Abstract: This paper surveys the state-of-the-art in machine ethics, that is, considerations of how to implement ethical behaviour in robots, unmanned autonomous vehicles, or software systems. The emphasis is on covering the breadth of ethical theories being considered by implementors, as well as the implementation techniques being used. There is no consensus on which ethical theory is best suited for any particular domain, nor is there any agreement on which technique is best placed to implement a particular theory. Another unresolved problem in these implementations of ethical theories is how to objectively validate the implementations. The paper discusses the dilemmas being used as validating'whetstones' and whether any alternative validation mechanism exists. Finally, it speculates that an intermediate step of creating domain-specific ethics might be a possible stepping stone towards creating machines that exhibit ethical behaviour. Computers are increasingly a part of the socio-technical systems around us. Domains such as smartgrids, cloud computing, healthcare, and transport are but some examples where computers are deeply embedded. The speed and complexity of decision-making in these domains have meant that humans are ceding more and more autonomy to these computers (Nallur & Clarke 2018). Autonomy, in machines, can be defined as the effective decision-making power over goals, that influences some action in the real-world. For instance, smart traffic lights can autonomically change their timings, depending on the flow and density of traffic on the roads.
Increasingly complex and autonomous systems require machine ethics to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks to society arising from the new technology. It is challenging to decide which type of ethical theory to employ and how to implement it effectively. This survey provides a threefold contribution. Firstly, it introduces a taxonomy to analyze the field of machine ethics from an ethical, implementational, and technical perspective. Secondly, an exhaustive selection and description of relevant works is presented. Thirdly, applying the new taxonomy to the selected works, dominant research patterns and lessons for the field are identified, and future directions for research are suggested.
The field of machine ethics is concerned with the question of how to embed ethical behaviors, or a means to determine ethical behaviors, into artificial intelligence (AI) systems. The goal is to produce artificial moral agents (AMAs) that are either implicitly ethical (designed to avoid unethical consequences) or explicitly ethical (designed to behave ethically). Van Wynsberghe and Robbins' (2018) paper Critiquing the Reasons for Making Artificial Moral Agents critically addresses the reasons offered by machine ethicists for pursuing AMA research; this paper, co-authored by machine ethicists and commentators, aims to contribute to the machine ethics conversation by responding to that critique. The reasons for developing AMAs discussed in van Wynsberghe and Robbins (2018) are: it is inevitable that they will be developed; the prevention of harm; the necessity for public trust; the prevention of immoral use; such machines are better moral reasoners than humans, and building these machines would lead to a better understanding of human morality. In this paper, each co-author addresses those reasons in turn. In so doing, this paper demonstrates that the reasons critiqued are not shared by all co-authors; each machine ethicist has their own reasons for researching AMAs. But while we express a diverse range of views on each of the six reasons in van Wynsberghe and Robbins' critique, we nevertheless share the opinion that the scientific study of AMAs has considerable value.
The newly emerging field of machine ethics (Anderson and Anderson 2006) is concerned with adding an ethical dimension to machines. Unlike computer ethics -- which has traditionally focused on ethical issues surrounding humans' use of machines -- machine ethics is concerned with ensuring that the behavior of machines toward human users, and perhaps other machines as well, is ethically acceptable. In this article we discuss the importance of machine ethics, the need for machines that represent ethical principles explicitly, and the challenges facing those working on machine ethics. We also give an example of current research in the field that shows that it is possible, at least in a limited domain, for a machine to abstract an ethical principle from examples of correct ethical judgments and use that principle to guide its own behavior.
An autonomous system is constructed by a manufacturer, operates in a society subject to norms and laws, and is interacting with end-users. We address the challenge of how the moral values and views of all stakeholders can be integrated and reflected in the moral behaviour of the autonomous system. We propose an artificial moral agent architecture that uses techniques from normative systems and formal argumentation to reach moral agreements among stakeholders. We show how our architecture can be used not only for ethical practical reasoning and collaborative decision-making, but also for the explanation of such moral behavior.