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Ethics for a Digital Age, Vol. II


Edited By Bastiaan Vanacker and Don Heider

The second volume of Ethics for a Digital Age contains a selection of research presented at the fifth and sixth Annual International Symposia on Digital Ethics hosted by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. Thematically organized around the most pressing ethical issues of the digital age from a professional (parts one and two) and a philosophical perspective (part three), the chapters of this volume offer the reader a window into some of the hot-button ethical issues facing a society where digital has become the new normal. Just as was the case in the first volume, this collection attempts to bridge applied and theoretical approaches to digital ethics. The case studies in this work are grounded in theory and the theoretical pieces are linked back to specific cases, reflecting the multi-methodological and multi-disciplinarian approach espoused by Loyola’s Center of Digital Ethics and Policy during its eight years of existence. With contributions by experts from a variety of academic disciplines, this work will appeal to philosophers, communication scientists, and moral philosophers alike.

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8. The Machine Question: Can or Should Machines Have Rights? (David J. Gunkel)


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8.  The Machine Question: Can or Should Machines Have Rights?


Whether one is inclined to admit it or not, we currently occupy the world science fiction has been predicting for decades—a world populated by and increasingly reliant on intelligent or semi-intelligent artifacts. These artificial autonomous agents are everywhere and doing everything. We chat with them online, we play with them in digital games, we collaborate with them at work, and we rely on their capabilities to help us manage all aspects of our increasingly data-rich, digital lives. The machines are already here, but our understanding of the social significance and ethical consequences of this “robot invasion” is something that is still in need of considerable development.

Work in the new fields of machine morality (Wallach & Allen, 2009), machine ethics (Anderson & Anderson, 2011), and robot ethics (Lin, Abney, & Bekey, 2012) generally focuses attention on the decision-making capabilities and actions of autonomous machines and the consequences of this behavior for human beings and human social institutions. We have, for instance, recently seen a number of articles concerning Google’s self-driving automobile and the perennial ethical challenge called the “trolley problem” (Chipman, 2015; Jaipuria, 2015; Lin, 2013). We have evaluated efforts to engineer artificial intelligence systems designed to value human life or what is often called “friendly AI” (Muehlhauser & Bostrom, 2014; Rubin, 2011; Yudkowsky, 2001). And we currently have access to a seemingly inexhaustible...

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