Memoranda for Submission to the Chief Ministers of the Two Telugu States.


Robots & Artificial Intelligence - Ethical & Moral Issues

Dt: 30/1/19

Robots & Artificial Intelligence -

Ethical & Moral Issues

Dr T.H.Chowdary*


Science without spirituality is blind;

Spirituality without science is lame

-Albert Einstein

Astounding advances are being made in the general realm of computers,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       robots, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The consequences for human societies will be  severe   and serious.   Already  machine translation of languages and robots performing many human tasks including judgments on the basis of information fed are raising serious questions as to whether  the robots will exceed humans in intelligence. Stephen William Hawking, the great English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author (bn: 8 January 1942, d: 14 March 2018)  predicted a singularity  by the Y 2100.  That singularity is  characterized by the intelligence  of   robots, exceeding that of humans.

2. IBM’s computer, Watson   is sitting on the  Doctor’s board in the Manipal Hospital to deliberate upon the course of treatment, including surgery for cancer. It is established that the course of treatment Watson is prescribing  for cancer  cure is agreeing with that of the most versatile team of  doctors.  While the  artificial intelligence implanted into robots  can substitute the  best humans to arrive at decisions and predictions  on the basis of  oceans of  data, mined and fed into them , the question  arises as to whether they can exercise moral and ethical decisions like  good and bad; love and hate;  right and wrong;  which are all  emotions that are  shaped  by values familiarized and  taught by tradition, religion social and  political ideologies, spirituality, and dharma  (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism).

3. Computers will give decisions and judgments  based upon the information fed into them. In the  realm of non-science that is, spirituality different religions have  different values  and use for and of humanity . For eg: Some religion believe as asserted  by their Prophets  that  other religions  are  either  false or  inadequate and    those people  must be converted by all possible means to the  only true  religion as per the command of the  God of that only true  religion. In normal parlance, this is called  intolerance and exclusion.  Some non-Abrahamic faith and tradition systems believe in rebirth  into different forms of  life depending upon  virtuous and sinful things done in the present   birth. One Abrahamic religion says, “I am a jealous  God; thou shall not  worship  other gods”. Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) hold that  men  can use natural resources, even ravish them  for personal well -being and enjoyment, no matter in the process  life on earth is imperiled.                                 

4. The non-Abrahamic religions, dharma (Hinduism, Buddhism) and indigenous nature worshipping faiths hold that  humans are part of nature and therefore  they should  co-exist  with all creation, mutually nurturing and supporting and so causing least damage to nature and natural order.

5.  If the robots  are to be   instructed to take decisions and enforce them, what  set of morals and ethics and ideas of spirituality, god and man, sin and virtue, right and wrong  should be “taught” to them. People talk of Christian culture  Christian  values; Islamic culture and Islamic  values  (in fact, whiles there is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights  subscribed to   by all the   Member  nations of the  United Nations,  the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has came out with Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, there -by asserting that Islam’s view of human rights and of human beings is different from the  rest) . There is now a widespread concern for and debate  regarding  which ethics,  which morals,  which ideas of  spirituality  and god should be imparted to  robots imbued with  artificial  intelligence.

6.  Humans are communicating with one another globally . They are   broadcasting and propagating their  views on any issue  that concerns men and matter on this  planet.    Solutions to problems that are  advocated are tinged  by the  beliefs,  customs,  ideologies and culture and religion of the propagator/communicators. Will the robots also do this ?  In international conferences  nations are coming to consensus. Will  the  AI- imbued robots  inter- communicate and debate and come to  consensus ?  If robots  become superior to humans  in intelligence then seeing that humans  are  at times and in places engaged in destructive  warfare  will  groups of robots  wage  wars  to prevail over what they think are  adversaries. Thoughts like these are indeed disturbing   men’s minds  - minds of   benevolent scientists,  engineers, philosophers. The singularity predicted for the  year 2100  should  disturb men’s minds. Before calamitous  development takes place, there should  be  an agreement on what  ethics and moralities  should  the robots  be taught. Is this  possible? (words 736)