Computer Ethics - Philosophical Enquiry (CEPE) Proceedings

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Robot and Vehicle Ethics I

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The article introduces a concept of cultured technology, i.e. intelligent systems capable of interacting with humans and showing (or simulating) manners, of following customs and of socio-sensitive considerations. Such technologies might, when deployed on a large scale, influence and change the realm of human customs, traditions, standards of acceptable behavior, etc. This realm is known as the "objective spirit" (Hegel), which usually is thought of as being historically changing but not subject to deliberate human design. The article investigates the question of whether the purposeful design of interactive technologies (as cultured technologies) could enable us to shape modes of human social behavior and thus to influence those customary standards that determine what is considered (in‑)appropriate. Which moral rules could (possibly) guide such interventions into the normative fabric of our human social relations? Would it, for example, be appropriate to design technology to exhibit (or simulate) cultured, polite, or moral behavior in order to educate (or nudge) individuals to socially desired behavior? This could be called “deception as a way to virtue” – a thought which can already be found in Kant.

Another way of utilizing technology to deliberately influence the social and individual dimension of human behavior would be what the article – inspired by an episode in Homer’s Ulysses – introduces as “Ulysses pacts”: Ulysses, the cunning hero, enters into a pact with his crew to tie him to the mast and disobey all orders while near the Sirens – a strategy of assisted self-constraint. Ulysses-pact technologies might be a means to force us to stick to our commitments by resisting giving in to our weakness of will at a future point in time so that we cannot revise earlier decisions and commitments. Do Ulysses-pact technologies support us, for example, in the autonomous achievement of desired behavior, thus helping us on a path to virtue, or are they but a ruse, devised to drill predictable consumers?

Custom Citation

Gransche, B. (2019). A Ulysses pact with artificial systems. How to deliberately change the objective spirit with cultured AI. In D. Wittkower (Ed.), 2019 Computer Ethics - Philosophical Enquiry (CEPE) Proceedings, (22 pp.). doi: 10.25884/b8s7-sq95 Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/cepe_proceedings/vol2019/iss1/16