Conatus 6 (1) (2021)

At the turn of the 21st century, Susan Leigh Anderson and Michael Anderson conceived and introduced the Machine Ethics research program, that aimed to highlight the requirements under which autonomous artificial intelligence systems could demonstrate ethical behavior guided by moral values, and at the same time to show that these values, as well as ethics in general, can be representable and computable. Today, the interaction between humans and AI entities is already part of our everyday lives; in the near future it is expected to play a key role in scientific research, medical practice, public administration, education and other fields of civic life. In view of this, the debate over the ethical behavior of machines is more crucial than ever and the search for answers, directions and regulations is imperative at an academic, institutional as well as at a technical level. Our discussion with the two inspirers and originators of Machine Ethics highlights the epistemological, metaphysical and ethical questions arising by this project, as well as the realistic and pragmatic demands that dominate artificial intelligence and robotics research programs. Most of all, however, it sheds light upon the contribution of Susan and Michael Anderson regarding the introduction and undertaking of a main objective related to the creation of ethical autonomous agents, that will not be based on the “imperfect” patterns of human behavior, or on preloaded hierarchical laws and human-centric values.
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