Moral Machines

Moral Machines

Teaching Robots Right From Wrong

Book - 2009
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Computers are already approving financial transactions, controlling electrical supplies, and driving trains. Soon, service robots will be taking care of the elderly in their homes, and military robots will have their own targeting and firing protocols. Colin Allen and Wendell Wallach argue that as robots take on more and more responsibility, they must be programmed with moral decision-making abilities, for our own safety. Taking a fast paced tour through the latest thinking about philosophical ethics and artificial intelligence, the authors argue that even if full moral agency for machines is a long way off, it is already necessary to start building a kind of functional morality, in which artificial moral agents have some basic ethical sensitivity. But the standard ethical theories don't seem adequate, and more socially engaged and engaging robots will be needed. As the authors show, the quest to build machines that are capable of telling right from wrong has begun.

Moral Machines is the first book to examine the challenge of building artificial moral agents, probing deeply into the nature of human decision making and ethics.
Publisher: Oxford ;, New York :, Oxford University Press,, 2009.
ISBN: 9780195374049
Branch Call Number: 629.892 WA
Characteristics: xi, 275 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: Allen, Colin


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Jan 31, 2013

This was an interesting read, but not exactly what I was hoping it would be. Wallach looks at the potential problems of creating (not to say only building) robots with some level of moral sensibilities, but he seems to spend more time setting up the questions than he does trying to answer them. That said, Wallach fully admits to that and in fact makes it more the point of his book to offer the questions more seriously than to attempt answers outside of a brief survey - the idea of robot morality outside of science fiction is so new, in fact, that there aren't a whole lot of positive views to answering some of Wallach's questions outside of speculation. Although some of the questions are pressing: we already have robots being used in war efforts, including destructive uses, and every effort is being made to make such robots autonomous. So, for example, the question arises as to how such robots will be able to differentiate friend and foe - or foe and civilian? Wallach doesn't offer much in the way of an answer, but now I have this as well as many other questions swimming around in my head. I'd recommend the book if you're interested in details underlying the engineering of robots wherein such questions arise, but if you're more interested in the morality bits stick to the philosophy section. If you're looking for clean answers and robots like people, the science fiction section has what you need.


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