Bioethicist Peter Singer likens killing preborn humans to switching off a computer

Well-known pro-abortion bioethicist Peter Singer spoke to Yahoo! News Australia about the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), and whether or not it should be protected. During that conversation, Singer said it should be illegal to switch off AI in some circumstances, but in others, said it was comparable to an abortion — and therefore, should be allowed.

In the interview, Singer was asked how we should treat AI if it becomes self-aware. “It would have the status of other self-aware sentient beings,” he said of AI becoming aware of its own existence. “All things being equal, we should not switch it off if it has become self-aware.”

Yet it can sometimes be allowed, if the program is stopped before the AI becomes self-aware… even if the programmers know it will eventually become self-aware, he said. “I think that’s more like terminating a pregnancy. So I would say it’s okay to turn off an AI that predictably will become self-aware if you leave it running, but isn’t as yet.”

Of course, killing a living human being in an abortion is significantly different than switching off a computer: abortion procedures intentionally and directly end the life of a living person, through suction, poisoning, dismemberment, or lethal injection. Once destroyed, that person will never exist again. An AI program is artificial; it is not alive, it will never be alive, and it can be recreated once the computer is turned back on.

Singer additionally claimed that if AI becomes morally superior to humans, or has more intelligence, there should be protections in place to prevent humans from destroying it.

“If we really are confident about its moral values, then I should think we should protect it against humans trying to turn it off,” he said. Yet the problem with this line of thinking is that, as intelligent and ethical as an AI program might be, it will never be alive, and it will never have the intrinsic moral value that every living human being inherently possesses.

Singer has not only defended abortion, but has also promoted infanticide, and argued in favor of forcible sterilization. And his arguments about AI yet again demonstrate inherent flaws in his thinking: that for something to be valuable and protected, it must first somehow “earn” that right. Because this thought process relies upon self-awareness and intelligence, it means that people with intellectual disabilities or dementia should be able to be killed — which Singer has also argued in favor of before.

Yet the reality is, all people, regardless of their abilities, have the inherent right to life — a life far more valuable and irreplaceable than a computer program.

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