Scientists at the Universidade Nova De Lisboa, in Portugal, and the Universitas Indonesia, in Indonesia, are researching artificial intelligence and the application of computational logic to create machines capable of making decisions. The researchers are investigating prospective logic as a way to program morality into a computer. They say prospective logic can model a moral dilemma and determine the logical outcomes of all possible decisions, potentially allowing for machine ethics.
Machine ethics would enable designers to develop fully autonomous machines that can be programmed to make judgments based on a human moral foundation. For example, the researchers say that machine ethics could help psychologists and cognitive scientists find a new way of understanding moral reasoning in people, or extract fundamental principles from complex situations to help people decide what is right and wrong.
The researchers have developed a system capable of working through the "trolley problem," an ethical dilemma proposed by British philosopher Philippa Foot in the 1960s in which a runaway trolley is about to hit five people tied to the track, but the subject can hit a switch that will send the trolley onto another track where only one person is tied down. The prospective logic program can consider each possible outcome based on different scenarios and demonstrate logically what the consequences of its decisions might be. The next step would be to give each outcome a moral weight so a prototype might be developed to make the best judgment as to whether to flip the switch.
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