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The Ethical Status of Artificial Agents – With and Without Consciousness E-Intentionality 9/11/06. Steve Torrance Middlesex University, UK and University of Sussex, UK stevet@sussex.ac.uk.

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The ethical status of artificial agents with and without consciousness e intentionality 9 11 06 l.jpg
The Ethical Status of Artificial Agents – With and Without ConsciousnessE-Intentionality 9/11/06

Steve Torrance

Middlesex University, UK

and

University of Sussex, UK

stevet@sussex.ac.uk


Slide2 l.jpg

  • This is an expanded version of a talk given at a conference of the ETHICBOTS project in Naples, Oct 17-18, 2006.

  • See S. Torrance; ‘The Ethical Status of Artificial Agents – With and Without Consciousness’ (extended abstract), in G. Tamburrin and E. Datteri (eds) Ethics of Human Interaction with Robotic, Bionic and AI Systems: Concepts and Policies,Napoli: Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, 2006.

  • See also S. Torrance, ‘Ethics and Consciousness in Artificial Agents’, submitted to Artificial Intelligence and Society


What this talk covers l.jpg
What this talk covers of the ETHICBOTS project in

  • Artificial Agency (AA)

  • Artificial Consciousness (AC)

  • Artificial Ethics (AE)

  • Artificial Intelligence

    … our interaction with them;

    … and our ethical relation to them.


Artificial x l.jpg
Artificial X of the ETHICBOTS project in

  • One kind of definition-schema:

     Creating machines which perform in ways which require X when humans perform in those ways…

    • (or which justify the attribution of X?)

  • ‘Outward’ performance, versus

  • psychological reality ‘within’?


  • Artificial consciousness l.jpg
    Artificial Consciousness of the ETHICBOTS project in

    Artificial Consciousness (AC):

    creating machines which perform in ways which require consciousness when humans perform in those ways (?)

    Where is the psychological reality of consciousness in this?

     ‘functional’ versus ‘phenomenal’ consciousness?


    Shallow and deep ac research l.jpg
    Shallow of the ETHICBOTS project in and deep AC research

    • Shallow AC – developing functional replications of consciousness in artificial agents

      • Without any claim to inherent psychological reality

    • Deep AC – developing psychologically real (‘phenomenal’) consciousness


    Continuum or divide l.jpg
    Continuum or divide? of the ETHICBOTS project in

    • Continuum or divide?

      • Is deep AC realizable using current computationally-based technologies (or does it require biological replications)?

    • Thin versus thick phenomenality

      • (See S.Torrance ‘Two Concepts of Machine Phenomenality’, (to be submitted, JCS)


    Real versus simulated ac an ethically significant boundary l.jpg
    Real versus simulated AC - of the ETHICBOTS project in an ethically significant boundary?

    Psychologically real versus just simulated artificial consciousness…

    • This appears to mark an ethically significant boundary

      • (perhaps unlike the comparable boundary in AI?)

        Not to deny that debates like the Chinese Room have aroused strong passions over many years…

      • Working in the area of AC

        (unlike working in AI?)

        … puts special ethical responsibilities on shoulders of researchers


    Techno ethics l.jpg
    Techno-ethics of the ETHICBOTS project in

    • This takes us into the area of techno-ethics –

      • Reflection on the ethical responsibilities of those who are involved in technological R & D

      • (including the technologies of artificial agents (AI, robotics, MC, etc.))

    • Broadly, techno-ethics can be define as

      • Reflection on how

        we, as developers and users of technologies,

        …ought to use such technologies to best meet

        our existing ethical ends,

        within existing ethical frameworks

      • Much of the ethics of artificial agent research comes under the general techno-ethics umbrella


    From techno ethics to artificial ethics l.jpg
    From techno-ethics to of the ETHICBOTS project in artificial ethics

    • What’s special about the artificial agent research is that the artificial agents so produced may count (in various senses) as ethical agents in their own right

      • This may involve a revision of our existing ethical conceptions in various ways

      • Particularly when we are engaged in research in (progressively deeper) artificial consciousness

    • Bearing this in mind, we need to distinguish between techno-ethicsand artificial ethics

      (The latter may overlap with the former)


    Towards artificial ethics ae l.jpg
    Towards artificial ethics (AE) of the ETHICBOTS project in

    • A key puzzle in AE

      • Perhaps ethical reality (or real ethical status) goes together with psychological reality??


