TechnologyPhilosophers for ethical technology

Philosophers for ethical technology


Philosophy is literally the love of wisdom. And there are those who consider it the art of thinking. Actually, it is an academic discipline that, although reviled by some academic plans, should be at the forefront. And it is that in any science or research area there is some philosophy. Or put another way. Great scientists were also philosophers. Hence the importance of ethical technology or linking ethics to technology.

Ethics is the part of philosophy that analyzes human behavior from the point of view of whether what we do is good or bad, admirable and virtuous, or reprehensible and reprehensible. So while science and technology answer questions that human beings ask themselves and some of their needs and curiosities, ethics is responsible for asking us why certain technologies are used and how they should be managed for the good of all and not for the few. For example.

Precisely in topics as hot as artificial intelligence, robotics or algorithms, ethical technology is essential. Ethics has an important role in preventing us from using technology for reprehensible purposes instead of encouraging its use to benefit us and make us prosper as a knowledge and information society.

Precisely, this issue, and many others, was discussed at EnlightED 2022. The annual meeting on the new paradigm of education in conjunction with technology.

Human rights above all

Thanks to his books and, above all, his film and television adaptations, many know Asimov’s laws of robotics. His three laws, which appear in many of his science fiction stories, are a great example of how ethics should affect technology. And it is that above any innovation or advance, the rights of human beings must prevail. 

In other words. Technology should make our lives more bearable, comfortable and satisfying. And if this is not the case, philosophers should warn us that we are not on the right track. From there, whether we pay more or less attention to them will depend on us. And those responsible for those technologies. And it is that sometimes we adopt innovations without stopping to think about whether they really help us or, in reality, they are helping the pocket of some.

A good practical example is the constant warnings that scientists, thinkers, philosophers and experts in different fields make about the use of artificial intelligence for military use. Years ago, an open letter was published warning of the danger of combining robotics and artificial intelligence to apply them in weapons. Important figures such as Stephen Hawking or Steve Wozniak stood out among the signatories.

Science fiction has already talked at length about the dangers of autonomous weapons. But then robots that could wield a weapon were far away. Today it is a reality. On the one hand, they work with terrestrial robots that incorporate automatic weapons or explosives. And autonomous drones are also trained to carry out surveillance tasks. The next step would be for them to launch missiles, something that already happens under human supervision from miles away.

Human machines and the role of ethical technology

A few years ago, Microsoft came across one of the dangers that poorly programmed artificial intelligence can generate. He launched a bot on Twitter, that is, a computer program to chat, which had to learn to communicate naturally with other human users. The result was that within a few hours he became racist and xenophobic.

We learn from mistakes. And on this issue in particular, researchers who work with artificial intelligence are very aware of the importance of training these computer programs to prevent them from acquiring attitudes or behaviors that have no place in our society. And this can be applied to a conversation algorithm or to a program that is in charge of evaluating the work of the employees of a company or the health of some patients in a hospital center.

As I mentioned before, there has always been a close relationship between philosophers and scientists, with cases of profiles of philosopher-scientists and philosopher-scientists. The same happens in the different technological disciplines. And today it is increasingly common to find profiles of this type in technology companies or institutions dedicated to offering advice on ethics or other philosophical disciplines applied to science and technology.

Today’s philosophers have a lot of work to do. And ethical technology must address tricky issues. Some of them already present in the real world. For example, should an artificial intelligence be the president of a company, with thousands of people under her command? Should an AI have the ability to choose which lives are more valuable than others like healthcare professionals do in extreme situations? How does constant exposure to social media affect us?

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