Ethical Considerations Related to the Concept of Artificial Intelligence
A common theme in science fiction is the awakening of machines invented by man, taking over the fate of humanity, most of the time either to enslave humanity or to destroy it completely - Ethical Considerations Related to the Concept of Artificial Intelligence introduction. Generally speaking, the concept of artificial intelligence is so fascinating, but worrisome as well. One consideration that may not be evident in relation to the creation and existence of artificial intelligence is the ethical debate over such a technology and its proper use now and in the future.
However, before one can attempt to examine the ethics, the notion and history of artificial intelligence must be presented as a foundation to the discussion. Additionally, the recurring theme, found in popular stories as well as science fiction films and books, constitutes a psychological element to be explored. Specifically, there is a need to comprehend the reasons why artificial intelligence fascinates, but scares at the same time. Finally, the ethics of the topic will be examined in order to determine the boundaries of how artificial intelligence should be used since it is already involved in our daily lives.
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According to the Biblical account, man was created in God’s image, specifically in terms of basic qualities like love, justice, wisdom, freedom of choice, and intelligence. In turn, it seems that man has always been fascinated by the concept of designing and bringing to life a creation of his own. Dr. Bruce G. Buchanan, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh in Computer Science, Philosophy, and Medicine, gives an overview of the history of artificial intelligence and robotics. Buchanan) The intellectual origins of artificial intelligence come from Aristotle who invented the syllogistic method, the first formal technique of deductive reasoning in 5 B. C. The 13th century saw talking heads and a machine made to discover nonmathematical truth by Spanish theologian Ramon Llull. Llull claimed that there were a limited number of basic, undeniable truths in all fields of knowledge, and that we could understand everything about these fields of knowledge by studying combinations of these elemental truths.
In the 15th and the 16th centuries, clocks were invented and by the 17th century, Pascal had created the first calculator, subsequently improved by Leibniz who added multiplication and division capabilities. The 18th and 19th centuries had mechanical toys, Boole worked on binary algebra representing some law of thoughts (Boolian rules), and others developed the first programmable mechanical calculators. In the first half of the 20th century, the logical analysis of knowledge was born along with the term ‘robot’ and ‘cybernetics’, the foundation of neural networks, and the three famous laws of Robotics by Isaac Asimov in 1950.
In 1956, John McCarthy (MIT) coined the term’artificial intelligence. ’ From then on, rapid progress was made on the programming language of machines for solving mathematical problems, fuzzy logic, playing games like chess with world champions (Deep Blue), and in 1990 at MIT, humanoid robot design made significant progress. In the meantime, the Internet had been in existence, developing the ‘cyberspace’ environment with which people would more and more interact with in their daily lives.
On December 9, 2006, Hopkins students showed machines they had designed to create art and compete with the best 9 year-old artists in watercolor. What is artificial intelligence? John McCarthy answers this question. First, what is intelligence? It can be defined as the computational ability enabling the achievement of goals and the concrete expression of ideas. Intelligence is varied in kinds and levels among humans, animals, and some existing machines. The problem with intelligence is its lack of definition concerning its true nature.
We understand that intelligence is linked with some computational processes, but nobody knows how and why. AI research can either create machines to mimic humans by observation just like a child, or plainly use methods to deal with problems of the world, not humans or animals. (McCarthy, Basic Questions) As an illustration of what we expect from robots or androids (robots that look like humans and work like humans, but are still artificial), are the works of Isaac Asimov who has been the most prominent scientist as well as prolific writer of science fiction with the Robot Series.
He not only envisioned a future world where humans and robots would be side by side, but also predicted the historical events that would lead mankind to this futuristic world. His books have been popular because of the remarkable way Asimov expressed brilliantly what our deepest aspirations would be in creating such artificial intelligence and how it could very well take place. He built intricate stories and backgrounds for the characters of his books adding to the sense of history. The famous three laws of robotics are his creation.
