Ethics and AI

Many respectable people think AI (artificial intelligence) is on the horizon. I’m not one of them, because 1) I’m not respectable—primarily because I seriously think I’m the antichrist. 2) I don’t think man can create a consciousness; only God can create souls. But those two points aside, I want to assume that man can create AI. Will AI wipe us out?

The computer scientists say “No. We’ll program them not to.” I’m not confident that Ethics is programmable. First, let’s point out the obvious problem that much of our society is relativistic these days. So much for an objective basis for ethics. How can you program AI with ethical restraints, if ethics really doesn’t exist (Yes, I really can’t get off my anti-relativistic tirade)?

Anyway, I studied ethics in college (despite relativistic assurances that it didn’t exist. :)). My first question for the computer scientists is: “Which system of Ethics are you going to program the computers with?” Will we have Stoic computers, and Epicurean computers? How about Christian computers and Buddhist computers?

Okay, suppose they go with Buddhist computers. Those should be relatively non-threatening should something go wrong. Well, there’s another hitch. In my view, ethics is not reducible to a simple finite number of axioms (That statement is, I think, the statement non-absolutists are trying to say when they say: “There is no absolute truth.” But I’m still not omniscient.). In fact, I would use the example of programming a computer with such axioms to prove that such is insufficient for ethics. Because if it were sufficient, I wouldn’t have to worry about facing ethical dilemmas. Ever. A computer could solve them all for me. Hence, my Ethical Computer Argument against strict Absolutism.

Additionally, there is a point Zen Buddhists and Existentialists make (which I was too stupid to recognize for many years) that derails the whole programming such a computer project. Raw experience. Not all knowledge is reducible to communicable concepts. I can’t prove this to you in a post. I may have mentioned it before, but there is an aspect of human experience that is incommunicable to other beings, let alone to machines. Humans learn through experience and much of that cannot be communicated to others. It’s incommunicable knowledge, and much of it is ethical. Perhaps you already know this. Perhaps not. If you don’t, I don’t know what to tell you. Just: that’s the way it is. Sorry.

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