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The Machine Question

Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics

David J. Gunkel

Publication Year: 2012

An investigation into the assignment of moral responsibilities and rights to intelligent and autonomous machines of our own making.

Published by: The MIT Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

At one time I had considered titling this book A Vindication of the Rights of Machines, for two reasons. First, such a designation makes reference to and follows in the tradition of “vindication discourses,” if one might be permitted such a phrase, that begins with Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790) ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Much of the material included in this book was originally formulated in response to opportunities, provocations, and challenges offered by Richard Johannesen and Clifford Christians. Its structure initially took shape in the process of participating in a conference panel with Heidi Campbell and Lesley Dart. ...

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pp. 1-14

One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Although initially limited to “other men,” the practice of ethics has developed in such a way that it continually challenges its own restrictions and comes to encompass what had been previously excluded individuals and groups ...

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Chapter 1. Moral Agency

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pp. 15-92

The question concerning machine moral agency is one of the staples of science fiction, and the proverbial example is the HAL 9000 computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). HAL, arguably the film’s principal antagonist, is an advanced AI that oversees and manages every operational aspect of the Discovery spacecraft. ...

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Chapter 2. Moral Patiency

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pp. 93-158

A patient-oriented ethics looks at things from the other side—in more ways than one. The question of moral patiency is, to put it rather schematically, whether and to what extent robots, machines, nonhuman animals, extraterrestrials, and so on might constitute an other to which or to whom one would have appropriate moral duties and responsibilities. ...

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Chapter 3. Thinking Otherwise

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pp. 159-216

Moral philosophy has typically, in one way or another, made exclusive decisions about who is and who is not a legitimate moral agent and/or patient. We have, in effect, sought to determine the line dividing who or what is considered a member of the community of moral subjects from who or what remains outside. ...


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pp. 217-222


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pp. 223-244


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pp. 245-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780262305440
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262017435

Page Count: 270
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 801409263
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Machine Question

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Robotics -- Human factors.
  • Robotics -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Robotics -- Philosophy.
  • Artificial intelligence.
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