of robots is not a prospect that everyone greets with enthusiasm. If people's fears are to be addressed honestly, the hopes behind the serious work of invention going on here will need to be matched by equally serious thought about the consequences for the human future these cutting-edge efforts will have."

Essays on Science and Society. From Science Magazine. "In monthly essays on Science and Society, Science features the views of individuals from inside or outside the scientific community as they explore the interface between science and the wider society. This series continues the weekly viewpoints on science and society that Science published in 1998 in honor of the 150th anniversary of AAAS [The American Association for the Advancement of Science]."

Someone to Watch over You. Editorial by Nigel Shadbolt. IEEE Intelligent Systems (March/April 2003). "Our own disciplines of AI and IS can serve to maintain or invade privacy. They can be used for legitimate law enforcement or to carry out crime itself."

Man and the Machines - It's time to start thinking about how we might grant legal rights to computers. By Benjamin Soskis. Legal Affairs (January / February 2005). "The story of the self-aware computer asserting its rights—and, in the dystopian version of the tale, its overwhelming power --- is a staple of science fiction books and movies. ... At some point in the not-too-distant future, we might actually face a sentient, intelligent machine who demands, or who many come to believe deserves, some form of legal protection."

  • Go here for additional information about the mock trial that is referenced in this article.

Data Mining and Domestic Security: Connecting the Dots to Make Sense of Data. By K. A. Taipale. The Columbia Science and Technology Law Review (Volume V, 2003-2004; page 83). "New technologies present new opportunities and new challenges to existing methods of law enforcement and domestic security investigation and raise related civil liberties concerns. Although technology is not deterministic, its development follows certain indubitable imperatives. The commercial need to develop these powerful analytic technologies as well as the drive to adopt these technologies to help ensure domestic security is inevitable. For those concerned with the civil liberties and privacy issues that the use of these technologies will present, the appropriate and useful course of action is to be involved in guiding the research and development process towards outcomes that provide opportunity for traditional legal procedural protection to be applied to their usage. To do so requires a more informed engagement by both sides in the debate based on a better understanding of the actual technological potential and constraints."

Privacy-Aware Autonomous Agents for Pervasive Healthcare. By Monica Tentori, Jesus Favela, and Marcela D. Rodríguez. IEEE Intelligent Systems (November/December 2006; 21(6): 55-62. "Pervasive technology in hospital work raises important privacy concerns. Autonomous agents can help developers design privacy-aware systems that handle the threats raised by pervasive technology."

Schlock Mercenary, The Online Comic Space Opera by Howard Tyler. See the January 4, 2006 installment in which Captain Tagon asks: "Is this one of those 'machine ethics' questions?"

A Question of Responsibility. M. Mitchell Waldrop. AI Magazine 8(1): Spring 1987, 28-39. "So we return to the questions we started with. Robots, in the broad sense that we have defined them, play the role of agent. Coupled with AI, moreover, they will be able to take on responsibility and authority in ways that no machines have ever done before. So perhaps it’s worth asking before we get to that point just how much power and authority these intelligent machines ought to have -- and just who, if anyone, will control them. ... [O]ne thing that is apparent from the above discussion is that intelligent machines will embody values, assumptions, and purposes, whether their programmers consciously intend them to or not. Thus, as computers and robots become more and more intelligent, it becomes imperative that we think carefully and explicitly about what those built-in values are. Perhaps what we need is, in fact, a theory and practice of machine ethics, in the spirit of Asimov’s three laws of robotics. Admittedly, a concept like 'machine ethics' sounds hopelessly fuzzy and far-fetched-at first. But maybe it’s not as far out of reach as it seems. Ethics, after all, is basically a matter of making choices based on concepts of right and wrong, duty and obligation"

