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Can We Trust Robots to Make Moral Decisions?

It’s clearly possible to create robots with some ethical abilities — but should we be pursuing such work? Susan Anderson points out that in some ways, robots can be superior ethical decision-makers to humans. “Humans are a product of natural selection so we have built into us ideas that are self-interested or at least in the interest of our group over others. These are a result of being able to survive as a species,” she says. Humans are also prone to making mistakes, and are not perfect arbiters of justice. That said, it’s unlikely robots will be able to address the most sophisticated ethical decisions for the foreseeable future. And certainly, while we’re still confused about certain moral sensibilities among humans, it would be unwise to hand the reins over to robots. As Ronald Arkin points out, “Human moral reasoning is not well understood. Nor, in general, is it fully agreed upon.”

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