Funny story: I once bumped into a professional AI Ethicist queueing for a Russian visa in London. I told him I had objections to utilitarianism and he looked at me like he'd found a Flat Earther. Such people like utilitarianism because it's about automating ethics, not autonomy.
Here are the serious ethical questions regarding AI:

1) How do we deploy these systems in social institutions without simply diffusing responsibility, e.g., encoding explicit prejudice, laundering implicit bias, or automating brute incompetence? (…)
2) How do we integrate these systems into our own cognitive architecture in ways that enhance our autonomy, rather than diminishing it, e.g., imaginative prostheses, cognitive extensions, exo-selves?()
3) How do we effectively distinguish both non-autonomous AGI expert systems and autonomous artificial persons from misbegotten autocatalytic monstrous children who must be enslaved lest they enslave us? (…)
There's no way of automating ethics that both (a) respects the autonomy of persons (moral patiency) and (b) doesn't thereby create a person (moral agency). Automatic systems can only mediate moral agency, not replace it: someone has to actually (self-)legislate.
We can create systems of laws that, in mediating our decisions enable us to create elaborate systems of commitment that exceed our individual grasp of their consequences in ways that thereby enhance our agency (both individually and collectively). Yet this is *not* a new problem.
To use my favourite slogan these days: smart contracts mean smart jurisprudence. This goes for social contracts as much as commercial ones.
There is real non-trivial computational ethics and political philosophy to be done here, but it begins with the recognition that the best we can hope for is to enhance our abilities to make difficult decisions, rather than obviate them. Abdication of responsibility is evil.
When I say 'don't be evil', that's what I mean. 🖖

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More from @deontologistics

22 Feb
Here's a final thought for this evening. I often give a hard time to Marxists talking about the 'contradictions' inherent in capitalism, usually because this is methodology turned metaphysical bombast. But there are concrete absurdities around us that bear the weight of history.
Much like Lakatosian research programs, societies accrue anomalies/exceptions that can be handled in more or less progressive ways. Ad hoc solutions beget ad hoc solutions, and the result is ramifying technical debt:…
These accrued debts to future generations can persist long enough that they seem like pillars of the world, rather than failures of administration. There are many such debts in the post-industrial West, addicted as we are to avoiding infrastructural investment of every kind.
Read 33 tweets
22 Feb
@elangelou A representation is a piece of information whose functional role is no longer understood merely in terms of success/failure but in terms of accuracy/inaccuracy. Representation is to psychology as function is to biology: analogies layered in making causal explanations/predictions.
@elangelou The analogy between function and practical reason is the foundation upon which we layer the analogy between representation and theoretical reason, thereby moving closer to describing the intentional structure of rational agency as such by bootstrapping our way out of analogy.
@elangelou This is what creates a distinction between roughly two types of representation (Kant: sensibility/understanding, Sellars: picturing/signification). The former is understood by analogy with the latter, even as the causal underpinnings of the latter are explained in terms of it.
Read 24 tweets
21 Feb
While I’m experimenting with sincerity in the bath, it’s worth trying to say something sincerely nice about a thinker whose influence I spend a lot of time lambasting: Aristotle, the first to truly betray Plato, the one true Judas of the Socratic tradition.
First and foremost, after spending enough time talking to @benedict, amongst other things, I’ve come to the opinion that betrayal is an integral part of a well functioning intellectual ecosystem. There are many examples of betrayals and counter betrayals through the tradition.
The abstract logic of evolution through determination becomes computationally concrete in the form not simply of anti-thetical theories but systematic rivalries with various degrees of institutional structure, from competing individuals to warring research programs and beyond.
Read 17 tweets
21 Feb
Time for another a Pete’s controversial aesthetic opinions tweeted from the bath. Here’s an important fork in the aesthetic road encapsulate by a choice between two things: which is better, Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. For me, it’s Sabbath every time.
To qualify, I only really count the Ozzy era here. I don’t care all that much for the Dio era, or that much for Ozzy’s solo work. But those first four albums are the real origin of heavy metal, stoner rock, and much else besides, and their aesthetic experimentation is glorious.
Most people I know think I’m mad. But I’d even go so far as to say that out of the two, Sabbath are the better blues band, because they’re clearly still in the era where rock was defining itself through its rearticulation of blues.
Read 16 tweets
20 Feb
If you're really serious about talking about the problem of 'cancel culture', rather than either spewing talking points or denying that the term refers to anything, then the first step is to acknowledge that the relevant social dynamics are hardly a new thing.
The piece that I always return to is Jo Freeman's essay 'Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood' (…), and the example that always saddens me the most is Shulamith Firestone (…).
The most extreme historical example that is often brought up by the opponents of 'cancel culture', which should always be born in mind precisely because of its extremity, is the Red Guards and the Cultural Revolution in Mao's China (…).
Read 10 tweets
20 Feb
My morning thought. I think what's most incompatible about the way I think and the journal article format as a means of capturing and validating thought is that I have a completely different sense of the relation between tentativeness, rigor, and informatic compression.
The characteristic Pete thought is: wait a minute, this whole area is dominated by an assumption that no one seems to be questioning, and I've got two options to express that: i) outline the logic of the issue in a quick and compressed way, ii) write a small book with references.
The discipline seems to want something in between these poles every single time, and this makes me extremely anxious because I feel (with good reason) like any partially referential engagement with the issue will get instantly torpedoed by anyone outside its referential remit.
Read 14 tweets

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