Re: Ethical experimentation on AIs

From: Chris Hibbert (
Date: Sat Oct 20 2007 - 20:56:55 MDT

> How could such a question possibly be answered?
> As a matter of fitness, animals generally do not kill or harm other members of
> the same species, although any other species is fair game.

"Generally" leaves a lot of wiggle room. Humans are not the only
animals known to kill conspecifics: chimps and ants are two examples
that come to mind immediately. There are probably several examples of
new dominant males killing offspring from their predecessor.

> In humans, this complex behavior is called 'ethics'. You are asking
> how this behavior would apply to machines. It does not. There
> simply has been no evolutionary pressure in either direction.

Evolution has little to do with what we "ought" to do.

My theory has long been that self-awareness is the level that I would
demand from any creature before granting it an equal "right to live".
Others seem to rely on ability to feel pain, or something even less.

> The question is not without controversy. Humans cannot agree on whether it is
> ethical to kill animals or embryos or enemy soldiers or people that want to
> die. They will certainly not agree about AI. Asking for opinions will get
> you nowhere.

You might learn something, but you would be better off finding the
appropriate literature rather than taking surveys. Asking on this list
might get you pointers into the literature. (I'm not the one to provide
that, though.)

> Also, do you presume there is a test to distinguish a machine that can feel
> pain from one that only claims to feel pain?

If the claim seems real, and not recorded, I'm willing to count that.
The usually more interesting question, IMHO, is about groups of similar
beings rather than individuals.


I think that, for babies, every day is first love in Paris. Every
wobbly step is skydiving, every game of hide and seek is Einstein
in 1905.--Alison Gopnik (
Chris Hibbert

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