The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics

The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics

by David J. Gunkel

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Overview

An investigation into the assignment of moral responsibilities and rights to intelligent and autonomous machines of our own making.

One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Much recent attention has been devoted to the "animal question"—consideration of the moral status of nonhuman animals. In this book, David Gunkel takes up the "machine question": whether and to what extent intelligent and autonomous machines of our own making can be considered to have legitimate moral responsibilities and any legitimate claim to moral consideration.

The machine question poses a fundamental challenge to moral thinking, questioning the traditional philosophical conceptualization of technology as a tool or instrument to be used by human agents. Gunkel begins by addressing the question of machine moral agency: whether a machine might be considered a legitimate moral agent that could be held responsible for decisions and actions. He then approaches the machine question from the other side, considering whether a machine might be a moral patient due legitimate moral consideration. Finally, Gunkel considers some recent innovations in moral philosophy and critical theory that complicate the machine question, deconstructing the binary agent–patient opposition itself.

Technological advances may prompt us to wonder if the science fiction of computers and robots whose actions affect their human companions (think of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey) could become science fact. Gunkel's argument promises to influence future considerations of ethics, ourselves, and the other entities who inhabit this world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262534635
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 09/08/2017
Series: The MIT Press
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 270
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

David J. Gunkel is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Communication Technology at Northern Illinois University and the author of The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics, Of Remixology: Ethics and Aesthetics after Remix, both published by the MIT Press, and other books.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1 Moral Agency 15

1.1 Introduction 15

1.2 Agency 18

1.3 The Mechanisms of Exclusion 24

1.4 The Mechanisms of Inclusion 39

1.4.1 Personal Properties 45

1.4.2 Turing Tests and Other Demonstrations 55

1.5 Personal Problems and Alternatives 65

1.5.1 Rethinking Moral Agency 67

1.5.2 Functional Morality 74

1.6 Summary 88

2 Moral Patiency 93

2.1 Introduction 93

2.2 Patient-Oriented Approaches 94

2.3 The Question of the Animal 108

2.3.1 Terminological Problems 114

2.3.2 Epistemological Problems 117

2.3.3 Ethical Problems 125

2.3.4 Methodological Problems 133

2.4 Information Ethics 143

2.5 Summary 153

3 Thinking Otherwise 159

3.1 Introduction 159

3.2 Decentering the Subject 163

3.3 The Ethics of Social Construction 170

3.4 Another Alternative 175

3.4.1 The Animal Other 181

3.4.2 Other Things 185

3.4.3 Machinic Others 197

3.5 Ulterior Morals 205

Notes 217

References 223

Index 245

What People are Saying About This

Patrick Lin

A thought-provoking look at the most interesting question in robot ethics: Can intelligent machines ever be considered as persons? The investigation is an impressively deep dive, drawing from many philosophical schools of thought.

Endorsement

At last, a masterful integration of the many disparate reflections on whether intelligent machines can ever be admitted to the community of moral subjects as either moral agents and/or moral patients. David Gunkel goes on to make a significant contribution to any further discussion of the topic in a final section that deconstructs the machine question from the perspective of continental philosophers including Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida. Machines have been the definitive 'other,' not worthy of moral consideration, but as we contemplate the prospect that future machines might be conscious and perhaps even have feelings, we are forced to think deeply about who (or what) should be included in the moral order.

Wendell Wallach, Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics

From the Publisher

A thought-provoking look at the most interesting question in robot ethics: Can intelligent machines ever be considered as persons? The investigation is an impressively deep dive, drawing from many philosophical schools of thought.

Patrick Lin , California Polytechnic State University, Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group

At last, a masterful integration of the many disparate reflections on whether intelligent machines can ever be admitted to the community of moral subjects as either moral agents and/or moral patients. David Gunkel goes on to make a significant contribution to any further discussion of the topic in a final section that deconstructs the machine question from the perspective of continental philosophers including Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida. Machines have been the definitive 'other,' not worthy of moral consideration, but as we contemplate the prospect that future machines might be conscious and perhaps even have feelings, we are forced to think deeply about who (or what) should be included in the moral order.

Wendell Wallach , Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics

Wendell Wallach

At last, a masterful integration of the many disparate reflections on whether intelligent machines can ever be admitted to the community of moral subjects as either moral agents and/or moral patients. David Gunkel goes on to make a significant contribution to any further discussion of the topic in a final section that deconstructs the machine question from the perspective of continental philosophers including Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida. Machines have been the definitive 'other,' not worthy of moral consideration, but as we contemplate the prospect that future machines might be conscious and perhaps even have feelings, we are forced to think deeply about who (or what) should be included in the moral order.

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