AI Ethics – a little book of big questions

Are you tired of talking about the trolley problem whenever you start a conversation on autonomous vehicles? Are you bored with the fear about robots? Do you want to be sure that while you are working on your deep reinforcement learning startup, autocracies can’t use your technology to strengthen their power? What if your technology deepens the gap between the rich and the poor further? Do you think that Ethics is inseparable from development and we have to care about moral questions? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, Mark Coeckelbergh’s AI Ethics is your book!

Mark Coeckelbergh is not just a top-notch philosopher of the University of Vienna, he is a member of the EU’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence and a renowned policy expert. We guess that’s why his book achieved a good balance between theory and real-world policy making. Although we are in a recent AI hype (which is not the first, since the inception of Artificial Intelligence in the 1950s), the ethical questions of technology and human life are perennial. Philosophy and Ethics (which is the former’s sub-discipline) are interested in the technologically mediated life of humans (i.e the fact that humans make and use tools) since the very beginnings of systematic thoughts – so at least from the age of ancient Greeks. Coeckelbergh sketches the ideas behind the history of ethics from Aristotle to postphenomenology in the first few chapters. Don’t get scared by words like postphenomenology! The author uses a very clear and entertaining language. He did a great job at making the philosophical jargon digestible for the general audience. Chapter 5 and 6 are devoted to the technology and the big data era, which made the recent AI revolution possible. The other half of the book deals with more practical questions, such as privacy, dealing with biases in machine learning models and policy making. Most of the readers will probably find these practical chapters more interesting and applicable to their day-to-day job and get inspired to learn more about value sensitive design and the relationship of ethics and design.

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