The cyberspace and the development of new technologies, especially intelligent systems using artificial intelligence, present enormous challenges to computer professionals, data scientists, managers and policy makers. There is a need to address professional responsibility, ethical, legal, societal, and policy issues. This paper presents problems and issues relevant to computer professionals and decision makers and suggests a curriculum for a course on ethics, law and policy. Such a course will create awareness of the ethics issues involved in building and using software and artificial intelligence.
As we start to encounter AI systems in various morally and legally salient environments, some have begun to explore how the current responsibility ascription practices might be adapted to meet such new technologies [19, 33]. A critical viewpoint today is that autonomous and self-learning AI systems pose a so-called responsibility gap . These systems' autonomy challenges human control over them , while their adaptability leads to unpredictability. Hence, it might infeasible to trace back responsibility to a specific entity if these systems cause any harm. Considering responsibility practices as the adoption of certain attitudes towards an agent , scholarly work has also posed the question of whether AI systems are appropriate subjects of such practices [15, 29, 37] -- e.g., they might "have a body to kick," yet they "have no soul to damn" .
We live in the digital world, where every day we interact with digital systems either through a mobile device or from inside a car. These systems are increasingly autonomous in making decisions over and above their users or on behalf of them. As a consequence, ethical issues--privacy ones included (for example, unauthorized disclosure and mining of personal data, access to restricted resources)--are emerging as matters of utmost concern since they affect the moral rights of each human being and have an impact on the social, economic, and political spheres. Europe is at the forefront of the regulation and reflections on these issues through its institutional bodies. Privacy with respect to the processing of personal data is recognized as part of the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals.
Therefore, it is essential, in thinking about'ethics', to look beyond the capacities for ethical decision-making and action and the moments of ethical choice and action and into the background of values and the stories behind the choice and action. Similar arguments have been made to affirm the role of social and relational contexts in limiting ethical choices and shaping moral outcomes, and thus the importance to account for them in our ethical reflection.
Both the ethics of autonomous systems and the problems of their technical implementation have by now been studied in some detail. Less attention has been given to the areas in which these two separate concerns meet. This paper, written by both philosophers and engineers of autonomous systems, addresses a number of issues in machine ethics that are located at precisely the intersection between ethics and engineering. We first discuss the main challenges which, in our view, machine ethics posses to moral philosophy. We them consider different approaches towards the conceptual design of autonomous systems and their implications on the ethics implementation in such systems. Then we examine problematic areas regarding the specification and verification of ethical behavior in autonomous systems, particularly with a view towards the requirements of future legislation. We discuss transparency and accountability issues that will be crucial for any future wide deployment of autonomous systems in society. Finally we consider the, often overlooked, possibility of intentional misuse of AI systems and the possible dangers arising out of deliberately unethical design, implementation, and use of autonomous robots.