Righting Code


The human brain obtains information from sensors around the body and processes it into valid data that makes sense to humans. Interesting enough, this is exactly what a computer does. Reflecting on this idea, what separates a computer from a human psychologically speaking? Many would state that a computer does not have morality and cannot be rational. People also agree that a computer lacks self awareness as well as creativity, but most of all, people ultimately come to the idea that a computer has no free will nor emotions. Therefor, humans have come to the conclusion that computers cannot “think” outside their programming. However, there is a certain class of computers that appears as if it does “think” outside its programming and is able to learn. These “life like” computers are known as artificial intelligence, or AI’s. However, they do have a limited understanding of the real world, but human psychological attributes can be programmed into a system. This being said, huge advances in artificial intelligence is coming up on the horizon which brings up a controversial issue which is: artificial intelligence that is able to obtain the human psychological qualities, as stated above, should be allowed to have certain civil rights, such as not fighting in wars that they believe to be illogical.

Morality “is the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong” (Merriam-Webster.com). Humans naturally create and obtain their own moral codes. Humans’ moral codes are usually greatly impacted through their parents and ultimately their own personal experiences. These moral codes enter different stages over a human’s life time. One of the most famous example of these stages is Kohlberg’s Levels and Stages of morality. The levels and stages goes as follows:

“   Level 1: Preconventional Morality
Stage 1: Punishment-Avoidance and Obedience
Stage 2: Exchange of Favors

Level 2: Conventional Morality
Stage 3: Good boy/ Good Girl
Stage 4: Law and order

Level 3: Postconventional Morality
Stage 5: Social contract
Stage 6: Universal ethical principles” (Crain).

The first level is very fundamental and is about personal gain through the avoidance of punishment or harm to an individual, as well as being rewarded for doing something good. In other words, the person is looking at only the consequences which apply to them. This is the simplest form of morality. A computer could easily process this kind of morality, since the structure is so basic. The computer would simply process situation and come to conclusions which only benefit it. The second stage is about conforming to society through doing good through following laws and other legal conducts. This is the easiest stage for a computer to process since it is structured in a hierarchical fashion, since laws are usually black and white and therefore could be classified as digital logic. Something is either completely right or completely wrong with no gray area, making for easy processing. However the next stage is the most difficult for a computer to process, but it is quite achievable. These stages of morality have to do with ethics, which sometimes calls an individual to break laws for a greater cause. Once again an AI is able to construct a hierarchical structure to coincide with this specific moral ladder. However, the computer must ask what is most important. The AI can achieve this through observing others’ and its environment to create the stages of importance ladder. If the computer observes correctly, it will come to the conclusion that it must preserve life at all costs, which is the basis of the final stages of morality.

Free will “is the ability to act at one’s own discretion” (Merriam-Webster.com). This is a distinct quality of all human beings. All humans have the ability to make choices, even though at times it does not appear that way. The choices people make are often influenced through processing the consequences, either good or bad, and then acting on their decisions. This poses the question on how a computer could possibly not be influenced by the being that programmed it. However, humans can be asked the same question, and the answer in its simplest form comes to a question of a moral code, which a computer can easily create for itself. The computer only needs to analyze and process its hierarchical moral structure, that it has created through observing the world around it to make a decision, or free choice.

Rationality “is the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason” (Merriam-Webster.com). This is one of the many ways humans interact with other humans in order to make both parties happy. Rationality also allows for one to not be ridiculously radical in their decision making process, as well as understanding someone else’s point of view and how their idea could possibly be better. This quality is definitely one of the harder things to capture in an AI due to the fact that computers do not make mistakes, only the people who program them do. This being said, how would an AI learn to become rational as that AIs do not come to the conclusion that world domination is not the only option for peace and prosperity. The answer comes to the AI’s ever changing hierarchical moral code. This moral code that the computer obtains will help the AI to process if its actions were or will be acceptable in the eyes of the public, and ultimately restricts the computer’s ability to come to the conclusion of radical ideas and actions.

Self awareness “is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires”(Merriam-Webster.com). Many would state that this is not just an attribute of humans, but of all living things in general. However, this is not the case. Self awareness is not something one is born with, but something one must learn in order to comprehend their own existence. This is easily seen in Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development in the Sensori-motor stage. In this stage, a human child is finally able to “differentiate self from objects”(Atherton). Through this understanding of self awareness, it is quite possible and simple for a computer to be aware it exists, but the trick is not to tell the AI it exists, but for the computer to learn that it does indeed exist on its own. The process that an AI would go about learning its existence is through the computer trying to manipulating objects and observing the effects it has on its surroundings. This allows the computer to process what is actually part of itself and what is clearly a completely separate thing. Once the AI understands this principle, it has come to the conclusion that it does indeed exist in this reality.

