One day, the virtual worlds of our digital games and training simulations will be inhabited by artificial intelligences that are so perceptive and sophisticated that they are going to be morally relevant for us. They will be conscious of themselves and their surroundings to a point when exerting violence or other forms of oppression on them will no longer be morally acceptable. What will we do then?
Robot intelligence has been at the heart of many of Isaac Asimov's works and while it is still in the realm of fiction, AI is increasingly becoming able to handle more complex tasks. At the Institute of Digital Games, researchers are even working on how to make Game AI decisions more human-like and creative. Prominent figures such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawkin have expressed concern about "the singularity" a scenario where AI overtakes humanity. However, Prof. Gualeni approaches AI from a different ethical angle, examining what humanities role will be as AI grows in complexity. Will we be their oppressors? Will we populate our games with lesser intelligences?
Stefano Gualeni's newest article 'Artificial Beings Worthy of Moral Consideration in Virtual Environments: An Analysis of Ethical Viability', and was published a few days ago on the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. It explores whether and under which circumstances it will be ethically viable to include artificial beings worthy of moral consideration in virtual environments. In particular, his new text focuses on interactive and persistent worlds designed to fulfill specific purposes, such as entertainment, education, training, or persuasion.
The article introduces the criteria for moral consideration that serve as a framework for this analysis. Adopting this framework, the article tackles the question of whether including artificial intelligences that are entitled to moral consideration in virtual environments constitutes an immoral action on the part of human creators. To address this problem, the article draws on three conceptual lenses from the philosophical branch of ethics: the problem of parenthood and procreation, the question concerning the moral status of animals, and the classical problem of evil.
Using a thought experiment, the concluding section proposes a contractualist answer to the question posed in this article. The same section also emphasizes the potential need to reframe our understanding of the design of virtual environments and their future stakeholders.
The Institute of Digital Games is one of the top-ranked research institutes on Game AI (as of this writing ranked #8 just after Google and Maastricht University) and is a multi-disciplinary institute that allows for cross-pollination and cross-inspiration between the various disciplines related to games. Working closely with Prof. Yannakakis (University of Malta) and also Prof. Julian Togelius (New York University) ensures that philosophy and game design research is anchored in the work conducted at the cutting edge of the field of AI. Speaking at Congreso Futuro in fact Prof. Yannakakis emphasised fact that AI has been advancing through games since its birth and that AI defines the next revolution of games, but it is also up to us to keep more in mind than "can we do something", namely the "should we do something" that Prof. Gauleni explores in the thought experiment that is the core of his article.
In order to further explore matters related to the philosophy of games and artificial intelligence, the Insitute of Digital Games has two specialized research groups: the Game AI Research Group and the Digital Humanities Research Group. As such our researchers publish on a wide variety of topics related to games, most recently Dr Daniel Vella has shared his research on the concept of "home" in digital games published in Ludotopia. In addition, to the research conducted, our insitute is consistently involed in projects and organising events. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up to date, or subribe to our Newsletter below.