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  • Chopra+Singh-STS-Ethics

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Sociotechnical Systems and Ethics in the Large

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Abstract

Advances in AI techniques and computing platforms have triggered a lively and expanding discourse on ethical decision-making by autonomous agents. Much recent work in AI concentrates on the challenges of moral decision making from a decision-theoretic perspective, and especially the representation of various ethical dilemmas. Such approaches may be useful but in general are not productive because moral decision making is as context-driven as other forms of decision
making, if not more. In contrast, we consider ethics not from the standpoint of an individual agent but of the wider sociotechnical systems (STS) in which the agent operates.
Our contribution in this paper is the conception of ethical STS founded on governance that takes into account stakeholder values, normative constraints on agents, and outcomes (states of the STS) that obtain due to actions taken by agents. An important element of our conception is accountability, which is necessary for adequate consideration of outcomes that prima
facie appear ethical or unethical. Focusing on STSs avoids the difficult problems of ethics as the norms of the STS give an operational basis for agent decision making.