Symposium Description

One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Although initially limited to "other men," the practice of ethics has developed in such a way that it continually challenges its own restrictions and comes to encompass what had been previously excluded individuals and groups--foreigners, women, animals, and even the environment. Currently, we stand on the verge of another, fundamental challenge to moral thinking. This challenge comes from the autonomous, intelligent machines of our own making, and it puts in question many deep-seated assumptions about who or what constitutes a moral subject. The way we address and respond to this challenge will have a profound effect on how we understand ourselves, our place in the world, and our responsibilities to the other entities encountered here.

We believe it is urgent that this new development in moral thinking be advanced in the light and perspective of ethics/moral philosophy, a discipline that reflects thousands of years of effort by our species' civilisations. Fundamental philosophical questions include:

  • What kind of moral claim might an intelligent or autonomous machine have?
  • Is it possible for a machine to be a legitimate moral agent and/or moral patient?
  • What are the philosophical grounds supporting such a claim?
  • And what would it mean to articulate and practice an ethics of this claim?

The Machine Question: AI, Ethics and Moral Responsibility seeks to address, evaluate, and respond to these and related questions.

Structure and Proceedings

The Machine Question is one of three symposia in the Ethics, Morality, AI and Mind cluster, which also includes the symposia Moral Cognition and Theory of Mind and Framework for Responsible Research and Innovation in Artificial Intelligence. There will be separate proceedings for each participating symposium, produced and distributed to participants before the Congress.

About the Congress

AISB/IACAP World Congress 2012 serves as the year's AISB Convention and IACAP conference. The Congress was inspired by a desire to honour Alan Turing, and the broad and deep significance of Turing's work to AI, the philosophical ramifications of computing, and philosophy and computing more generally. The Congress is one of the events forming the Alan Turing Year

The intent of the Congress is to stimulate a particularly rich interchange between AI and Philosophy on any areas of mutual interest, whether directly addressing Turing's own research output or not. The Congress will consist mainly of a number of collocated Symposia on specific research areas, interspersed with Congress-wide refreshment breaks, social events and invited Plenary Talks. All papers other than the invited Plenaries will be given within Symposia.


© 2012 J. Bryson & D. Gunkel