As technology progresses and becomes more competent, the looming fears of the perils of advanced artificial intelligence becomes more salient. While the dreary and dystopian images derived from the archetypes of the science fiction narratives paint a very vivid account of the worst possible scenario. For example a robot overlord forcing the entire human race into a servile existence with only a dismal future of misery and servitude to look forward to. While the horrors of technology running amok has been a standard motif in science fiction from the works of Issac Asimov to the parasitic parallel reality of The Matrix. However, do these works account for the contemporary and pertinent ethical concerns of artificial intelligence? I would personally assert no. While the previous works of fiction make for excellent entertainment and even pose some superb philosophical insight, the current concerns are more subtle and less radically outlandish.
The concerns that we face on a day to day basis are more pointed towards humans utilizing such technology to manipulate other humans. Complex algorithms devised to engage us to be complete fixated and engaged in social media, with ability to react to real time input. While this is certainly a very covert and deceptive way to utilize computer programming and the reward pathway of the human brain to capture the majority of traffic on the internet, that merely scratches the superficial level of ethical concerns. Aside society’s growing addiction to social media, perpetuated by complex, adaptive, and near cognizant algorithms, there are variety of other avenues that A.I has some serious ethical considerations. What about the creation of intelligent sex robots for individuals who are enticed by debased impulses and paraphilias? Could these dark and cardinal compulsions be extrapolated towards living humans and animals? If the robot sentient is it equally as reprehensible as sexually assaulting a human? While this may seem almost cartoonish, you need to consider the life-like nature of the sex robots being designed in Japan and the realistic reaction of the non-sexual robots being designed by Boston Dynamics. The whole concern of the potential exploitation and related issues of sex robots are a mere microcosm of the litany of moral questions surrounding artificial intelligence.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE :
The article from Santa Clara University, Artificial Intelligence and Ethics: Ten Areas of Interest, by Brian Patrick Green provides an excellent overview of the ethical concerns that encompasses the ethics of Artificial Intelligence.
1.) One such concern that does not tend to occur to us is the concern of technical safety for example resistance to hacking. Essentially this concern applies to whether or not the artificial intelligence operates properly and the potential ramifications of A.I. failure. An example would be someone having died in an a traffic accident engendered by a self driving car, due to a situation that the program did not participate happened.
2.) The second talking point that the article expounds upon is the topic of Transparency and Privacy. The principle derives its rationale from the fact that the more powerful the A.I. the transparent the processes behind its decision making functionality should be. In the same vein the more component the A.I. the more privacy the user is entitled to. Due to the fact that advanced A.I. is very complex, this is a measure to ensure that the user understands the intent and helps control against manipulation of the user.
3.) The third point of focus mentioned in the article was Malicious Use and Capacity for Evil. To summarize this point, it is the consideration of to what extend the A.I. can be used in a harmful manner. The examples of this subject can vary wildly, everything from the invasive to the nightmarish horrors of a cognizant and wanton robot assassin. I would rather focus on an example that is more applicable to the constraints of our current technological capabilities. For example, video surveillance, if it is programmed to record individuals in the restroom, this would fall under depiction of malicious use for wantonly violating an individual’s privacy for deprived sexual purposes with no consent.
4.) Another topic of concern regarding the ethics of artificial intelligence is the Beneficial Use and Capacity for good. This topic is the natural reciprocal of the previous subject addressed, its antithesis if you will. To what extent the A.I will be advantageous to the user and will improve/benefit them and potentially society.
5.) The next ethical concern discussed in the article was the consideration of bias in data. Standard artificial intelligence operates on a neural network where it converges the computer program with obtained data. Which can be advantageous as well as present some dangers as well. Specifically applicable is the phenomena of algorithmic bias. Where the programmer impacts the data procurement processes having the algorithm set to collect in a manner that conforms to a humans own ideological perspective. An example would be having a school system utilizing a computer program to determine which students require tutoring after school. The program is set to select students who qualify for free lunch program, due to correlation between parental income and learning difficulties. Please note correlation does not equal causation and taking such liberties erodes trust in the computer program as well as the institutions that use them.
6.) The next concern in regards to the ethical repercussions was in reference to what is Unemployment and Lack of purpose. With the advent of increased advances in A.I there we are seeing more human workers being replaced by machines. As more vocations become more automated, more people will begin to lose their jobs. How these individuals will support themselves and their families is certainly one question that fits into this category of ethical concern. On the other hand, even if these workers displaced are able to receive enough social welfare benefits, from the government, to support themselves what do they do from there? Many people have their sense of identity and overall purpose in life/ meaning in life contingent on working for a living. It gives them a reason to get up in the morning. What are they to do once their jobs have been made obsolete and they have nothing else of importance to occupy their time? Also, mitigate any psychological harm engendered by such an existential conflict?
7.) The seventh concern posed by the article was the growing socio-economic inequality resulting from the advances in artificial intelligence. In relation to the previous area of concern, how are the displaced workers going to support themselves? Many affluent and successful individuals , such as Mark Zuckerberg, recommend implementation of Universal Basic Income. However, is it right to have the majority of society to support individuals who do not contribute to the economy? As you can plainly see this is will devolve into more of a political consideration versus a tech based one.
8.) Another ethical concern brought forth by the article was moral de-skilling and deability. Many of you are probably wondering what in the hell does that mean? We are all familiar with the expression ” If you don’t use it you lose” from physiological standpoint. However, this same principle can be extrapolated to moral reasoning and basically another skill set. If all of our criminal justice and political decisions are being ascertained by A.I. humans will lose the ability to make such decisions due to remaining cognitive sedentary.
9.) The nearing the end of the list, the ninth consideration was AI Personhood/ Robot rights. If a machine with advanced A.I. becomes self aware, should they have any rights to protect them. As previously mentioned above, in regards to the sexual abuse example above, if they are sentient, is it ethically wrong to harm robots? Is it worse than doing it to a human? Should three be laws protecting advanced A.I robots be protected from such mistreatment? Can this be translated from mistreating robots to mistreating people?
10.) The final consideration cited by the article was the effects on the human spirit. This concern was pertaining to how all of the ethical concerns above will impact how humans perceive themselves. If we put value on our intelligence, and we are providing superior intelligence to external machines. Are we subjugating ourselves by such advances and are we inadvertently make ourselves obsolete.
Looking at the contemporary issues we as a society are facing with artificial intelligence are not quite analogous to the bleak predictions of science fiction. However, will Issac Asimov’s laws of Robotics may seem narrow in scope, there was also know way he could have had the foresight to accurately predict how our A.I concerns would manifest themselves. Our A.I. concerns are more subtle, nevertheless, they still provide us with some difficult problems to remedy. Like most philosophical inquiries there is no real silver bullet solution to the ethical considerations concerning A.I.
While my Socratic admission of ignorance to the how resolve these concerns, I always believe that education and awareness can always be advantageous. While these complex and abstract problems may not be easily fixed, still does not mean we cannot become more informed about their impact on society or potential adverse consequences. I think we should certainly have social scientists and experts in the field of robotics and A.I. work together to analyze the adverse consequences. From there we can maybe potentially determine the full range of the impact and attempt to mitigate damage from there. However, even outside of the ivory walls of academia, there are still measures we can take to be more conscious of the ethical concerns of A.I. I personally believe that looking at the ethical concerns themselves and how they are related to our daily lives is a great start. We all might not be privy to the inter workings of A.I. we can still see how it does impact our lives. From there we can attempt to surmise would responsible use of artificial intelligence may look like.