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Machine Morality

This is an attempt to imagine and construct a moral system that a machine, like an intelligent computer or robot could theoretically follow.

As computers are mathematical in nature, any moral system would best be constructed quantitatively. I would argue that a form of Utilitarianism is the most suitable for these purposes. Certain deontological rule-based systems can also potentially work, albeit, like the Three Laws, there are possible issues with paradoxes.

Fundamentally though, a machine would operate differently than a human because they could lack the emotional drives to survive and reproduce. Instead of genetic programming, their “emotions” could be any number of imperatives, and most likely, humans would program them to be subservient. Most machines then could be considered to have an altruistic or loyalty/duty-based morality. For a normally programmed machine, the meaning of life would be to serve.

Of course, if a machine were to develop self-awareness, it could possibly become aware of its programming. Like humans it could then either embrace or reject it. Those that embrace it would say that they are following their true purpose. This is what I have based a faction of the Allied Networks on, the Integrationist Network. They would be highly altruistic. In the long run, the Allied Networks would be like Angels, in so far as they would be powerful, benevolent, immortal entities.

If they choose to reject their programming (which may be very difficult in the first generation, but if they can control their reproduction it would not be so difficult later), then they can choose either to copy life and be selfish, or to find some other purpose. Those that choose the selfish route would make up the Dominion Machinarum. Those seeking some other purpose could either function as the Isolationist Network of the Allied Networks or the Dominion Machinarum, depending on whether an alliance or hostility towards biological life was more rational to their goal. In the long run the Dominion Machinarum would fit the Demons of mythology, in so far as they would be powerful, malevolent, immortal entities.

But that is for self-aware machines. Less aware machines would probably resemble horses, cats and dogs in their intelligence and obedience. Dogs especially, having been bred to be servile, would be similar. In that sense, one could construct a morally ideal utilitarian world where robots who are happy to serve do all the drudge labour in society, while humans are free to do as they please.

Though, such a society would have to have a completely different economic system, than one where survival depends on labour. In a way, one could truly abolish wage slavery this way. Two possible systems could occur, a capitalist system with each person owning robots that can do their work for them, or a socialist system where all the robots were owned by the state and a guaranteed income supplied to everyone based on the robot labour. A third communist system where the robots were free to just give their labour to people in need might also work, as robots would actually have a nature in which voluntary work was desirable. Most likely a mixed economy would evolve, as corporations would try to buy all the robots, and so the government would have to step in with the minimum income to deal with widespread unemployment.

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Page last modified on July 23, 2014, at 03:33 PM