AI News, Self-driving cars may soon be able to make moral and ethical decisions as humans do

Self-driving cars may soon be able to make moral and ethical decisions as humans do

The research, Virtual Reality experiments investigating human behavior and moral assessments, from The Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabrück, and published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, used immersive virtual reality to allow the authors to study human behavior in simulated road traffic scenarios.

For example, a leading new initiative from the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) has defined 20 ethical principles related to self-driving vehicles, for example, in relation to behavior in the case of unavoidable accidents, making the critical assumption that human moral behavior could not be modeled.

Gordon Pipa, a senior author of the study, says that since it now seems to be possible that machines can be programmed to make human like moral decisions it is crucial that society engages in an urgent and serious debate, 'we need to ask whether autonomous systems should adopt moral judgements, if yes, should they imitate moral behavior by imitating human decisions, should they behave along ethical theories and if so, which ones and critically, if things go wrong who or what is at fault?'

Can we trust robots to make moral decisions?

Last week, Microsoft inadvertently revealed the difficulty of creating moral robots.

points out that in hospitals, APACHE medical systems help determine the best treatments for patients in intensive care units—often those who are at the edge of death.

The first is to decide on a specific ethical law (maximize happiness, for example), write a code for such a law, and create a robot that strictly follows the code.

“We still argue as human beings about the correct moral framework we should use, whether it’s a consequentialist utilitarian means-justify-the-ends approach, or a Kantian deontological rights-based approach.”

This is similar to how humans learn morality, though it raises the question of whether humans are, in fact, the best moral teachers.

His work relies a great deal on top-down coding and less so on machine learning—after all, you wouldn’t want to send someone into a military situation and leave them to figure out how to respond.

Meanwhile, Susan Anderson, a philosophy professor at the University of Connecticut, is working with her husband Michael Anderson, a computer science professor at the University of Hartford, to develop robots that can provide ethical care for the elderly.

In one case, they created an intelligent system to decide on the ethical course of action when a patient had refused the advised treatment from a healthcare worker.

This involves many complicated ethical duties, including respect for the autonomy of the patient, possible harm to the patient, and possible benefit to the patient.

Anderson found that once the robot had been taught a moral response to four specific scenarios, it was then able to generalize and make an appropriate ethical decision in the remaining 14 cases.

From this, she was able to derive the ethical principle: “That you should attempt to convince the patient if either the patient is likely to be harmed by not taking the advised treatment or the patient would lose considerable benefit.

Although in that early work, the robot was first coded with simple moral duties—such as the importance of preventing harm—the Andersons have since done work where no ethical slant was assumed.

Improving morality through robots But though we may not want to leave the most advanced ethical decisions to machines just yet, work on robotic ethics is advancing our own understanding of morality.

Anderson points out that the history of ethics shows a steadily building consensus—and work on robot ethics can contribute to refining moral reasoning.

“Because we were talking about whether robots could morally reason, it forced us to look at capabilities humans have that we take for granted and what role they may have in making ethical decisions,”

It might simply be impossible to reduce human ethical decision making into numerical values for robots to understand, says Lin—how do we codify compassion or mercy, for example.

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