    Shallow and deep ae l.jpg
    Shallow of the ETHICBOTS project in and deep AE

    • Shallow AE –

      • Developing ways in which the artificial agents we produce can conform to, simulate, the ethical constraints we believe desirable

      • (Perhaps a sub-field of techno-ethics?)

    • Deep AE –

      • Creating beings with inherent ethical status?

        • Rights?

        • Responsibilities?

    • The boundaries between shallow and deep AE may be perceived as fuzzy

      • And may be intrinsically fuzzy…


    Proliferation l.jpg
    Proliferation of the ETHICBOTS project in

    • A reason for taking this issue seriously:

      • AA, AC, etc. as potential mass-technologies

    • Tendency for successful technologies to proliferate across the globe

      • What if AC becomes a widely adopted technology?

    • This should raise questions both of a techno-ethical kind; and of a kind specific to AE


    Techno ethical considerations l.jpg
    Techno-ethical considerations of the ETHICBOTS project in

    BENZ 3-WHEELER 1.7 LITRES (GERMANY, 1885)

    • The responsibilities of current researchers in robotics, etc. can be compared to that of the founding fathers of automobile design or powered flight –

      • A certain sort of innocence in relation to the implications of proliferation that might have been anticipated

    CAR WRECK (USA, 2005)

    http://www.car-accidents.com/


    Considerations that seem to transcend the merely techno ethical l.jpg
    Considerations that seem to transcend the merely techno-ethical

    • There may be deep controversies concerning the ethical status of life-like artificial agents (shallow / deep AC agents)

    • There could be enormous shifts in our ethical landscape

    • ‘Our’ conception of the ethical community, of who ‘we’ are, may become hotly contested


    Instrumentality l.jpg
    Instrumentality techno-ethical

    Instrumental versus intrinsic stance

    • Normally we take our technologies as our tools or instruments

      • Instrumental/intrinsic division in relation to psychological reality of consciousness?

      • As we progress towards deep AC there could be a blurring of the boundaries between the two…

        • (already seen in a small way with emerging ‘caring’ attitudes of humans towards ‘people-friendly’ robots)

          This is one illustration of the move from ‘conventional’ techno-ethics and artificial ethics


    Artificial ethics ae l.jpg
    Artificial Ethics (AE) techno-ethical

    • AE could be defined as

      • The activity of creating systems which perform in ways which imply (or confer) the possession of ethical status when humans perform in those ways. (?)

    • The emphasis on performance could be questioned

       What is the relation between AE and AC?

    • What is ethical (moral) status?


    Two key elements of x s moral status in the eyes of y l.jpg
    Two key elements of X’s moral status (in the eyes of Y) techno-ethical

    • X’s being the recipient or target of moral concern by Y (moral consumption) [Y  X]

    • X’s being the source of moral concern towards Y (moral production) [X  Y]


    Two key elements of x s moral status l.jpg
    Two key elements of X’s moral status techno-ethical

    • X’s being the recipient or target of moral concern by Y (moral consumption)

    • X’s being the source of moral concern towards Y (moral production)

    (a)

    moral agent

    (natural/artificial)

    (b)

    moral community

    (totality of moral agents)


    Two key elements of moral status l.jpg
    Two key elements of moral status techno-ethical

    • Being the recipient or target of moral concern (moral consumption)

    • Being the source of moral concern (moral production)

    (a)

    moral agent

    (natural/artificial)

    (b)

    moral community

    (totality of moral agents)


    Ethical status in the absence of consciousness l.jpg
    Ethical status techno-ethicalin the absence of consciousness

    • Trying to refine our conception on the relation between AC and AE

    • What difference does consciousness make to artificial agency?