A Little Privacy, Please - Computer scientist Latanya Sweeney helps to save confidentiality with "anonymizing" programs, "deidentifiers" and other clever algorithms. Whether they are enough, however, is another question. By Chip Walter. Scientific American (July 2007). "Certainly privacy is under siege, and that, [Latanya Sweeney] says, is bad. Debates rage over the Patriot Act and data mining at the federal level, and states have a hodgepodge of reactive laws that swing between ensuring privacy and increasing security. Although identity theft began a slow decline in 2002, one recent study revealed that 8.4 million U.S. adults still suffered some form of identity fraud in 2006. ... All this has kept Sweeney and her team [at Carnegie Mellon University's Laboratory for International Data Privacy] busy the past six years wrestling some of today’s thorniest confidentiality issues to the mat -- identity theft, medical privacy and the rapid expansion of camera surveillance among them. ... Another program 'anonymizes' identities. It was originally developed for the Department of Defense after the 9/11 attacks to help locate potential terrorists while still protecting the privacy of innocent citizens. The program prevents surveillance cameras from revealing an identity until authorities show they need the images to prosecute a crime. ... The clever algorithms at the heart of Sweeney’s lab go back to her days growing up in Nashville, when she would daydream about ways to create an artificially intelligent black box that she could talk to. ... Sweeney wrote a program called Scrub System that tapped her expertise in artificial intelligence to ingeniously search patient records, treatment notes and letters between physicians. Standard search-and-replace software had generally found 30 to 60 percent of personal, identifying information. Scrub System 'understands' what constitutes a name, address or phone number and eliminates 99 to 100 percent of the revealing data."

Launching a new kind of warfare - Robot vehicles are increasingly taking a role on the battlefield - but their deployment raises moral and philosophical as well as technical questions. By Pete Warre. The Guardian / Guardian Unlimited Technology (October 26, 2006). "By 2015, the US Department of Defense plans that one third of its fighting strength will be composed of robots, part of a $127bn (£68bn) project known as Future Combat Systems (FCS), a transformation that is part of the largest technology project in American history. The US army has already developed around 20 remotely controlled Unmanned Ground Systems that can be controlled by a laptop from around a mile away, and the US Navy and US Air Force are working on a similar number of systems with varying ranges. According to a US general quoted in the US Army's Joint Robotics Program Master Plan [link], 'what we're doing with unmanned ground and air vehicles is really bringing movies like Star Wars to reality'. The US military has 2,500 uncrewed systems deployed in conflicts around the world. But is it Star Wars or I, Robot that the US is bringing to reality? By 2035, the plan is for the first completely autonomous robot soldiers to stride on to the battlefield. The US is not alone. Around the globe, 32 countries are now working on the development of uncrewed systems. ... But if this is the beginning of the end of humanity's presence on the battlefield, it merits an ethical debate that the military and its weapons designers are shying away from." [Also see this related article.]

Technology, Work, and the Organization: The Impact of Expert Systems. By Rob R. Weitz. AI Magazine 11(2): Summer, 1990, 50-60.

The Virtual Sky is not the Limit: Ethics in Virtual Reality. By Blay Whitby (1993). Intelligent Tutoring Media, Vol.3 No.2. "Its reality stems from the convincing nature of the illusion, and most importantly for moral considerations, the way in which human participants can interact with it."

Related Web Sites

AAAI Corporate Bylaws (Bylaws of The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence): Article II. Purpose - "This corporation is a nonprofit public benefit corporation and is not organized for the private gain of any person. It is organized under the California Nonprofit Corporation Law for scientific and educational purposes in the field of artificial intelligence to promote research in, and <u>responsible use</u> of, artificial intelligence." [Emphasis added.]

ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) has several pertinent resources, including:

  • ACM Professional Standards, one of which is the General ACM Code of Ethics.
  • Computers and Public Policy: an overview of association-level policy activities with links to related committees, codes, declarations, resolutions, policies & statements.
  • "SIGCAS [Special Interest Group on Computers and Society] brings together computer professionals, specialists in other fields, and the public at large to address concerns and raise awareness about the ethical and societal impact of computers. As part of its ongoing efforts to gather and report information, thus stimulating the exchange and dissemination of ideas, SIGCAS publishes a quarterly newsletter and co-sponsors national conferences such as the National Educational Conference, the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference, the Computers and Quality of Life Symposium, and the Computer Ethics Conference."
  • USACM: "The ACM U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM) serves as the focal point for ACM's interaction with U.S. government organizations, the computing community, and the U.S. public in all matters of U.S. public policy related to information technology."

