Did you think you have had enough of what computers can do? Well, think again because aside from the tremendous advancements made as a result of computers, it is now emerging these gadgets may be soon be able to learn between right and wrong. It is believed that soon, service robots will be used in the elderly homes to take care of the aging as well as in the military where they will be used to assume their own targeting and firing options. So far, the achievements made so far as a result of robots have not gone without attracting a degree of criticism and cynicism but it is their soon-to-be -expected use that will leave many, especially the ethics advocates not only utterly speechless but ridiculously disillusioned.

According to authors Colin Allen and Wendell Wallach, there is no doubt that robot take on more and more responsibility and in the fullness of time, they will be dictating some of the most crucial aspects of human living. They, therefore, argue that it is only fair to have them programmed with moral decision-making abilities. Yes, this means a robot may be able to hold fire so as to avoid creating an unnecessary collateral damage, such as when a woman or a child comes in their line of fire while at war. However, this is proving to be a challenge because the areas of philosophical ethics and artificial intelligence have always drawn enough controversy.

The authors, through their first book, Moral Machines argue that while we cannot already talk of full moral agency for robots, there is already some need to try and build a functional morality where artificial moral agents are programmed with some basic ethical sensitivity. However, one of the challenges that the authors admit may get in the way of this ingenuous endeavor is the fact that even among humans, the word moral is often subjective and largely relative. It is not unclear what thresholds will be used, therefore, to have these machines programmed as the mere fact of arriving at moral common grounds may be as elusive as it has always been among human themselves. We can only adopt a wait-and-see attitude as we let the matter take shape.


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