    • In order to shed light on this question we need to investigate

      • the putative ethical status of artificial agents (AAs) when (psychologically real) consciousness is acknowledged to be ABSENT.


    Our ethical interaction with non conscious artificial agents l.jpg
    Our ethical interaction with non-conscious artificial agents…

    ?? Could non-conscious artificial agents

    have genuine moral status …

    • As moral consumers?

       (having moral claims on us)

      (b) As moral producers?

       (having moral responsibilities towards us (and themselves))


    A strong view of ae l.jpg
    A agents…Strong View of AE

    • ‘Psychologically real’ consciousness is necessary for AAs to be considered BOTH

      • as genuine moral consumers

        AND

        (b) as genuine moral producers

  • AND there are strong constraints on what counts as ‘psychologically real’ consciousness.

    So, on the ‘strong’ view, non-conscious AAs will have no real ethical status


  • Slide24 l.jpg

    • One way to weaken the strong view: agents…

      • by accepting weaker criteria for what counts as ‘psychologically real’ consciousness –

        • e.g. by saying ‘Of course you need consciousness for ethical status, but soon robots, etc. will be conscious in a psychologically real sense.


    A weaker view l.jpg
    A agents…weaker view

    • Psychologically real consciousness is NOT necessary for an AA to be considered

      • as a genuine moral producer

        (i.e. as having genuine moral responsibilities)

        But it may be necessary for an AA to be considered

        (b) as a genuine moral consumer

        (i.e. as having genuine moral claims on the moral community)


    A version of the weaker view l.jpg
    A version of the weaker view agents…

    • A version of the weaker view is to be found in

      • Floridi, L. and Sanders, J. 2004. On the Morality of Artificial Agents, Minds and Machines, 14(3): 349-379.

      • Floridi & Sanders: Some (quite ‘weak’* kinds of) artificial agents may be considered as having a genuine kind of moral ‘accountability’

        – even if not moral ‘responsibility’ in

        a full-blooded sense

        (*i.e. this kind of moral status may attach to such agents quite independently of their status as conscious agents)


    Examining the strong view l.jpg
    Examining the agents…strong view

    • See Steve Torrance, “Ethics and Consciousness in Artificial Agents”,

      • Submitted, Artificial Intelligence and Society

    • Being a fully morally responsible agent requires

      • empathetic intelligence or rationality;

      • moral emotions or sensibilities

         These seem to require presence of psychologically real consciousness

    BUT….


    Shallow artificial ethics a paradox l.jpg
    Shallow artificial ethics: a paradox agents…

    Paradox:

    • Even if not conscious, we will expect artificial agents to behave ‘responsibly’ –

      To perform ‘outwardly’ to ethical standards of conduct

      This creates an urgent and very challenging programme of research for now…

       developing appropriate ‘shallow’ ethical simulations…


    Locus of responsibility l.jpg
    Locus of responsibility agents…

    • Where would the locus of responsibility of such systems lie?

      • For example, when they ‘break down’, give wrong advice, etc…?

    • On current consensus: With designers, operators rather than with AA itself.

    • If only with human designers/users, then such ‘moral’ AAs don’t seem to have genuine moral status – even as moral producers?

      • BUT…


    Moral implications of increasing cognitive superiority of aas l.jpg
    Moral implications of increasing cognitive superiority of AAs

    • We’ll communicate with artificial agents (AAs) in richer and subtler ways

    • We may look to AAs for ‘moral’ advice and support

    • We may defer to their normative decisions

      • E.g when multiplicity of factors require superior cognitive powers to humans

         Automated ‘moral pilot’ systems?


    Non conscious aas as moral producers l.jpg
    Non-conscious AAs as AAsmoral producers

    • None of these properties seem to require consciousness

      • So the strong view seems to be in doubt?

      • Perhaps non-conscious AAs can be genuine moral producers

    • On the question of ‘When can we trust a moral judgment given by a machine?’

