Abstract: An autonomous system is a software agent capable of performing what appear to be actions, with what appears to be a significant degree of independence and autonomy. Autonomous systems, at least at present, are not genuine moral agents: they do not themselves have moral obligations or permissions. But the programming of an autonomous system is uncontroversially subject to moral evaluation. This talk will consider the general question whether the morality of programming an autonomous system to behave in a certain way in a certain situation is reducible to the morality of a human actor, in its place, behaving in that same way in that same situation. It will consider three ways in which this reduction might fail, based on programmers’ ignorance of who their act affects, on the difference between performing one and multiple instances of the same act, and on the extrinsic effects that can arise from the visibility of programs to others.
Biography: Dr. Karhu received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the London School of Economics. Before LSE, he completed an M.Phil. in political theory at Oxford University. His doctoral dissertation focuses on theoretical and practical issues in the ethics of killing, and a few other normative matters involving death. On the theoretical side, he has worked on the relationship between the wrongness of killing and the badness of death and about how killing and dying relate to the metaphysics of time. On the more practical side, he has worked on the question of the extent of one's right to self-defense in the context of war and the moral duties people incur in virtue of killing others.