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Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 97–111 | Cite as

Machines and the Moral Community

  • Erica L. Neely
Special Issue

Abstract

A key distinction in ethics is between members and nonmembers of the moral community. Over time, our notion of this community has expanded as we have moved from a rationality criterion to a sentience criterion for membership. I argue that a sentience criterion is insufficient to accommodate all members of the moral community; the true underlying criterion can be understood in terms of whether a being has interests. This may be extended to conscious, self-aware machines, as well as to any autonomous intelligent machines. Such machines exhibit an ability to formulate desires for the course of their own existence; this gives them basic moral standing. While not all machines display autonomy, those which do must be treated as moral patients; to ignore their claims to moral recognition is to repeat past errors. I thus urge moral generosity with respect to the ethical claims of intelligent machines.

Keywords

Moral patiency Moral community Artificial intelligence Intelligent machines Conscious machines Machine rights Robot ethics 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionOhio Northern UniversityAdaUSA

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