      See Blay Whitby, “Computing Machinery and Morality”

      submitted, AI and Society


    Slide32 l.jpg
    So… AAs

    • So non-conscious artificial agents perhaps could be ‘genuine’ moral producers

      • At least in limited sorts of ways


    Slide33 l.jpg

    • I’ve challenged this in my paper ‘Ethics and Consciousness in Artificial Agents’

    • I said that having the capacity for genuine morally responsible judgment and action require a kind of empathic rationality

    • And it’s difficult to see how such empathic rationality could exist in a being which didn’t have psychologically real consciousness

    • [but I’m far from sure…]


    Slide34 l.jpg


    Non conscious aas as moral consumers l.jpg
    Non-conscious AAs as that they moral consumers

    • What about non-conscious AAs as moral consumers?

      • (i.e. as candidates for our moral concern)?

    • Could it ever be rational for us to consider ourselves as having genuine moral obligations towards non-conscious AAs?


    Consciousness and moral consumption l.jpg
    Consciousness and that they moral consumption

    • At first sight – being a ‘true’ moral consumer seems to require being able to consciously experience pain, distress, need, satisfaction, joy, sorrow, etc.

      • i.e. psychologically real consciousness

    • Otherwise why waste resources?

    •  The coach crash scenario…

    BUT…


    The case of property ownership l.jpg
    The case of property ownership that they

    • AAs may come to have interests which we may be legally (and morally?) obliged to respect

      • Andrew Martin – robot in Bicentennial Man

        • Acquires (through courts) legal entitlement to own property in his own ‘person’


    Bicentennial man l.jpg
    Bicentennial Man that they

    • Household android is acquired by Martin family – christened Andrew

    • His decorative products

      • exquisitely crafted from driftwood –

        become highly prized collectors' items


    Bicentennial man 2 l.jpg
    Bicentennial Man (2) that they

    • Andrew’s owner wins for him the legal right to have bank account and legally own the wealth accumulated from sales of his artworks, (though still deemed a machine)

    • Conflict between Andrew and his owner – who refuses to give him his ‘freedom’ – leads to his moving to his own home


    Slide40 l.jpg

    • Andrew, arguably, has moral, not just legal rights to his property;

    • It would be morally wrong for us not to respect them (e.g. to steal from him)

    • His rights to maintain his property

      • (and our obligation not infringe those rights)

        … does not depend on our attributing consciousness to him …


    A case of robot moral not just legal rights l.jpg
    A case of robot property;moral(not just legal) rights?

    • Andrew, arguably, has moral, not just legal rights to his property;

    • Would it not be morally wrong for us not to respect his legal rights?

      • (morally wrong, e.g., to steal from him?)


    Does it matter if he is non conscious l.jpg
    Does it matter if he is non-conscious? property;

    • Arguably, Andrew’s moral rights to maintain his property

      • (and our moral obligation to not infringe those rights)

        … do not depend on our attributing consciousness to him …


    Slide43 l.jpg

    • On the legal status of artificial agents, see property;

      • David Calverley, “Imagining a Non-Biological Machine as a Legal Person”,

        • Submitted, Artificial Intelligence and Society

    • For further related discussion of Asimov’s Bicentennial Man, see

      • Susan Leigh Anderson, “Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” and Machine Metaethics”

        • ibid.


    Conclusions l.jpg
    Conclusions property;

    • We need to distinguish between shallowanddeepAC and AE

    • We need to distinguish techno-ethics from artificial ethics (especially strong AE)

    • There seems to be a link between an artificial agent’s status as a conscious being and its status as an ethical being

    • A strong view of AC says that genuine ethical status in artificial agents(both as ethical consumers and ethical producers) requirespsychologically real consciousness in such agents.


    Conclusions continued l.jpg
    Conclusions,continued property;

    5.Questions can be raised about the strong view

    - (automated ethical advisors; property ownership)

    6.There are many important ways in which a kind of (shallow) ethics has to be developed for present day and future non-conscious agents.

    7.But in an ultimate, ‘deep’ sense, perhaps AC and AE go together closely

    (NB: In my paper ‘Ethics and Consciousness in Artificial Agents’

    I defend the strong view much more robustly, as the ‘organic’ view.)


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