The word literally means to “give form to” or to shape one's thoughts. So a basic type of information technology might be the proverbial string tied around one's finger to remind or inform you that you have some specific task to accomplish today. Here the string stands in for a more complex proposition such as “buy groceries before you come home.” The string itself is not the information, it merely symbolizes the information and therefore this symbol must be correctly interpreted for it to be useful. Which raises the question, what is information itself?
For those troubled by the ontological questions regarding information, we might want to simply focus on the symbols and define information as any meaningfully ordered set of symbols.
This move can be very useful and mathematicians and engineers prefer to focus on this aspect of information, which is called “syntax” and leave the meaningfulness of information or its “semantics” for others to figure out.
We can explain the way that information technology works, but we still have the deeper issue to resolve if we want to thoroughly trace the impact of information technologies on moral values.
Ray Kurzweil who has famously predicted that if this doubling of capabilities continues and more and more technologies become information technologies, then there will come a point in time where the change from one generation of information technology to the next will become so massive that it will change everything about what it means to be human, and at this moment which he calls “the Singularity” our technology will allow us to become a new post human species (2006). If this is correct, there could be no more profound change to our moral values.
The second form of ALife is much more morally charged. This form of ALife is based on manipulating actual biological and biochemical processes in such a way as to produce novel life forms not seen in nature
They appeal to the Aristotelian notion of courage, not a headlong and foolhardy rush into the unknown, but a resolute and careful step forward into the possibilities offered by this research
robotics and moral values
Information technologies have not been content to remain confined to virtual worlds and software implementations. These technologies are also interacting directly with us through robotics applications. Robotics is an emerging technology but it has already produced a number of applications that have important moral implications. Technologies such as military robotics, medical robotics, personal robotics and the world of sex robots are just some of the already existent uses of robotics that impact on and express our moral commitments (see Capurro and Nagenborg 2009; Lin et al. 2011).
Wallach and Allen's book Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong (2010), the authors
familiar to philosophy (see entry on the Problem of Evil); we add a third concept they call artificial evil (2001). Floridi and Sanders contend that if we do this then we can see that the actions of artificial agents
Dewey argued that we are in a ‘transactional’ relationship with all of these technologies within which we discover and construct our world (Hickman 1990). This is a helpful standpoint to take as it allows us to advance the idea that an information technology of morality and ethics is not impossible. As well as allowing us to take seriously the idea that the relations and transactions between human agents and those that exist between humans and their artifacts have important ontological similarities. While Dewey could only dimly perceive the coming revolutions in information technologies, his theory is useful to us still because he proposed that ethics was not only a theory but a practice and solving problems in ethics is like solving problems in algebra (Hickman 1990). If he is right, then an interesting possibility arises, namely the possibility that ethics and morality are computable problems and therefore it should be possible to create an information technology that can embody moral systems of thought.
terms of reasoning by categorical imperatives but instead they use:
… the forms If A produces B, and you value B, chose to do A, and If A produces B and C produces D, and you prefer B to D, choose A rather than C. In short, the rules he comes up with are based on fact and value, I submit that this is the way moral rules ought to be fashioned, namely as rules of conduct deriving from scientific statements and value judgments. In short ethics could be conceived as a branch of technology. (Bunge 1977, 103)
automated moral reasoning (Adam 2008; Anderson and Anderson 2011; Johnson and Powers 2008; Schmidt 2007; Wallach and Allen 2010).
While scholars recognize that we are still some time from creating information technology that would be unequivocally recognized as an artificial moral agent, there are strong theoretical arguments in favor of the eventual possibility and therefore they are an appropriate concern for those interested in the moral impacts of information technologies.