"The Center for the Study of Science and Religion (CSSR) was founded in the summer of 1999 as a forum for the examination of issues that lie at the boundary of these two complementary ways of comprehending the world and our place in it. By examining the intersections that cross over the boundaries between one or another science and one or another religion, the CSSR hopes to stimulate dialogue and encourage understanding. The CSSR is not interested in promoting one or another science or religion, and we hope that the service we provide will be of benefit and offer understanding into all sciences and religions"

The Center for Unified Biometrics and Sensors (CUBS), University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, research program regarding the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications: "Many social and legal issues surround the field of biometrics since by its very nature, the technology requires measurements of human physical traits and behavioral features. Co-operative and uncooperative users, user psychology, dislike of intrusive systems, backlash at public rejection by a biometric sensor, and privacy concerns are some of the myriad of issues that will be thoroughly studied to advance the field of biometrics. The Center in partnership with the University at Buffalo's Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy will address the growing interest in Biometrics among the government, industry and the lay public."

Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR), De Montfort University. Resource collections include:

Computer Ethics Institute at The Brookings Institution provides "an advanced forum and resource for identifying, assessing and responding to ethical issues associated with the advancement of information technologies in society."

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. "CPSR is a global organization promoting the responsible use of computer technology. Founded in 1981, CPSR educates policymakers and the public on a wide range of issues." - from About CPSR.

  • The CPSR Wiener Award for Social and Professional Responsibility: "In 1987, CPSR began a tradition to recognize outstanding contributions for social responsibility in computing technology. The organization wanted to cite people who recognize the importance of a science-educated public, who take a broader view of the social issues of computing. We aimed to share concerns that lead to action in arenas of the power, promise, and limitations of computer technology." Past winners include Joe Weizenbaum (1988) and Doug Engelbart (2005).

Essays on the Philosophy of Technology. Maintained by Dr. Frank Edler, Metropolitan Community College, Omaha, Nebraska. A well-presented and wide ranging list of links to full-text online papers and other web sites.

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. As stated on their About the Institute page: "By promoting and publicizing the work of thinkers who examine the social implications of scientific and technological advance, we seek to contribute to the understanding of the impact of emerging technologies on individuals and societies."

Laboratory for International Data Privacy. "The overall mission of the Laboratory for International Data Privacy (also known as the 'Data Privacy Lab') at Carnegie Mellon University is to provide intellectual leadership to society in shaping the evolving relationship between technology and the legal right to or public expectation of privacy in the collection and sharing of data. The Data Privacy Lab is an interdisciplinary research group dedicated to exploring, assessing and creating technology that provides scientific assurrances of anonymity in data."

  • Here's a sample of what you'll find when you visit their site:
    • Identity Angel: AI Technologies to Defeat Identity Theft Vulnerabilities.
    • Preserving Privacy by De-identifying Facial Images: "In the context of sharing video surveillance data, a significant threat to privacy is face recognition software, which can automatically identify known people from a driver’s license photo database, for example, and thereby track people regardless of suspicion. This paper introduces an algorithm to protect the privacy of individuals in video surveillance data by de-identifying faces such that many facial characteristics remain but the face cannot be reliably recognized."
    • Privacy Technology Issues and Impact papers
    • Scrub: de-identification of textual documents: "We define a new approach to locating and replacing personally-identifying information in unrestricted text that extends beyond straight search-and-replace procedures, and we provide techniques for minimizing risk to patient confidentiality. ... Scrub uses detection algorithms that employ templates and specialized knowledge of what constitutes a name, address, phone number and so forth."
  • Also see this related magazine article (2007) and this related newspaper article (2005).

Machine Ethics. Maintained by Dr. Michael Anderson, Department of Computer Science, University of Hartford. "Machine Ethics is concerned with the behavior of machines towards human users and other machines. Allowing machine intelligence to effect change in the world can be dangerous without some restraint. Machine Ethics involves adding an ethical dimension to machines to achieve this restraint."

