An assessment tool for the public opinion of the moral status of Artificial Intelligence Open Access

Hurley, Meghan (Spring 2021)

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Artificial intelligence’s rapidly progressing ability to plan actions and integrate and process information in a manner similar to humans, alongside an increasingly anthropomorphic conceptualization of AI’s underlying mechanisms has led experts in the fields of neuroscience, engineering, computer science, and philosophy to question whether or not AI has the ability to become conscious or sentient. Unclear criteria for defining consciousness and sentience as well as unclear criteria for determining moral status for humans, let alone non-human beings and entities makes it even more difficult to predict how AI with human-like abilities may interact with and function alongside humanity, or process how we will decide their moral and thus legal status in society. Considering that the public’s attitude and acceptance towards conscious AI will play a large role in deciding how AI are treated and whether or not they are respected as members of society, it is imperative to understand the public’s current opinions and perspective of the moral status of AI. This thesis aims to develop a robust assessment tool that can be used to neuroethically examine factors and themes crucial to the public’s opinion of the moral status of AI. The assessment tool was evaluated by conducting qualitative interviews with participants who offered insight into the clarity and effectiveness of the tool. A neuroethical analysis of the projected and emergent themes from the interviews influenced the refinement of the scenarios on the administered tool.

Table of Contents

Background and Significance of Project 1

           The problem   1

           Current AI scholarship and the future of AI    1

What gives beings moral status?   3

Substrate     4

                       Consciousness    5

                       Personhood and animal issues as precedence    8

           The importance of the public    10

                       Possible influencing factors    11

                                  Media portrayal    12

Goals and Objectives Stated    13

Methodology    14

Figure 1. Preliminary Concept Map    16

Table 1. Overview of participant information    17

Results    18

           Figure 2. Final Concept Map    19

           Table 2. Frequency and occurrence of Theme 1: AI Abilities     20

           Table 2.1. Notable quotes from Theme 1: AI Abilities     21

           Table 3. Frequency and occurrence of Theme 2: Potential Harm      22

           Table 3.1. Notable quotes from Theme 2: Potential Harm     22

           Table 4. Frequency and occurrence of Theme 3: Duty     23

           Table 4.1. Notable quotes from Theme 3: Duty     23

           Table 5. Frequency and occurrence of Theme 4: Utility    24

           Table 5.1. Notable quotes from Theme 4: Utility     25

Discussion       28

Limitations     37

Conclusion     38

References       39

Figures Listed 45

Appendix A: Preliminary Questionnaire 46

Appendix B: Final Questionnaire 55

Appendix C: Verbal Consent Form 64

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