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date: 08 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes a computational view of the function of ethics in human society and discusses its application to three diverse examples. First, autonomous vehicles are individually embodied intelligent systems that act as members of society. The ethical knowledge needed by such an agent is not how to choose the lesser evil when confronted by a Deadly Dilemma, but how to recognize the upstream decision point that makes it possible to avoid the Deadly Dilemma entirely. Second, disembodied distributed intelligent systems like Google and Facebook provide valuable services while collecting, aggregating, and correlating vast amounts of information about individual users. With inadequate controls, these corporate systems can invade privacy and do substantial damage through either correct or incorrect inferences. Third, acceptance of the legitimacy of the society by its individual members depends on a general perception of fairness. Rage about unfairness can be directed at individual free-riders or at systematic inequality across the society. Ultimately, the promise of a computational approach to ethical knowledge is not simply ethics for computational devices such as robots. It also promises to help people understand the pragmatic value of ethics as a feedback mechanism that helps intelligent creatures, human and nonhuman, live together in thriving societies.

Keywords: ethics, human society, autonomous vehicles, ethical knowledge, intelligent systems, invasion of privacy, systematic inequality, computational devices

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