How Moral Can A.I. Really Be?

Article by Paul Bloom: “…The problem isn’t just that people do terrible things. It’s that people do terrible things that they consider morally good. In their 2014 book “Virtuous Violence,” the anthropologist Alan Fiske and the psychologist Tage Rai argue that violence is often itself a warped expression of morality. “People are impelled to violence when they feel that to regulate certain social relationships, imposing suffering or death is necessary, natural, legitimate, desirable, condoned, admired, and ethically gratifying,” they write. Their examples include suicide bombings, honor killings, and war. The philosopher Kate Manne, in her book “Down Girl,” makes a similar point about misogynistic violence, arguing that it’s partially rooted in moralistic feelings about women’s “proper” role in society. Are we sure we want A.I.s to be guided by our idea of morality?

Schwitzgebel suspects that A.I. alignment is the wrong paradigm. “What we should want, probably, is not that superintelligent AI align with our mixed-up, messy, and sometimes crappy values but instead that superintelligent AI have ethically good values,” he writes. Perhaps an A.I. could help to teach us new values, rather than absorbing old ones. Stewart, the former graduate student, argued that if researchers treat L.L.M.s as minds and study them psychologically, future A.I. systems could help humans discover moral truths. He imagined some sort of A.I. God—a perfect combination of all the great moral minds, from Buddha to Jesus. A being that’s better than us.

Would humans ever live by values that are supposed to be superior to our own? Perhaps we’ll listen when a super-intelligent agent tells us that we’re wrong about the facts—“this plan will never work; this alternative has a better chance.” But who knows how we’ll respond if one tells us, “You think this plan is right, but it’s actually wrong.” How would you feel if your self-driving car tried to save animals by refusing to take you to a steakhouse? Would a government be happy with a military A.I. that refuses to wage wars it considers unjust? If an A.I. pushed us to prioritize the interests of others over our own, we might ignore it; if it forced us to do something that we consider plainly wrong, we would consider its morality arbitrary and cruel, to the point of being immoral. Perhaps we would accept such perverse demands from God, but we are unlikely to give this sort of deference to our own creations. We want alignment with our own values, then, not because they are the morally best ones, but because they are ours…(More)”