Ethox Seminar: Holding Machines Responsible: Moral Responsibility in a Technological World

This seminar will be held on Zoom, please register here:

Technological developments have undoubtedly changed our world and, as a result, questions concerning moral responsibility are increasingly perplexing. How should we think of responsibility when humans collaborate with technology, for example, where our devices remind us of important appointments, or where clinics employ artificially intelligent decision support systems? Who (or what) can be held responsible when harms or benefits appear to result from technology alone? Some authors suggest a problematic “responsibility gap”, while others promote various “bridging” strategies, from pinning responsibility onto proxy individuals or corporations, to locating novel sorts of group agency in human-machine composites. Few, however, have seriously considered more direct strategies, namely how we might hold machines responsible. Although it may sound farfetched, seeing machines as responsible can depend less on seeking sophisticated capacities, like consciousness, and more on rethinking the nature of responsibility itself. Focusing on the latter approach, I put forward a pragmatic account of moral responsibility for the technological world. In short, we stand only to gain by rethinking responsibility in ways that accommodate sophisticated technologies and that help us adjust to one another amidst our increasing reliance upon technology.