Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 79–96 | Cite as

Machines as Moral Patients We Shouldn’t Care About (Yet): The Interests and Welfare of Current Machines

  • John BaslEmail author
Special Issue


In order to determine whether current (or future) machines have a welfare that we as agents ought to take into account in our moral deliberations, we must determine which capacities give rise to interests and whether current machines have those capacities. After developing an account of moral patiency, I argue that current machines should be treated as mere machines. That is, current machines should be treated as if they lack those capacities that would give rise to psychological interests. Therefore, they are moral patients only if they have non-psychological interests. I then provide an account of what I call teleo interests that constitute the most plausible type of non-psychological interest that a being might have. I then argue that even if current machines have teleo interests, they are such that agents need not concern themselves with these interests. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, current machines are not moral patients.


AI ethics Moral status Machine Interests Moral considerability 



Basl, J., “The Moral Status of Artificial Intelligences” Ethics and Emerging Technologies, Sandler, R. (ed.), Palgrave-Macmillan, Forthcoming. I would also like thank Ronald Sandler, Joanna Bryson, David Gunkel, and participants of The Machine Question Symposium, as well as the two anonymous referees for helpful comments and questions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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