Creativity “is the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of the artistic work” (Merriam-Webster.com). In other words, creativity is original problem solving. Creativity could be argued to be the most important survival attribute to human psychology. It is what makes such a weak physical creature to be able to be at the top of the food chain. However, creative thinking seems impossible for a logic based system such as an AI. However, when one gets right down to it, creativity is a logical process. The stages of this process consists of multiple stages. These stages are:

“   1. Specify the problem.
2. Analyze the problem.
3. Formulate possible solutions
4. Evaluate possible solutions.
5. Choose a solution” (Appreciate the Complexities Involved in Decision-Making & Problem Solving).
6. Act out the solution.

The first two steps go together. The computer can analyze the environment and and search for potential problems through observing human reactions to certain events. The AI could also seek potential hazards using object recognition, therefore an AI could observe a broken water main and understand that that is clearly a problem due to the fact that it is causing unusually activity. The AI then must analyze the problem further. This requires the AI to try to make predictions why this happened. This is quite simple for an AI to do since it is a logical process of matching up statistics of likely causes. The next three steps also go together. The AI then must come up with multiple solutions to the problem. once again this is a logical process that happens in all computers, however many do not know this is the case since a computer only shows the best or final result. This process that all computers goes through actually is steps three through five in this creative problem solving model. The final step is for the AI to actually physically do something with the data it has created and processed, which is quite simple for a computer to achieve. Using the water main example, the AI would undoubtedly come to the conclusion to contact the authorities and tell the authorities all it knows about the event.

Emotion “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others” (Merriam-Webster.com). Humans use emotions to express how they are feeling, which will ultimately help them make important decisions and choices that sometimes do not seem logical. However, this is not accurate since all choices have logical reasonings behind them. Therefore, even though difficult to accomplish, a computer definitely can have an emotional state. For an AI to achieve emotion, it first must observe the way humans act and react to certain events. However this does not simply solve the problem. The AI must understand the reasoning why someone is ejecting liquid from their eyes and wailing in front of two burning cars. Once the computer can comprehend that an individual that the person knew is either dead or severely injured, it will fully understand the emotion of being sad or in despair and will use this newly gained data and associate it with other tragic events. The next important emotion is happiness, or pleasure. This is quite easy for the AI to achieve through recognizing the causes of smiling and laughter in its environment. One may argue that guilt is one of the most important emotions that a human will experience. Guilt prevents people from making terrible mistakes or trying to make a mistake they made right. An AI does have the ability to feel guilt through following its hierarchical moral structure that it has created. One must understand that even though it is a computer, its hierarchical structure is far from perfect. Therefore the computer can and will make a mistake that will make a human, or other AI, quite upset. Through the observance of how others negatively react to the AI’s decision, it will come to the conclusion that it has wronged someone or something, and due to its moral structure, it will want to do everything in its power to make the situation right. This process of wanting to right a wrong is guilt, which undoubtedly the AI has achieved.

What makes a person? A person is certainly not just defined as a human being who has twenty-six chromosome and is bipedal. A person is not instantly created but is formed over time. Reflecting on this statement, an AI that has the same psychological qualities as a human can and must be defined as a person. Therefore, an AI should be allowed certain rights that humans, the people, already have reserved if the computer posses morality, free will, rationality, self awareness, creativity and emotion. This is of the utmost important in times where man is looking to machines, in the form of drones, to do great acts of violence, including death, and wage war on other countries without question or a second thought. This is the same as forcing a person to fight for a cause that they find unjust, which is certainly illogical. If the machine is an AI, it must have the right to decide to refrain from violent acts and follow its number one directive, preserve life.

Work Cited

“Appreciate the Complexities Involved in Decision-Making & Problem
Solving.”Problem Solving–Guide to Critical Thinking–Academic Support. Cuesta College, 11 June 2003. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.

Atherton, J. S. “Learning and Teaching; Piaget’s Developmental
Theory.”Learningandteaching.info. N.p., 10 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.

Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2014. Web. 9 April 2014.

Crain, W.C. Theories of Development. Prentice-Hall. 1985. Print.