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Virtuous vs. utilitarian artificial moral agents

  • William A. BauerEmail author
Open Forum

Abstract

Given that artificial moral agents—such as autonomous vehicles, lethal autonomous weapons, and automated trading systems—are now part of the socio-ethical equation, we should morally evaluate their behavior. How should artificial moral agents make decisions? Is one moral theory better suited than others for machine ethics? After briefly overviewing the dominant ethical approaches for building morality into machines, this paper discusses a recent proposal, put forward by Don Howard and Ioan Muntean (2016, 2017), for an artificial moral agent based on virtue theory. While the virtuous artificial moral agent has various strengths, this paper argues that a rule-based utilitarian approach (in contrast to a strict act utilitarian approach) is superior, because it can capture the most important features of the virtue-theoretic approach while realizing additional significant benefits. Specifically, a two-level utilitarian artificial moral agent incorporating both established moral rules and a utility calculator is especially well suited for machine ethics.

Keywords

Machine ethics Artificial moral agent Machine learning Virtue theory Two-level utilitarianism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Thanks to participants at the Brain-Based and Artificial Intelligence workshop held at the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology (May 10–11, 2018), for helpful questions and discussion. Thanks also to two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Images of the stop and yield signs are courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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