MedEthEx demo.

Nanoethics Group: "a non-partisan and independent organization that studies the ethical and societal implications of nanotechnology. We also engage the public as well as collaborate with nanotech ventures and research institutes on related issues that will impact the industry."

No Place To Hide, a multimedia investigation led by Robert O'Harrow, Jr. andThe Center for Investigative Reporting. "When you go to work, stop at the store, fly in a plane, or surf the web, you are being watched. They know where you live, the value of your home, the names of your friends and family, in some cases even what you read. Where the data revolution meets the needs of national security, there is no place to hide. No Place To Hide is a multimedia investigation by news organizations working together across print and broadcast platforms, to make a greater impact than any one organization could alone."

"The Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science [at Case Western Reserve University] was established in the fall of 1995 under a grant ... from the National Science Foundation and is currently operating under a renewal grant... .The mission of the Ethics Center is to provide engineers, scientists and science and engineering students with resources useful for understanding and addressing ethically significant problems that arise in their work life. The Center is also intended to serve teachers of engineering and science students who want to include discussion of ethical problems closely related to technical subjects as a part of science and engineering courses, or in free-standing subjects in professional ethics or in research ethics for such students." Be sure to see the Computers and Software section and their Glossary of Ethical Terms.

  • Educators: click here for a link to their instructional resources which include materials suitable for high school students, as well as college students and professionals.

Roboethics. Based at the Scuola di Robotica, Genova, Italy. "It is therefore important to open a debate on the ethical basis which should inspire the design and development of robots, to avoid problems incurred by other human activities, forced to become conscious of the ethical basis under the pressure of grievous events. We are entering the time when robots are among us and the new question is: Could a robot do 'good' and 'evil'? We know about robots helping mankind in scientific, humanitarian and ecological enterprises, useful for safeguarding our planet and its inhabitants. But we heard also about 'intelligent' weapons which kill people. It is important to underline that not only robotic scientists are called to give their contribution to the definition of the problem whether a robot can or cannot do harm to a human being (Isaac Asimov's 'First Law of Robotics'), but also philosophers, jurists, sociologists and many scholars involved in similar themes. This website www.roboethics.org aims to be a reference point for the ongoing Debate on the human/robot relationship and a Forum where Scientists and concerned people can share their opinions."

sciencehorizons: "a national series of conversations about new technologies, the future and society. It has been set up by the UK government and will run during 2007."

Technology & Citizenship Symposium, McGill University, Montréal, Canada, June 9 - 10, 2006. "This symposium will address the complex relations between Technology and Citizenship. Technology is deeply implicated in the organisation and distribution of social, political and economic power. Technological artefacts, systems and practices arise from particular historical situations, and they condition subsequent social, political and economic identities, practices and relationships."

Workshop on Roboethics (14 April 2007) at the 2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA'07).

  • As stated on the Objectives: "Roboethics deals with the ethical aspects of the design, development and employment of Intelligent Machines. It shares many 'sensitive areas' with Computer Ethics, Information Ethics and Bioethics. Along these disciplines, it investigates the social and ethical problems due to the effects of the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions in the Humans/Machines interaction’s domain. Urged by the responsibilities involved in their professions, an increasing number of roboticists from all over the world have started - in cross-cultural collaboration with scholars of Humanities - to thoroughly develop the Roboethics, the applied ethics that should inspire the design, manufacturing and use of robots. The goal of the Workshop is a cross-cultural update for engineering scientists who wish to monitor the medium and long effects of applied robotics technologies."

Related AI Topics Pages

More Readings

Amato, Ivan. Big Brother Logs On. Technology Review (September 2001). "Feeling exposed? Watchful technologies could soon put everyone under surveillance. ... Now, similarly, police departments, government agencies, banks, merchants, amusement parks, sports arenas, nanny-watching homeowners, swimming-pool operators, and employers are deploying cameras, pattern recognition algorithms, databases of information, and biometric tools that when taken as a whole can be combined into automated surveillance networks able to track just about anyone, just about anywhere."

