, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 235-238
Date: 03 Nov 2012

David J. Gunkel: The machine question: critical perspectives on AI, robots, and ethics

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Are machines worthy of moral consideration? Can they be included in the moral community? What is the moral status of machines? Can they be moral agents, or (at least) moral patients? Can we create “moral machines”? In the past decade, there has been a growing interest in these questions, especially within the fields of what some call “robot ethics” and others “machine ethics”. David Gunkel’s The Machine Question, however, differs from much of the existing literature since it does not aim to offer answers to these particular questions. Instead of arguing for a particular position in the debate, the author attends to the question itself. What is the question we are asking if we ask about the “moral considerability” of machines? How is the problem framed? What does this frame reveal and what does it exclude?

Gunkel begins his book by remarking that “the machine question” is new: for most of Western intellectual history, technology has been defined in an instrumental way (p. 6). Even philos