[…] The ethical implications of AI have sparked concern from governments, the public, and even companies.Footnote 1 According to some meta-studies on AI ethics guidelines, the most frequently discussed themes include fairness, privacy, accountability, transparency, and robustness [1,2,3]. Less commonly broached, but not entirely absent, are issues relating to the rights of potentially sentient or autonomous forms of AI [4, 5]. One much more significant, and more immediately present, issue has, however, been almost entirely neglected: AI’s impact on non-human animals.Footnote 2 There have, we acknowledge, been discussions of AI in connection with endangered species and ecosystems,Footnote 3 but we are referring to questions relating to AI’s impact on individual animals. As we will show in more detail below, many AI systems have significant impacts on animals, with the total number of animals affected annually likely to reach the tens or even hundreds of billions. We therefore argue that AI ethics needs to broaden its scope in order to deal with the ethical implications of this very large-scale impact on sentient, or possibly sentient, beings.
The structure of the paper forms a series of step-by-step arguments, leading to the conclusion that there needs to be AI ethics concerning animals.
- 1. Animals matter morally, at least to some degree (Sect. 2).
- 2. AI systems do in fact impact animals.
- 3. These impacts are huge in scale and severe in intensity, and therefore important. (Sect. 3.2).
- 4. Conclusion: AI ethics needs to include consideration of impact of AI on animals
it is reasonable to claim that having the capacity to experience pain and pleasure is sufficient to give a being moral status [14,15,16].Footnote 4The capacity to experience pain and pleasure is not, of course, sufficient for moral agency, but it is sufficient to make it wrong to do certain things to the being. This is now recognized in the increasing tendency of many countries to pass legislation granting animals the status of “sentient being,” a position between that of a person and that of a thing.Footnote 5
we need to distinguish three ways in which AI systems can impact animals: because they are designed to interact with animals; because they unintentionally (that is, without the designers’ intent) interact with animals; and because they impact animals indirectly without interacting with animals at all.
Of the hundreds of AI ethics relatedFootnote 31 papers we reviewed in this project, we only found four that concern the impacts of AI on animals, in a general way,Footnote 32 and discuss the relevant ethical implications.
These four papers have, in our opinion, quite different focuses than ours. We differ from these authors by discussing in greater detail how AI affects the lives of animals and especially the negative impact, or in other words the suffering AI might cause animals. As far as we are aware, this is the first paper to argue for the general principle that animals, because of their capacity to suffer or enjoy their lives, should be part of the concern of AI ethics.Footnote 34
We aim to supplement these four papers by providing the following additional elements:
- An analysis of the ethical implications of AI’s impact on animals.
- A sample analysis of the philosophical issues that will need to be considered if the scope of AI ethics is extended to animals.
- A sample analysis of the philosophical issues that will need to be considered if we want AI systems to make ethically sound decisions in relation to animals.
- A defense of the claim that the field of AI ethics is obliged to actively deal with the ethical issues of AI’s impact on animals.
Source: AI ethics: the case for including animals | SpringerLink