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Can Robots Be Ethical?
2015-10-13

No, says Robert Newman.

Should the driverless vehicles being developed by Apple, Google and Daimler be programmed to mount the pavement to avoid a head-on collision? Should they be programmed to swerve to hit one person in order to avoid hitting two? Two instead of four? Four instead of a lorry full of hazardous chemicals? Driverless cars programmed to select between these options would be one example of what the science journalNature has taken to calling ‘ethical robots’. Another is the next generation of weapons. If drones weren’t bad enough, the US Defence Department is developing Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). These select their own kill list using a set of algorithms, and need no human intervention, at however remote a distance. Autonomous drones in development include tiny rotorcraft smaller than a table-tennis ball, which will be able to float through homes, shops and offices to deliver a puncture to the cranium.

In July 2015, Nature published an article, ‘The Robot’s Dilemma’, which claimed that computer scientists “have written a logic program that can successfully make a decision… which takes into account whether the harm caused is the intended result of the action or simply necessary to it.” (I find the word ‘successfully’ chilling here; but not as chilling as ‘simply necessary’.) One of the scientists behind the ‘successful’ program argues that human ethical choices are made in a similar way: “Logic is how we… come up with our ethical choices.” But this can scarcely be true. To argue that logic is how we make our ethical decisions is to appeal to what American philosopher Hilary Putnam describes as “the comfortable eighteenth century assumption that all intelligent and well-informed people who mastered the art of thinking about human actions and problems impartially would feel the appropriate ‘sentiments’ of approval and disapproval in the same circumstances unless there was something wrong with their personal constitution” (The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays, 2002). However, for good or ill, ethical choices often fly in the face of logic. They may come from emotion, natural cussedness, vague inkling, gut instinct, or even imagination. For instance, I am marching through North Carolina with the Union Army, utterly logically convinced that only military victory over the Confederacy will abolish the hateful institution of slavery. But when I see the face of the enemy – a scrawny, shoeless seventeen-year-old – I throw away my gun and run sobbing from the battlefield. This is an ethical decision, resulting in decisive action: only it isn’t made in cold blood, and it goes against the logic of my position.

(来源:philosophynow.org