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Criticisms and Developments of Ethical Behaviourism

A number of years in the past, I developed a place I referred to as ‘moral behaviourism’ and utilized it to debates concerning the ethical standing of synthetic beings. Roughly, moral behaviourism is an ethical equal of the Turing take a look at for synthetic intelligence. It states that if an entity appears and acts like one other entity with ethical standing, then you must act as if it has that standing. More strongly, it states that one of the best proof we now have for figuring out that one other entity has ethical standing is behavioural. No different kind of proof (mechanical, ontological, historic) trumps the behavioural proof.

My longest defence of this concept comes from my authentic article “Welcoming Robots into the Moral Community: A Defence of Ethical Behaviourism” (official; open entry), however, in some ways, I favor the subsequent defence that I wrote up for a lecture in 2019 (obtainable right here). The latter article clarifies sure factors from my authentic article and responds to extra objections.

I’ve by no means claimed that moral behaviourism is especially authentic or insightful. Very related positions have been developed and defended by others previously. Nevertheless, for no matter purpose, it has piqued the curiosity of different researchers.  The authentic paper has been cited practically 80 occasions, although most of these citations are ‘by the way in which’. More considerably, there are actually a number of fascinating and substantive critiques and developments on it obtainable within the literature. I assumed it could be worthwhile linking to some of the extra important ones right here. I hyperlink to open entry variations wherever potential.

If of different substantive engagements with the idea, please let me know.

  • “The ethics of interplay with neurorobotic brokers: a case examine with BabyX” by Knott, Sagar and Takac – This is presumably essentially the most fascinating paper partaking with the concept of moral behaviourism. It is a case examine of an precise synthetic agent/entity. Ultimately, the authors argue that my concept doesn’t account for the expertise of individuals interacting with this agent, and recommend that synthetic brokers that mimic sure organic mechanisms usually tend to warrant the ascription of ethical patiency.
  • ‘Is it time for rights for robots? Moral standing in synthetic entities‘ by Vincent Müller – A critique of all proponents of ethical standing for robots that features considerably ill-tempered critique of my concept. Müller admits he’s providing a ‘nasty reconstruction’ (one thing akin to a ‘reductio advert absurdum’) of his opponents’ views. I believe he misrepresents my concept on sure key factors. I’ve corresponded with him about it, however I will not listing my objections right here. 
  • Social Good Versus Robot Well-Being: On the Principle of Procreative Beneficence and Robot Gendering‘ by Ryan Blake Jackson and Tom Williams – One of the throwaway claims I made in my authentic paper on moral behaviourism was that, if the idea is appropriate, robotic designers might have ‘procreative’ duties towards robots. Specifically, they might be obliged to observe the precept of procreative beneficence (make one of the best robots it’s potential to make). The authors of this paper take up, and in the end dismiss, this concept. Unlike Müller’s paper, this one is a good-natured critique of my views.
  • ‘How Could We Know When a Robot was a Moral Patient?‘ by Henry Shevlin – A helpful evaluation of the totally different standards we might use to find out the ethical patiency of a robotic. Broadly sympathetic to my place however means that it must be modified to incorporate cognitive equivalency and not simply behavioural equivalency.


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