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Control and Responsible Innovation in the Development of Autonomous Machines

Principal investigator: Wendell Wallach

Hastings investigator: Gregory E. Kaebnick

Funder: Future of Life Institute

As ever more sophisticated and autonomous computer networks and robots enter the commerce of daily life, scientists, entrepreneurs, and social theorists are confronted with a vast array of challenges to ensure that these systems are demonstrably beneficial, safe, controllable, and sensitive to human values. The developers of these technologies face questions about whether the machines can be designed and engineered to take the kind of morally significant actions that until now have been reserved for human beings. For example: What kinds of reasoning can and should they employ? Can autonomous systems be adequately controlled, and who will be responsible for their choices and actions? How can we meet challenges posed by potential future machines whose superintelligence will far exceed that of humans? Although many of the technologies are already upon us, we don’t yet have answers to these important questions.

The Hastings Center is convening three solution-directed workshops with national and international experts in the varied fields. Together they will address trans-disciplinary questions, develop collaborative strategies and research projects, and forge an outline for a comprehensive plan encompassing the many elements of ensuring autonomous systems will be demonstrably beneficial, and that this innovative research progresses in a responsible manner. The workshops’ research and policy agenda will be published as a special report in Hastings Center Report and other journals. Findings will also be presented through two public symposia, one of which will be webcast and available on demand.