Anderson, David. 1989. Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems: The Implications. Chichester, UK: Ellis Horwood.

Bailey, James, David Gelernter, Jaron Lanier, et al. 1997. Our Machines, Ourselves. Harper's (May 1997): 45-54. If we are to accept the idea that computers, as well as humans, can be intelligent, then what makes human beings "special"? Several computer science visionaries address this and other related questions.

Bailey, James. 1996. After Thought: The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence. New York: Basic Books.

Beardon, Colin. 1992. The Ethics of Virtual Reality. Intelligent Tutoring Media. 3(1), 23-28.

Crevier, Daniel. 1993. AI: The Tumultuous History of the Search for Artificial Intelligence, New York: Basic Books of Harper Collins Publishers. Chapter 12 (pp. 312-341)

Dennett, Daniel C. 1996. When HAL Kills, Who's to Blame? Computer Ethics. Abstract from HAL's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality. Edited by David G. Stork. MIT Press.

Dray, J. 1987. Social Issues of AI. From the Encyclopedia of Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 2., Shapiro, Stuart C., editor, 1049-1060. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Edgar, Stacey L. 1997. Morality and Machines: Perspectives on Computer Ethics. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Includes a chapter titled "The Artificial Intelligentsia and Virtual Worlds," as well as chapters on computer reliability and liability issues, and military uses.

Epstein, Richard G. 1997. The Case of the Killer Robot: Stories About the Professional, Ethical, and Societal Dimensions of Computing. New York: John Wiley & Sons. A collection of fictional stories and factual chapters that complement each other in discussion of the issues.

Gill, K. S., editor. 1986. Artificial Intelligence for Society. Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.

Kirsner, Scott. Getting smart about predictive intelligence. The Boston Globe (December 30, 2002; page C1). "If you want to get ready for the biggest technology debate of 2003, you should spend a few hours this week with Tom Cruise. ... The movie to rent is 'Minority Report,' directed by Steven Spielberg and based on a short story by Philip K. Dick.... The technology world's big debate for 2003 will center on just this kind of predictive intelligence: the ability to use software running on powerful computers to analyze information about your prior behavior, like where you've traveled and what you've bought, to guess about what you might do next. Are you more likely to purchase a plasma screen TV next year, or attempt to blow up a nuclear power plant? In real-world Washington, retired Navy Admiral John Poindexter is constructing a system called Total Information Awareness, with the hopes of being able to identify terrorists before they commit acts of terrorism, based on a series of suspicious transactions. In the private sector, companies are already using predictive intelligence to analyze your data profile and solve more mundane business problems.... You may think that attempts at divining crimes before they're committed need more congressional oversight than they've been receiving - or that we shouldn't try at all. But whatever you do, give it some thought. Because defining the limits of how predictive intelligence can be used, by government and the private sector, is going to be the major technology debate of the coming year."

Kizza, Joseph M. 1997. New Frontiers for Ethical Considerations: Artificial Intelligence, Cyberidentity, and Virtual Reality. In Ethical and Social Issues in the Information Age, New York: Springer-Verlag. Landauer, Thomas K. 1995. The Trouble with Computers. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press. The author is critical of techno-hype and, though overly dismissive of AI and expert systems, Landauer extensively documents and analyzes the relationship between poor computer design and low productivity. The last chapter of the book imaginatively describes many wonderful tools that can be expected from AI-type computers if good user-centered design prevails. Leonard, Andrew 1997. Bots: The Origin of New Species. San Francisco: Hardwired. Surveys the vast spectrum of software agents---from bots that retrieve information to bots that chat---and compares them to living evolving organisms. Levinson, Paul. 1997. The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution. London and New York: Routledge. Chapter 18 (pp. 205-221) Discusses AI in the context of other technological advances. Murray, Denise. 1995. Knowledge Machines: Language and Information in a Technological Society. London; New York: Longman.

Nilsson, Nils J. Artificial Intelligence, Employment, and Income. AI Magazine 5(2 -->