Morally enhancing technologies

May 10, 2020 00:00 · 264 words · 2 minute read AI IA morality

Augmenting selves via technology doesn’t have to be limited only to cognitive skills.

Allen Buchanan, professor of applied ethics, was interviewed for Atlantic in 2012 in the context of his book entitled Better than Human: The Promise and Perils of Biomedical Enhancement. In this lengthy interview he covers lots of topics, but one particular passage captured my attention:

We also have interesting precedents, interesting examples of existing morally enhancing technologies, like religion, social morality, institutionalized morality—there’s no question that these have increased our capacity to interact with each other. Even legal systems have been moral enhancements in some respect because they’ve enabled us to control our aggressive impulses, to find ways of settling disputes that are more morally acceptable.

And it might turn out that there are some biochemical interactions that might stimulate our moral imagination, increase our empathy towards others, or, in the cognitive dimension, might improve our powers of moral judgment and reasoning. There’s a lot of interesting literature now on what are called normal cognitive biases, cognitive flaws in cognitively normal people. Some of these cognitive flaws might have bad moral consequences in certain contexts, and so it’s possible t hat by reducing some of those we might make ourselves better off also.

I’ve been trying recently to wrap my head around similar topic, writing about Intelligence amplification to compensate biases and Information Technology for cognitive enhancement.

Buchanan gives a third angle to that, approaching cognitive biases not from a perspective of rationality, but from the perspective of morality. But again, we are talking about using technology for augmentation, not replacement.