A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

May 22, 2014

Can Robots Be Programmed To Be Moral?

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel considers new "moral" robot
     Of course, says the Chairman of the Yale Technology and Ethics Study Group.  In fact, Mr. Wendell Wallach thinks we can program different kinds of morality into our robotic associates.  First there is Operational Morality, which he says "is what you already get when the operator can discern all the situations that the robot may come under and program in appropriate responses."  There is also Functional Morality, which "is where the robot starts to move into situations where the operator can’t always predict what [the robot] will encounter and [the robot] will need to bring some form of ethical reasoning to bear."  Finally, Mr. Wallach thinks we can program a robot to become a "full moral agent."  Which is exactly what?
      Well, apparently a full moral agent is a being who is capable of acting with reference to right and wrong.  And that's exactly where Wallach fails to make his case.  A "being" is understood to have a living soul, a spirit, an essence, and a heart.  Robots have none of these things.  They are wires and metal and computer chips. Now, can they be programmed to act out directives based on existing conditions?  Absolutely.  But can they be programmed with feelings, and values, and a code of ethical standards -- all which comes from our inner psyche, and which determines one's ability to define morality?  I do not believe so.
     But The Blaze reports that the Department of Defense, through the Office of Naval Research has $7.5 million set aside in grant money over the next five years for university researchers to build a robot with moral reasoning capabilities.  And here's their truly chilling rationalization for such a plan: Proponents argue a “sense of moral consequence” could allow robotic systems to operate as one part of a more efficient — and truly autonomous — defense infrastructure. And some of those advocates think pre-programmed machines would make better decisions than humans, since they could only follow strict rules of engagement and calculate potential outcomes for multiple different scenarios.
     First of all, I cannot easily dismiss the language they use to describe this possible scenario ... "the robot will need to bring "some form" of ethical reasoning to bear" ... a "sense" of moral consequence ...    truly autonomous systems ... Does anyone else think that there's a huge risk for a) the robot's sense and form of morality being different than a human's, or b) the possibility that someone of inferior (or even evil) morals could corrupt the programming for a robot who is going to be involved in our defense infrastructure?  And do you want these robots with unprovable morals being truly autonomous;  i.e. self-ruling and self-determining?  That would be a big, fat NO from me!
     Artificial Intelligence researcher Steven Omohundro says it all makes sense to him.  “With drones, missile defines, autonomous vehicles, etc., the military is rapidly creating systems that will need to make moral decisions."  Again, I ask, WHY?!?  Why will they need to make moral decisions ... who decided that?  Just because you say it, does not give it credibility.
     I am so sick and tired of all these researchers and scientists that are so gung-ho to explore the world of human/robotic integration.  I am weary of them acting and speaking as if it is the most natural and obvious development; the indisputable next step and course of action.  We should take that leap ... oh, just because ... We can! Where is the morality in that?
     Has anybody stopped to ask these geniuses if they would be willing to trust a robot to decide if they should be rescued in an IED attack?  Would they be happy to rely on that robot deciding if the moral thing to do would be to leave you, while a more seriously injured comrade was rescued first?  What if the robot decided you were "acceptable collateral damage" to the mission? Humans will always care more about humans than machines can!  We have God-embedded DNA!  Hasn't anybody seen the movie Terminator???
     And before I end my tirade, I'd like to address the military minds that are behind this debatable and controversial plan.  How dare you suggest that $7.5 million be spent on the development of so-called moral robots, when the genuinely moral thing to do would be to spend that money on caring for the real life, flesh-and-blood veterans who have been languishing and dying in our VA hospitals!  Shame on you!  God have mercy on this foolish and misguided generation!

Luke 12:57   "And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? "


  1. Amen! You nailed it! Robots (computers), with morals to decide right or wrong? First, computers are programmed by someone, so whos morals are being used? Computers are reprogrammed daily, so as mans morals change, so does the robots. It would completely stop any human from ever daring to uphold Gods word if it conflicted with the governing powers, because a robot would be sent to destroy that human and that robot may be programmed with different morals for a different purpose. Is it possible for robots to have a sense of self preservation? Would they choose their preservation over yours? As we Christians well know, mankind cannot govern himself. Due to mankinds lust of the flesh, power, greed and pride, which makes us easy pickins for Satan, mankind would destroy himself with robots. Jesus will return before he allows the rule by robots, or genetically engineered humankind. His return is not that far off....

    1. Exactly! Being this close to changing humanity from the image of God, certainly seems to indicate that our Savior is about to rule the Earth. Come quickly, Yeshua!

    2. I can't help but recall how many of those SS folks were pleading .. " I was just following orders ! "