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PHI 114 — Ethics for Artificially Intelligent Robots: A Practical Philosophy for Our Technological Future

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 4—Jun 6
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Apr 17
Units: 2
Tuition: $460
Instructor(s): Forrest Hartman
Status: Open
7:00—8:50 pm
Apr 4—Jun 6
10 weeks
Drop By
Apr 17
2 Units
Forrest Hartman
Robot ethics is an emerging interdisciplinary field of inquiry that studies the ethical dimension of the development of autonomous intelligent machines that will be capable of independent moral decisions as robots become increasingly integrated into our social life. Fears that superintelligence could subordinate, replace, or otherwise harm human beings will be allayed only by an assurance that these new agents share our humane values.

The urgency of the ethical problem stems from experts’ prediction that high-level artificial intelligence is only a few decades away. In a multicultural, globalized modern world, deciding what ethics to program/instill in robots will require an unprecedented interdisciplinary dialogue. What are the primary concerns that we would want to see addressed by any robot ethics? Could we conceive of a moral Turing Test that would give us the confidence to trust what could be our final invention? Is moral competence computable?

Comprehensive readings will survey a diversity of approaches through essays in several recent anthologies. Nick Bostrom in Superintelligence clearly delineates the ethical dilemma. Ludwig Wittgenstein and Isaac Asimov point out the pitfalls of any deontological ethics of rulefollowing. Social roboticists Paul Dumouchel and Luisa Damiano in Living with Robots suggest, beyond any rationalist conception, an innovative approach to an ethics of emotions and empathy. Students will come away from this course with a practical philosophy for thinking about our rapidly approaching technological future.

Forrest Hartman, Senior Adjunct Professor in Critical Studies, California College of the Arts

Forrest Hartman’s research interests are based in the history of ideas and cultural studies. He received a PhD in rhetoric/philosophy from UC Berkeley and a PhD in evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan.

Textbooks for this course:

Please Note: The paperback version of "Machine Ethics" will be available to purchase at the Stanford bookstore the second week in April.
(Required) Michael Anderson and Susan Leigh Anderson, Editors, Machine Ethics (ISBN 978-1108461757)
(Recommended) Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Later paperback 2016 with "New Afterward" (ISBN 978-0-19-873983-8)
(Recommended) Max Tegmark, Life 3.0: Being Humean in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (ISBN 978 -1101946596)