Superethics Instead of Superintelligence: Know Thyself, and Apply Science Accordingly

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Pim Haselager & Giulio Mecacci

Tag(s): Journal article


The human species is combining an increased understanding of our cognitive machinery with the development of a technology that can profoundly influence our lives and our ways of living together. Our sciences enable us to see our strengths and weaknesses, and build technology accordingly. What would future historians think of our current attempts to build increasingly smart systems, the purposes for which we employ them, the almost unstoppable goldrush toward ever more commercially relevant implementations, and the risk of superintelligence? We need a more profound reflection on what our science shows us about ourselves, what our technology allows us to do with that, and what, apparently, we aim to do with those insights and applications. As the smartest species on the planet, we don’t need more intelligence. Since we appear to possess an underdeveloped capacity to act ethically and empathically, we rather require the kind of technology that enables us to act more consistently upon ethical principles. The problem is not to formulate ethical rules, it’s to put them into practice. Cognitive neuroscience and AI provide the knowledge and the tools to develop the moral crutches we so clearly require. Why aren’t we building them? We don’t need superintelligence, we need superethics.

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