Artificial Moral Agents: A Survey of the Current Status [Book Review]

Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (2):501-532 (2020)
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One of the objectives in the field of artificial intelligence for some decades has been the development of artificial agents capable of coexisting in harmony with people and other systems. The computing research community has made efforts to design artificial agents capable of doing tasks the way people do, tasks requiring cognitive mechanisms such as planning, decision-making, and learning. The application domains of such software agents are evident nowadays. Humans are experiencing the inclusion of artificial agents in their environment as unmanned vehicles, intelligent houses, and humanoid robots capable of caring for people. In this context, research in the field of machine ethics has become more than a hot topic. Machine ethics focuses on developing ethical mechanisms for artificial agents to be capable of engaging in moral behavior. However, there are still crucial challenges in the development of truly Artificial Moral Agents. This paper aims to show the current status of Artificial Moral Agents by analyzing models proposed over the past two decades. As a result of this review, a taxonomy to classify Artificial Moral Agents according to the strategies and criteria used to deal with ethical problems is proposed. The presented review aims to illustrate (1) the complexity of designing and developing ethical mechanisms for this type of agent, and (2) that there is a long way to go (from a technological perspective) before this type of artificial agent can replace human judgment in difficult, surprising or ambiguous moral situations.



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