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Some Ethical and Philosophical Questions Surrounding AI


The following series of questions indicate my areas of interest in the realm of AI and AI ethics, but also what I see to be a sketch of the philosophical landscape.


Philosophy, it is often said, might not produce definitive answers. It can, however, ask difficult and profound questions, questions that can re-frame issues, expose assumptions, and challenge us to think deeply and critically.

Some of the questions touch upon a number of concepts that have a long tradition in philosophy, for example, justice, autonomy, moral obligation, and rights. However, some others also mention some more relatively new concepts, such as privacy, personal data, robot rights, and non-human decision-making.


  • Should an AI system make decisions that affect human lives?

    • Are there any sorts of decisions an AI should not be allowed to make?

    • Should there always be a human in the loop?

      • What is valuable about a human in the loop?

        • Is a human error more acceptable than system errors?

      • Should we hold AI systems to the same standards as human decision-makers, or hold them to a higher standard?

    • Is a black-box process acceptable, i.e. where there is a lack of transparency and explanation?

      • Should we prefer performance or explicability?

        • What does it mean to explain a decision?

    • What makes a decision fair?

    • Who is ultimately held responsible for the decisions made by an AI?

  • Does accountability require transparency?

Personal Data

  • What kind of rights, if any, do we have over our personal data?

    • What right do we have over personal data that involves other people, e.g. transaction history?

    • How does personal data relate to personal identity?

      • Is personal data more akin to property or an extension of the self?

    • Is data a public good?

    • Can I own someone else’s personal data?

    • Can we meaningfully consent to giving away our personal data, if doing so is effectively compulsory for civic life?

  • Why is privacy valuable?

    • Should AI aim to preserve privacy?

Justice and Ethical AI

  • What is data justice?

    • Must AI systems counterbalance historical injustice or bias?

      • Should AI reflect or improve society?     

    • How can AI undermine human flourishing?

      • Should it be allowed to?​

    • Is diversity important in AI development?


  • Why should we demand that AI be ethical?

    • What about AI means that it has this high standard compared to other technologies?

    • Why ought AI be beneficial to humanity?

Trust and Safety

  • What is trust?

    • What makes something trustworthy?

    • What is the point of making an AI system trustworthy?

    • Should we treat trust as a means to an end, or an end in itself?


  • What makes a system or product safe?

    • How safe should an AI system be?

      • What would be the sufficient precautions, evidence, or tests that would ascertain its safety?

To AI or not to AI

  • When ought we use AI systems?

    • At what point does it become unethical to not use AI?

      • Who has an obligation to make use of the best available resources, including technology?


  • Should certain AI systems never exist?

    • Are some uses of facial recognition always morally unacceptable?

      • Do we risk a new era of physiognomy?

    • Are some uses of affect recognition always morally unacceptable?

      • Should some things always remain private and personal?​

  • Should I be cognitively enhanced by AI?

    • Would this be fair?​


  • Should AI tools and systems become widely available?

    • Should there be compulsory training or education on AI?

    • Are there risks to democratising AI?

    • Are there risks to monopolising AI?


  • Should we ban the development and use of autonomous weapons?

    • If there is a human in the loop, is it more acceptable to use such weapons?

    • If the weapons are only semi-autonomous, is this more acceptable?

    • If civilian casualties are reduced as a result of using autonomous weapons, does this make it morally acceptable?


  • What moral rights do developers have over the subsequent use of the AI systems they helped create?

    • Given the often piecemeal nature of AI development, is this right diluted?

Robot Rights

  • Should we ever give an AI rights?


  • Can an AI be autonomous?

    • How is a human autonomous?

      • What is autonomy?​

    • Can an AI be autonomous in the same way?

    • If an agent is autonomous, do we owe that agent moral obligations or rights?

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