Remarkably, they have been adopted by the large majority of AI researchers. (White, 56) One of Asimov’s motivation for creating his ‘robot world’ was his discontent towards the recurring themes featuring robots rising up and destroying their creators, recreating Frankenstein’s monster by Mary Shelley. However, it is still a very powerful idea still used today in many science fiction films, books, video games etc… Many pop culture film icons feature this theme like the Matrix series, the Terminator series, both envisioning a world where humans are enslaved or eliminated by their own creation.
The Matrix features the idea of a completely artificial world that most humans think is real because of a neural interaction with the extensive programming network (the Matrix). The Terminator series have the same idea, but this time dealing with the real world as having been taken over by robots created by man that are so sophisticated that they look, feel, and act like human beings. The famous HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey was the one in charge, not the humans. In fact, he had decided to get rid of the humans who were interfering with his prime directive.
In addition, Japanese Anime films have added another dimension by imagining intelligent robots as physical extensions of human beings (Evangelion), or a sophisticated neural interaction between people and a cyberspace environment for immediate communication and information download. Robotic parts replace body parts enhancing the person’s physical abilities whereas the other choice is to download the person’s consciousness into an android-like body (Ghost in the Shell). However, the theme of the creator destroyed by its creation is always included in many stories. What is the psychological origin of such a recurring theme?
In the first place, the current goals of robotics or genetic engineering, for example, is to improve human life by either creating a brand new lifeform like androids or modifying humans to be superior ‘cyborgs. ’ Robots or cyberspace can be scary because on one hand, robots can do everything a human cannot do like working in extreme conditions, or even they do not need to eat or be paid, and on the other, the world’s daily dependence on cyberspace is becoming greater and greater. Consider the economic dependence of banks, businesses, the military, manufacturing in and out of cyberspace, and computers.
The scare is the loss of control over creations that outsmart and outperform humans. If humans are weaker, how can we survive, especially when the creations have an intimate knowledge of how humans function and how humans think? At this time, ethical questions are debated over the boundaries that must be imposed to the place of artificial intelligence in society. Artificial intelligence has been useful in some fields like pharmaceutical research and development in which robots are programmed to carry out chemical syntheses of hundreds of compounds that will be tested for drug activity.
Yet, the ethical debate becomes important when the role of the AI component of the technology is placed in a position that would potentially supersede the work of a human being with critical decision powers. Can a machine be left to make decisions over the life and death of hospital patients, for example? First, the ethical debate of creating robots and artificial intelligence as replacements of human beings is nothing new.
The most famous example has been the gradual replacement of auto workers with robots that work faster, better, and never stop. As a result, many workers have lost their jobs by being replaced by a better robot worker. Do we have the right to lay off a human being who needs to work in order to feed his family to augment output of production to increase profits? Can we replace people with robots when we do not have alternatives for these workers so that they can feed their families? It is legal for companies to do that, but is it ethical?
In the case of the Internet, attempts have been made to either watch activities that are considered borderline suspicious or arrest people connected to frauds, sex crimes, hacking, and viruses However, this is not an easy task since the Internet is international as well as a brand new virtual space for communications, personal as well as business activities. Instituting regulations have been instigated nationally and internationally that aim at restricting the access to offensive material like pornography and extremist or terrorist groups web sites, but there is also the question of protection of freedom of speech that must be considered.
Still, the current debate is how do we regulate such a large virtual space where practically everything goes? Ethical principles must be laid out to deal with virtuality instead of reality. In essence, ethical principles should first protect human beings from the abuse of technology by others to steal, cheat, and kill. Second, technological advances must be supported by appropriate laws dealing with their construction and their proper use.
Third, as artificial intelligence is increasing its reach, power, and complexity of tasks as well as behavior, the challenge is to renew the application of existing ethical principles and examine how efficient these principles govern the makers of the AI systems as well as the AI functions itself. The sad reality is that ethical principles fail when people who have no conscience or reasonable morals pursue their activities: that has been happening since times immemorial. Nonetheless, this situation is applicable to the use of AI.
Curiously, this type of scenario has also been predicted by science fiction books such as Neuromancer by William Gibson who is the author of the word ‘cyberspace. ’ “The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games. … Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. … A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding. ” (Gibson, 69)