With the world becoming more digitized with the scale of technology’s growth, new moral and ethical questions must now be asked that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. At ODSC West 2023, Nick Bostrom is a Swedish philosopher at Oxford University who is known for his work on the ethics of artificial intelligence providing an insight keynote on this issue and more.
In his talk, “The Ethics of Digital Minds: A Baffling New Frontier,” Nick Bostrom discusses the potential moral status of digital minds and the challenges we face in developing ethical frameworks for their creation and use.
Nick Bostrom begins by noting that AIs have traditionally been seen as tools, but that this may no longer be the case in the future. He argues that as AIs become more sophisticated, they may develop the ability to experience pain and suffering and that they may also develop their own goals and values. If this happens, then AIs will no longer be mere tools, but will instead be moral patients with their own rights and interests.
He then discussed the challenges of developing ethical frameworks for different forms of AI and AI-like technology. But there’s a major issue. During the keynote, Nick argues that many of the ethical principles that we currently use, such as the principle of utility, may not be applicable to AI programs. The reason is that AI programs may have different goals and values than humans, and they may not be susceptible to the same kinds of harm and benefits as humans.
Popular science fiction is littered with references to this possibility. And during his keynote, Nick worked to bring this important topic to the forefront. It’s clear that the development of AI is an extremely beneficial outcome to humanity, but it also is filled with complex and challenging issues related to ethics.
In short, There are no easy answers, but it is important that we start thinking about these issues now before it is too late. When he wrapped up his keynote, Nick Bostrom argued that we need to start thinking about the ethical implications of AI now before it is too late. He stated that we need to develop ethical frameworks that can accommodate the potential moral status of AI and that we need to do this in a way that is fair and just to both humans and AIs.
Bostrom’s talk is a thought-provoking exploration of the ethical challenges posed by AI as it continues to transform how our civilization operates. Though the benefits of the technology have been highlighted quite often, there is still much work to be done to ensure that ethical guardrails are in place so that any harm is minimized while humanity walks into a future where it is sharing this journey with AI, hand in hand.
If you found this keynote interesting, then you shouldn’t miss the next ODSC conference, ODSC East! Be one of the first 50 attendees for East and save 75%!