The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives On Ai, Robots, And Ethics

Hardcover | July 13, 2012

byDavid J. Gunkel

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One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Much recent attention has been devoted to the "animal question" -- consideration of the moral status of nonhuman animals. In this book, David Gunkel takes up the "machine question": whether and to what extent intelligent and autonomous machines of our own making can be considered to have legitimate moral responsibilities and any legitimate claim to moral consideration. The machine question poses a fundamental challenge to moral thinking, questioning the traditional philosophical conceptualization of technology as a tool or instrument to be used by human agents. Gunkel begins by addressing the question of machine moral agency: whether a machine might be considered a legitimate moral agent that could be held responsible for decisions and actions. He then approaches the machine question from the other side, considering whether a machine might be a moral patient due legitimate moral consideration. Finally, Gunkel considers some recent innovations in moral philosophy and critical theory that complicate the machine question, deconstructing the binary agent--patient opposition itself. Technological advances may prompt us to wonder if the science fiction of computers and robots whose actions affect their human companions (think of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey) could become science fact. Gunkel's argument promises to influence future considerations of ethics, ourselves, and the other entities who inhabit this world.

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One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Much recent attention has been devoted to the "animal question" -- consideration of the moral status of nonhuman animals. In this book, David Gunkel takes up the "machine question": whether and to what extent intelligent and ...

David J. Gunkel is Presidential Teaching Professor and Professor of Communication Technology at Northern Illinois University. He is the author of Hacking Cyberspace and Thinking Otherwise: Philosophy, Communication, Technology.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:270 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.44 inPublished:July 13, 2012Publisher:The MIT PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0262017431

ISBN - 13:9780262017435

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One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Much recent attention has been devoted to the "animal question" -- consideration of the moral status of nonhuman animals. In this book, David Gunkel takes up the "machine question": whether and to what extent intelligent and autonomous machines of our own making can be considered to have legitimate moral responsibilities and any legitimate claim to moral consideration. The machine question poses a fundamental challenge to moral thinking, questioning the traditional philosophical conceptualization of technology as a tool or instrument to be used by human agents. Gunkel begins by addressing the question of machine moral agency: whether a machine might be considered a legitimate moral agent that could be held responsible for decisions and actions. He then approaches the machine question from the other side, considering whether a machine might be a moral patient due legitimate moral consideration. Finally, Gunkel considers some recent innovations in moral philosophy and critical theory that complicate the machine question, deconstructing the binary agent--patient opposition itself. Technological advances may prompt us to wonder if the science fiction of computers and robots whose actions affect their human companions (think of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey) could become science fact. Gunkel's argument promises to influence future considerations of ethics, ourselves, and the other entities who inhabit this world. At last, a masterful integration of the many disparate reflections on whether intelligent machines can ever be admitted to the community of moral subjects as either moral agents and/or moral patients. David Gunkel goes on to make a significant contribution to any further discussion of the topic in a final section that deconstructs the machine question from the perspective of continental philosophers including Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida. Machines have been the definitive 'other,' not worthy of moral consideration, but as we contemplate the prospect that future machines might be conscious and perhaps even have feelings, we are forced to think deeply about who (or what) should be included in the moral order.