The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 403–418 | Cite as

Incorporating Ethics into Artificial Intelligence

  • Amitai EtzioniEmail author
  • Oren Etzioni


This article reviews the reasons scholars hold that driverless cars and many other AI equipped machines must be able to make ethical decisions, and the difficulties this approach faces. It then shows that cars have no moral agency, and that the term ‘autonomous’, commonly applied to these machines, is misleading, and leads to invalid conclusions about the ways these machines can be kept ethical. The article’s most important claim is that a significant part of the challenge posed by AI-equipped machines can be addressed by the kind of ethical choices made by human beings for millennia. Ergo, there is little need to teach machines ethics even if this could be done in the first place. Finally, the article points out that it is a grievous error to draw on extreme outlier scenarios—such as the Trolley narratives—as a basis for conceptualizing the ethical issues at hand.


Artificial intelligence Autonomy Ethics Self-driving cars Trolley problem 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Allen Institute for Artificial IntelligenceSeattleUSA

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