CLaudia Magrina

In the ethical limit

CLaudia Magrina
In the ethical limit

Technological advances are pushing us to new frontiers of ethics. Should we use the amazing advances in biology just to cure the disease and treat injuries, or should we also become better human beings? If we accept this last, we run the risk of converting paternity into an extension of the consumer society, in which case, could our children be converted into an object of our desire to be manufactured by order? And what does it mean to be "better"?, to be free of diseases?, to live longer?, to be smarter?, to run faster?, to have a certain aspect?

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We are facing complex and borderline questions in the case of artificial intelligence. We consider the possibility of machines that are one step ahead of us when it comes to reasoning and even think better than we do. Amazon and Netflix already have algorithms that predict the movies and books we might want to see and read. Dating and job search sites suggest couples and jobs, in our neighborhood or anywhere in the world, that their systems believe fits best with us. What do we do? Trust in the advice provided by algorithms or in that offered by family, friends or colleagues? Do we consult a robot-controlled artificial intelligence doctor with an almost perfect diagnostic success rate or do we stay with our lifelong human doctor and his trusted advice?

When we consider these examples and their implications for human beings, we go into unknown territory, that is, into the dawn of a human transformation different from anything we have experienced.

Another important issue has to do with the predictive power of artificial intelligence and machine learning. If our behavior in any situation becomes predictable, how much personal freedom would we feel or feel by differing from the prediction? Could this development lead perhaps to a situation in which human beings themselves begin to act as robots? This also leads to a more philosophical question: how do we maintain our individuality, the source of our diversity and democracy in the digital age?

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The more digital and high-tech the world becomes, the greater will be the need to continue having human contact, nourished by close relationships and social connections.

According to MIT's Sherry Turkle, 44 percent of teens never disconnect, even while playing sports or dining with family or friends. Given that face-to-face conversations have been displaced by online interactions, there is a fear that a whole generation of young people consumed by social networks will have difficulty listening, establishing eye contact or reading body language.