New Foundations of Ethical Multiagent Systems

Ethics is inherently a multiagent concern. However, research on AI ethics today is dominated by work on individual agents:(1) how an autonomous robot or car may harm or (differentially) benefit people in hypothetical situations (the so-called trolley problems) and (2) how a machine learning algorithm may produce biased decisions or recommendations. The societal framework is largely omitted. To develop new foundations for ethics in AI, we adopt a sociotechnical stance in which agents (as technical entities) help autonomous social entities or principals (people and organizations). This multiagent conception of a sociotechnical system (STS) captures how ethical concerns arise in the mutual interactions of multiple stakeholders. These foundations would enable us to realize ethical STSs that incorporate social and technical controls to respect stated ethical postures of the agents in the STSs. The envisioned foundations require new thinking, along two broad themes, on how to realize (1) an STS that reflects its stakeholders’ values and (2) individual agents that function effectively in such an STS.

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