AI Moral Enhancement: Upgrading the Socio-Technical System of Moral Engagement

Richard Volkman, Katleen Gabriels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Several proposals for moral enhancement would use AI to augment (auxiliary enhancement) or even supplant (exhaustive enhancement) human moral reasoning or judgment. Exhaustive enhancement proposals conceive AI as some self-contained oracle whose superiority to our own moral abilities is manifest in its ability to reliably deliver the 'right' answers to all our moral problems. We think this is a mistaken way to frame the project, as it presumes that we already know many things that we are still in the process of working out, and reflecting on this fact reveals challenges even for auxiliary proposals that eschew the oracular approach. We argue there is nonetheless a substantial role that 'AI mentors' could play in our moral education and training. Expanding on the idea of an AI Socratic Interlocutor, we propose a modular system of multiple AI interlocutors with their own distinct points of view reflecting their training in a diversity of concrete wisdom traditions. This approach minimizes any risk of moral disengagement, while the existence of multiple modules from a diversity of traditions ensures pluralism is preserved. We conclude with reflections on how all this relates to the broader notion of moral transcendence implicated in the project of AI moral enhancement, contending it is precisely the whole concrete socio-technical system of moral engagement that we need to model if we are to pursue moral enhancement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2023


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