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Walter Sinnott-Armstrong: 'AI and Morality - Not so Irreconcilable As Some Might Believe'

by Robert Woolliams

During an open discussion funded by the Future of Life Institute, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics raised the question about how to create artificial intelligence that will serve mankind's purposes. To him, it appears to not be as difficult as some might think. 

Sinnott-Armstrong was answering the 'tough' questions about how we should program artificial intelligence to ensure it does not eliminate the human race, as well as addressing legal and moral issues involving self-driving cars, The Chronicle writes.

The Professor stated that artificial intelligence and morality are not as irreconcilable as some might deem it to be, regardless of one being deemed as highly structured, whereas the other is deemed highly subjective.

Touching on various areas where AI can be applied, such as resolving moral conflicts, improving criminal justice and locating terrorists, he explained to the audience why artificial intelligence is so essential.

“You can’t tell a person to factor certain considerations out, but you can do that to a computer," he said. "There are a lot of advantages to these various uses and they’re clearly going to grow”, Sinnott-Armstrong said.

Alongside a team of students he is working towards developing an application that will build human morality into artificial intelligence. This will be done by presenting the users with a range of scenarios that requires moral judgement, where the application will observe and then test the interaction of morally relevant features in the complex cases.

“Our goal is to create artificial intelligence that mimics human morality to avoid doomsdays and to improve our understanding of human moral thinking,” Sinnott-Armstrong said.

When addressing the moral obstacles related to self-driving vehicles, he emphasised the importance of the United States outlawing self-driving cars which favours the driver instead of the pedestrians.

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