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The Ethical Frontier: Moral Implications of AI Use and Development

Explore the moral implications of AI development, addressing ethical dilemmas, decision-making, and the impact on society. Dive in now!

GSI

By GSI

AI and moral dilemmas: Who decides what is right?

AI is advancing and becoming more integrated in our lives. It is important to consider the moral and ethical issues that come with its use. AI can greatly enhance human life in areas like healthcare, education, safety, security, mobility, productivity, and efficiency. However, AI itself is unethical since it's just a collection of algorithms and data processing systems made for specific tasks.

The Paradox of Ethical AI

AI has the potential to significantly improve human life in many aspects, such as healthcare, education, safety, security, mobility, productivity, and efficiency; however, artificial intelligence (AI) itself is unethical, as it is simply a set of algorithms and data processing systems designed to perform specific tasks. Why are ethics relevant in developing, designing, implementing, and using AI?

Explicitly program ethical rules

AI can be programmed to make decisions and perform actions that significantly impact society and individuals. Therefore, it is vital to consider and address the potential ethical implications of AI. Some ethical issues associated with AI include privacy, transparency, fairness, accountability, and security.

The limits of algorithms

For example, suppose an AI system is designed to make personnel selection decisions. In that case, there may be ethical issues if there are biases in the data used to train the system or if the system does not consider important factors such as diversity and inclusion. Also, an AI system is used to make medical decisions. It's important to make sure the system is accurate and reliable, and doesn't harm patients' health with bad decisions.

Moral dilemmas and AI

The streetcar problem

It has become very fashionable these days the topic of autonomous vehicles; one of the most well-known case studies in philosophy dealing with a streetcar and its decontrol is the so-called "streetcar problem." This case study is often used to explore ethics and moral responsibility questions. The streetcar problem presents the following hypothetical situation: a streetcar is moving along a track and is headed toward five workers working on the way. The streetcar will only stop after it reaches the workers. However, there is a lever that, if pulled, will divert the streetcar onto a side track where there is only one worker. The streetcar (also known as the trolley problem), poses an ethical question: is it morally acceptable to sacrifice one person to save five? This problem has been used to explore various ethical theories, such as utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics.

Utilitarianism, Deontology, and Virtue Ethics

Utilitarianism holds that the right ethical choice is the one that produces the most significant amount of happiness or well-being for the greatest number of people. According to this theory, pulling the lever to divert the streetcar to the side track is the right choice because it saves five people instead of one. Deontologism, conversely, holds that certain acts are intrinsically right or wrong, regardless of their consequences. According to this theory, pulling the lever would be immoral since it involves making an active decision to kill a person. Virtue ethics focuses on developing personal virtues, such as wisdom and courage. According to this theory, the right decision would depend on the private integrity of the individual making the decision.

The question of responsibility

The streetcar problem has been used to explore moral and legal responsibility questions. Who is responsible for the consequences of the decision made? Is the individual who pulls the lever responsible for the worker's death on the side track, or is the streetcar driver accountable for failing to control the vehicle properly? Although the situation is hypothetical, its questions are relevant to real life. They can help people reflect on their ethical and moral beliefs. In the streetcar problem, the decision involves moral and ethical judgment. Moral and ethical decisions are based on subjective values and principles. They may vary from one culture or society to another. As such, it is difficult for artificial intelligence (AI) to make moral and ethical decisions. However, if an AI were designed to decide on the streetcar problem, it could be programmed to follow predefined ethical rules. For example, the AI could be programmed to follow the utility principle of utilitarianism, i.e., to make the decision that produces the most significant amount of happiness or well-being for the greatest number of people. In this case, the AI would decide to operate the lever to divert the streetcar to the side track where there is only one worker, as this would save five workers compared to only one. However, this raises the question of who is responsible for the decision made by the AI. Is the AI responsible for the worker's death on the side track, or is it the AI programmer responsible for having programmed the AI to follow a particular set of ethical rules? Liability, in this case, is a complex issue that must be carefully considered, as the AI must fully understand the context and consequences of its decisions. Remember, the AI can only make decisions based on predefined data and algorithms! If the data used to train the AI is biased or incomplete, or if the algorithms used to make decisions contain errors, the AI could make inaccurate or inappropriate decisions. Therefore, it is important that AI be designed and trained with care and that rigorous testing be performed to ensure that the AI makes accurate and ethical decisions. Indeed, an AI could be programmed to make decisions on the streetcar problem. Still, the liability and ethical implications of the decision made by AI must be carefully considered.

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Towards conscious and prudent AI

At this point, it is worth asking whether we are better off with or without AI. AI is probably the most important human invention of the 21st century and perhaps history. Yuval Noah Harari, a futurist philosopher, commented in his interviews that, certainly, when something is formulated for the first time, there are Yuval Noah Hararinaysayers, but AI is different. It is the first technology in the history of humankind that can make decisions on its own. All inventions so far have been empowering because the decision to use the created tool was made only by people. When the knife was invented, it could not act on its own will, and you could kill someone or use it to save a life during an operation. When scientists developed nuclear technology, the possibility of wiping out humanity and bombing whole cities and countries was real. Still, it can also be used to produce electricity cheaply and in large quantities. Nuclear reactors do not impose what to do with them. The individual decides. With AI, it is different. The AI can make decisions on its own. If you watch a video on YouTube, it is not a human being who decides which video to recommend, but an algorithm. At another point, Yuval references AI as a change from previous technologies because it can create new ideas on its own: the printing press could not develop ideas... Someone wrote a book; for example, Cervantes wrote Don Quixote; it was taken to the printing press, and the machine printed it; it did not write Don Quixote on his own. Nor can he write a review of Don Quixote; it does just what it is sent to him. Another example is the radio. We invented the radio, but it does not decide what to broadcast.

AI and the Future: Embracing Interdisciplinary Collaboration for Ethical and Fair Systems

AI can independently create texts, music, pictures, images, and videos. In just a few years, we may live in a world where humans do not make most decisions, humans do not tell stories, and humans do not paint pictures. We have yet to learn of the implications of all this. Focusing on AI ethics is crucial as AI advances and integrates into our lives. Ethical AI development ensures AI decision-making aligns with human values and positively impacts society. By creating transparent, accountable, and fair AI models, we can work towards a future where AI upholds virtues of a just and equitable society. As AI continues to evolve and permeate various aspects of our lives, we must address the ethical dilemmas and moral implications of its use. By engaging in interdisciplinary collaboration and incorporating diverse cultural perspectives, we can work towards developing AI systems that are genuinely ethical and fair. The future of AI holds immense potential to improve human life. Still, we are responsible for ensuring that this technology benefits humanity rather than becoming the catalyst for its downfall.

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