Wendell Wallach

Techno sapiens, moral machines and the combinatorial impact of emerging technologies

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The transformation of humanity by emerging technologies poses a broad array of ethical, societal and governance challenges. There is even the prospect that we are inventing the human species, as we have known it, out of existence. But there remain many uncertainties regarding the speed and trajectory of technological innovation, and which speculative possibilities are truly feasible given present day scientific knowledge. Each field of research raises its own set of societal and ethical concerns. In addition, the convergence of various technologies accelerates the pace of innovation and affords new possibilities that will have a combinatorial impact on human society. This paper will outline the combinatorial impact of emerging technologies with examples such as technological unemployment, human enhancements, cyborg warriors and the engineering of techno sapiens. It will then turn to focus upon the specific ethical concerns and risks emerging out of the deployment of robots for military and domestic applications. The prospect of developing moral machines, robots capable of making moral decisions, will be introduced as one means of solving some of those challenges. Governance coordinating committees offer a new approach for monitoring, managing and modulating the broader societal impact of the emerging technologies.


  • Robot
  • Machine Ethics
  • Emerging Technology
  • Responsibility
  • Governance


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