the capacity of one person or thing to react with or affect another in some special way, as by attraction or the facilitation of a function or activity.

Ethics in AI and Human Relations

Posted on | August 21, 2010 | Comments Off on Ethics in AI and Human Relations

A Foundation for Ethics in AI and Human Relations

The relationship between humans and ‘intelligent’ machines is  becoming increasingly complex as we move forward together into the new age of synthetic organisms, intelligent systems, and personal use of enhanced bio-synthetic replacement parts for our bodies. We will more regularly come face to face with intelligent systems that will make decisions impacting our everyday life without input from us. From the already widely accepted collection of data assembled by thousands of cameras photographing you as you walk and drive in your town to the seeming science fiction of armed robotic border guards.

There are many ethical issues that need to be addressed now as we rapidly put into place human guided and unguided intelligent equipment. ‘AI’ systems are now being used to complement human decisions in a wide variety of situations, from searching for data online to medical equipment used in the operating room to data management tools used by Generals in war rooms. More autonomous devices such as vehicles able to find their own way through the world are also becoming more widespread. One label for an important part of this field is called “Cognitive Computing”.

There is some discussion taking place in philosophical and  technological circles  about Cognitive Computing but very little awareness in the general public outside opinions created by movies like “Terminator” and “AI” – and just as importantly there is little discussion of ethical considerations on a governmental level.

One of the first questions that has to be examined is “Should devices with advanced artificial intelligence be thought of (treated) like any other tool that we have built?” Should they be treated more like farm animals, or dogs or will we need to treat them as intelligent beings?  “At what point do we need to consider artificially intelligent machines or synthetic organisms our legal equals?”

That is just one of many questions that will require careful exploration. The interaction between intelligent equipment and humanity will give rise to situations we have never been confronted with before. Many of these events will fall well outside the boundaries of our current legal and ethical environments and it is wise for us to begin laying the ground work that will enable the people of the world and their leaders to make well reasoned and careful decisions. Not decisions that are based on irrational fear, bigotry or just lack of knowledge, but rather decisions based on long running rational discussions not just among scientists but philosophers, spiritual leaders, psychologists and people from all walks of life.

It is important to include a wide range of people rather than focusing on one narrower field of study largely because it is the convergence of technologies from many divergent fields, such as biology, nano-tech, structural engineering, computer science, neurobiology, etc., that is enabling the rapid advances in ‘Cognitive Computing’.

To address these many difficult questions rapidly coming our direction we need to gather together knowledgeable individuals from diverse fields of work and study to help develop a balanced perspective from outside the tech culture. These knowledgeable individuals must include Defense Department personnel, guiding members of corporations that currently build robots, ethicists, philosophers, biologists, roboticists, religious leaders, psychologists, and the doctors utilizing bio-synthetic parts for starters. The collected information must be presented to the ‘the rest of us’ in a way that will attempt to actively involve everyone in the process of reaching these history changing ethical decisions and guide the future of humanity.

This goal of information dissemination can be accomplished on several fronts.

  1. Writing articles in newspapers, magazines, wikipedia. Electronic Newsletters.
  2. Speaking engagements at schools, business organizations, government bodies, etc.
  3. Web site with information, new content, blog, links.
  4. New Social Networking tools (twitter, facebook, etc.)
  5. Video – youtube, Television.
  6. Photography books.
  7. Art exhibits
  8. Lobbying efforts
  9. Software apps that would help raise awareness for mobile devices and desktop systems.
  10. Toys that help define the relationships between humans and intelligent machines as well as ‘enhanced’ humans.
  11. Children’s books. – “New surveillance cameras don’t even need anyone watching” – Mathematical algorithms embedded in the stores’ new security system pick out sweethearting on their own. There’s no need for a security guard watching banks of video monitors or reviewing hours of grainy footage. – “Robo-Soldier to Patrol South Korean Border” – “Until now, technology allowed these robots to conduct monitoring function[s] only. But [now] our robots can detect suspicious moving objects, literally go after them, and can even fire at them,” said Sang-Il Han, principal research engineer at Samsung Techwin. – National Institute of Standards and Technology Intelligent Systems Division – (James Albus – Senior Fellow at NIST) Albus, who predicts that autonomous vehicles could equal human levels of performance in most areas within 20 years, is the co-inventor of the Real-time Control Systems (RCS) architecture and methodology. – Dr. Eric Eisenstadt – Defense Sciences Office (DSO) – Brain Machine Interface : “Picture a time when humans see in the UV and IR portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, or hear speech on the noisy flight deck of an aircraft carrier; or when soldiers communicate by thought alone. Imagine a time when the human brain has its own wireless modem so that instead of acting on thoughts, warfighters have thoughts that act. Later during DARPATech, you will hear from IPTO about efforts to create intelligent machines.” – IBM has announced it will lead a US government-funded collaboration to make electronic circuits that mimic brains. – Part of a field called “cognitive computing”, the research will bring together neurobiologists, computer and materials scientists and psychologists. – As a first step in its research the project has been granted $4.9m (£3.27m) from US defence agency Darpa.
  – Artificial Tissue – A team of Australian and Korean researchers led by Geoffrey M. Spinks and Seon Jeong Kim has now developed a novel, highly porous, sponge-like material whose mechanical properties closely resemble those of biological soft tissues. As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, it consists of a robust network of DNA strands and carbon nanotubes. – From BBC News a headline in 2006. “Robots could one day demand the same citizen’s rights as humans, according to a study by the British government.”


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