New and potentially risky technological developments, such as related to artificial intelligence and machine learning systems, can trigger emotions and public concerns. Emotions have often been met with suspicion in debates about risk, because they are seen as contrary to rational decision making. Indeed, emotions can cloud our understanding of quantitative information about risks. However, various emotion researchers in psychology and philosophy have argued for the importance of emotions for ethical reasoning. In my presentation I will argue that moral emotions can make a major contribution in order to assess the multifaceted, ethical aspects of risks, such as justice, fairness, dignity, responsibility and autonomy. Furthermore, when it comes to artificial intelligence, human emotions presumably by definition outperform artificial intelligence concerning unique human capacities such as ethical sensitivity and imagination, because of the embodied and embedded nature of these capacities. We should critically reflect on which tasks we should delegate to machines, and which we should reserve for humans. Hence, for both reasons, decision making about the promises and risks of artificial intelligence should include attention for emotions, in order to facilitate ‘emotional-moral deliberation’ concerning which role we want artificial intelligence to play in society.
Sabine Roeser is Professor of Ethics and Head of the Department of Values, Technology, and Innovation at TU Delft. Roeser’s research covers theoretical, foundational topics concerning the nature of moral knowledge, intuitions, emotions, art and evaluative aspects of risk, but also urgent and hotly debated public issues on which her theoretical research can shed new light, such as nuclear energy, climate change and public health issues. She has given numerous academic and public talks. Roeser regularly serves on policy advisory boards concerning risky technlogies, such as concerning decision making about genetic modification, nuclear energy and nuclear waste, and she is a member of the Health Council of the Netherlands. Roeser is (co-)leader of various large research projects, including a 10 year multi-university project on the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies (ESDiT). Her most recent book is Risk, Technology, and Moral Emotions (2018 Routledge).