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Path finding in AI ethical issues

WANG XIAOYANG and WANG YUCHENG | 2023-03-23 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today

Harmonious coexistence of humans and machines is key. Photo: CFP

To address ethical issues of artificial intelligence (AI), it is necessary for us to engage in forward-looking research to formulate appropriate laws and regulations on governance over sci-tech ethics.

Potential threats

From the current level and future prospects of AI, this article focuses on four types of sic-tech ethical crises that AI may cause.

Emotional crisis in marriage and love: once people choose to invest more emotions in AI, traditional human emotional bonds, family ethics, and social structures may encounter serious challenges.

Legal and moral crisis: whether for human society or for individuals, law and morality play a crucial role in regulating behaviors. To function properly, the definition of the behavioral entity and the rules for behavioral judgments must both be relatively clear. However, although current AI does have a certain degree of autonomy, it still does not have the same principal status as natural persons.

Cultural aesthetic crisis: literary and artistic creation is often regarded as a field that reflects subjective initiative and creativity. In recent years, AI has demonstrated its “creative” ability, which contributes to literary and artistic creation and enhances cultural diversity. However, if creative activities of AI are misunderstood, the true value of human literary and artistic works will be underestimated, and human literary and artistic creative activities will be suppressed.

Existential crisis: first, lacking effective regulations in data acquisition can result in infringements on the right to data privacy. Second, AI algorithms trained from data with preferences can further exacerbate social biases. Third, there is the “information silo” effect. Fourth, due to the inability to accurately predict AI decisions, it is also difficult to specifically correct decision-making errors of the algorithm. Fifth, in some important areas, once people rely too heavily on AI full of algorithmic black boxes, the interests of innocent people may be harmed. Sixth, if Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) or Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) emerges without robust ethical and moral standards, humanity may encounter an existential crisis.

Resolving paths

Ethical crises caused by Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) and AGI should be strictly discerned. For sci-tech ethical crises triggered by ANI, regulations make up the principal governance methods. As for those caused by AGI, preventive measures should be taken. 

Resolving the emotional crisis of marriage and love: first, it should be recognized that the arrival and application of AI companions with autonomous personalities are likely unstoppable. Ensuring freedom of marriage and love is still a necessary prerequisite for dealing with the entry of AI into human emotional relationships. Second, the emotional relationship between AI and humans does not mean that traditional ethical patterns and social relationships of humans will be disrupted. The key is to realize the harmonious coexistence of humans and computers.

Resolving legal and moral crises: currently, ANI is the most widely used type of AI. As the designers, users, and stewards of ANI, humans will have an unshakable responsibility. AGI and ASI are intelligent entities with full autonomous abilities like humans, so they may bear legal and moral responsibilities themselves. To avoid serious legal and moral threats caused by AGI and ASI, experts should always consider ethical design issues of AI when developing AGI, integrate multidisciplinary resources, and focus on solving the issues in ethical principles of AI.

Resolving the cultural and aesthetic crisis: the key to solving the current cultural and aesthetic crisis is to protect intellectual property rights of writers and artists. Once AGI and ANI of the future develop self-awareness or a real artistic innovation ability, we should abandon the cultural and artistic view of anthropocentrism and frankly treat AI artists as equals of human artists. At that time, the cultural and aesthetic crisis that humans encounter may come from whether humans can create works better than AI. Of course, AI and human artists can also collaborate to create more abundant literary and artistic works.

Resolve the crisis of life and survival: in response to the ethical crisis caused by ANI, relevant laws and regulations should be strengthened to ensure the privacy of personal data. Meanwhile, special attention should be paid to ethical supervision of AGI/ASI research and development. During the research and development process, experts and scholars should take measures to prevent the emergence of AGI that is both uncontrollable and threatening to human existence. Moreover, it may be necessary to actively explore algorithmically how to embed the moral sentiment of “humanitarianism” in AI.

In short, what kind of AI to develop, how and for whom to develop it are the three major questions of whether AI is good or not. Dignity, freedom, equality, and cultural diversity are fundamental values of human civilization, and no sci-tech development should undermine these values. One day, if humans can coexist harmoniously with AI, it will undoubtedly demonstrate that human civilization not only has a high degree of intelligence, but also has great inclusiveness.


Wang Xiaoyang is a professor from the Department of Philosophy at Xiamen University. Wang Yucheng is from the Department of Philosophy at Xidian University.

Edited by ZHAO YUAN