, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 421-438
Date: 31 Jul 2009

A Challenge for Machine Ethics

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Abstract

That the successful development of fully autonomous artificial moral agents (AMAs) is imminent is becoming the received view within artificial intelligence research and robotics. The discipline of Machines Ethics, whose mandate is to create such ethical robots, is consequently gaining momentum. Although it is often asked whether a given moral framework can be implemented into machines, it is never asked whether it should be. This paper articulates a pressing challenge for Machine Ethics: To identify an ethical framework that is both implementable into machines and whose tenets permit the creation of such AMAs in the first place. Without consistency between ethics and engineering, the resulting AMAs would not be genuine ethical robots, and hence the discipline of Machine Ethics would be a failure in this regard. Here this challenge is articulated through a critical analysis of the development of Kantian AMAs, as one of the leading contenders for being the ethic that can be implemented into machines. In the end, however, the development of Kantian artificial moral machines is found to be anti-Kantian. The upshot of all this is that machine ethicists need to look elsewhere for an ethic to implement into their machines.