UConn philosopher explores morality of artificial intelligence in new book


A photo of a robot with a humanoid face. As artificial intelligence becomes more advanced, the ethics of it are discussed more.  Photo by    Franck V   /   Unsplash

A photo of a robot with a humanoid face. As artificial intelligence becomes more advanced, the ethics of it are discussed more. Photo by Franck V/Unsplash

A University of Connecticut philosopher recently published a book about the ethics of artificial intelligence, or AI. 

The book, entitled “Artificial You: AI and the Future of Your Mind”, was written by Susan Schneider, professor of philosophy and cognitive science. Schneider discussed her recent publication with UConn Today in January of this year.  

“It explores the nature of the self and consciousness in a not so distant future, using today’s work in artificial intelligence and brain enhancement technologies,” Schneider said to UConn Today.  

Schneider explained that her book explores the question of what would happen if artificial intelligence develops consciousness. Her research focuses on the philosophical implications of artificial intelligence.  

“This book asks: Assuming we build highly sophisticated artificial intelligences at some point in the future, would they be conscious beings?” Schneider said. “Further, how would we detect consciousness in machines? These questions are addressed in the first half of the book. The second half of the book is on the nature of the self.” 

Specifically, Schneider seeks to explore the ethical repercussions of having an artificial general intelligence, or AGI. Today’s artificial intelligence tends to be specialized in one field, as in Schneider’s examples of computers playing “Go” and “Jeopardy!”. Artificial general intelligence is a type of AI that can perform many different tasks indiscriminately.  

“AGI is a kind of general, flexible intelligence that can do things like make breakfast without burning the house down, while thinking of mathematics and answering the phone,” Schneider explained in a 2017 paper titled Artificial Intelligence, Consciousness, and Moral Status. “Its intelligence is not limited to a single domain, like chess. Because AGIs are general, flexible, integrate knowledge across domains and exhibit human-level intelligence or beyond, AGIs seem like better candidates for being conscious than existing systems.” 

In addition to her work with AI, Schneider holds the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration and Scientific Innovation, as well as a Distinguished Scholar Chair for the Library of Congress. Schneider also works with Congress on the regulation of AI. She helps consult on issues including deep fake videos and algorithmic discrimination.  

“That’s why we really need AI regulations,” Schneider said to UConn Today. “AI regulation could do tremendous work. And so I do hope we move forward on all of these issues.” 

Grace McFadden is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at grace.mcfadden@uconn.edu

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