Debates about the social impact of creating intelligent machines
has occupied many organizations and individuals over the past decades.
Since many of the early science fiction speculations and predictions from the
late 19th century
through to the 1960's have already become reality there is no reason to
assume that robots and intelligent machines will not happen. We are
already living in that era's future, experiencing a golden age of
technology, with no end, or limit, in sight.
The moral and ethical implications of artificial intelligences
are obvious and there are three sides to the argument. While one
party argues that there are already too many of us living in poverty
without work there is little or no reason to create mechanical
laborers (that can think independently). And that we certainly
should not create machines that can argue with us about such issues.
Another party argues that society cannot develop or take
advantage of resources without the help of machines that can think
for themselves at least a little. And party number three simply
doesn't care about the issue at all, as is typical of human society.
On a more detailed level, opinions also differ about the extent to which we should make
machines intelligent and what these machines should look like.
we talking about autonomous devices like space explorers or robots
that mimic human form, thought and behavior? As more and more of
society gets automated will we entrust our children,
educational institutions, businesses, and governments
to reasoning machines as well? -->
There are no clear answers here. Research is widespread and
diverse, covering all of the aspects of artificial intelligence. We
don't even agree on what exactly defines intelligence and already we
are creating artificial ones. So who is to say what is right?
But if we do build android machines with a designed intelligence
that think and behave like humans,
shouldn't they be made absolutely subservient to us?
Isaac Asimov, the science fiction author, well known for his
robot novels (amongst the myriad others), wrote the Three Laws of
Robotics early in the last century which were incorporated into the
"positronic" brains of his robots in order to protect humans from a "robot
revolution", and to prevent other humans abusing them. :
The Three Laws of Robotics
- A robot may not injure a human being, or, through
inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings
except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such
protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The above three principles are a good example of the difficulty in
programming an artificial brain. The human brain is evolved through
millions of years of survival and social behavior. We are still
undergoing this process.
Imitating the brain's workings is a tremendous challenge and,
judging by the advance of current processor power and complexity,
will take at least
several decades more to reach even the most rudimentary levels.
And once we have decided that we do want android robots and other
machines with an artificially created intelligence sophisticated
enough to rival our own, the question still remains with which
ethical and moral values do we instill them?
Looking at human civilization with its diverse cultural,
religious, ethical and moral values, what exactly are we trying to
create here and to what purpose?
Do we needs robots, for example, that are religiously biased? Is
that what human society needs, the perfect Catholic, Muslim, or
Buddhist mind? Or do we want a mind that is ruthlessly calculative,
for example, the perfect Capitalist or Efficiency Expert? A law
Just defining those values would already prove
impossible as they are all similar in many ways as well as being
radically different. So instead we design the perfect ascetic mind,
and then what? That certainly won't please a lot people.
And what about practical applications of these values? If one set
of ethical or religious values dictates that we cannot assist in
euthanasia, for example, and another dictates that it is imperative
that we do, aren't we just duplicating current issues without any
real answers? What would be the point?
Perhaps artificial intelligences will show the same diversity as
humans. So what would be the point then of creating artificial
humans? Don't we have problems enough with the biological ones? Or
are we simply looking to design a perfect human? Would that be a god
On a more practical level we could create an artificial intelligence, in android or
machine form, that would function as a neutral entity (if that is at
all definable because it would have to have a set of values)
and that this entity's sole purpose, for example, is to teach.
It would teach topics that do not
involve any moral, ethical or religious values, such as geography or
technical skills. Inevitably, certainly if there are children
involved, it would get questions such as "Yes, but, why?"
If related to the topic it would answer appropriately, but
inevitably it would come to a point of no return. How then would it answer such a simple question, except for with a
"Does not compute" or other similar non-committal answer. Perhaps it
could say "Ask a human teacher", or "This question is not allowed."
or "'Why' is not a valid question, please restate.".
Not really good enough, is it? Asking why is the most fundamental
question of all, isn't it? Without it we'd be animals with only
instinct and reflex to guide us. We'd be automatons...
issue of which ethical, moral and cultural values to instate on our
artificially created intelligence goes on. If it can't even answer a
simple "Why?" then perhaps we should make sure these machines aren't
intelligent at all. Not capable of making any decision beyond
mechanical, programmed movement, and certainly not capable of any
deductive reasoning and not in any position where it could influence
or have control over humans or human society.
See also Ethical Issues
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