The Ethical Regulator Theorem

The Ethical Regulator Theorem provides a basis for systematically evaluating and improving the adequacy of existing or proposed designs for systems that make decisions that can have ethical consequences; regardless of whether the regulating agents are humans, artificially intelligent machines, cyberanthropic hybrids, organizations, corporations, or government institutions.

The theorem builds upon the Good Regulator Theorem and Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety to define nine requisites that are necessary and sufficient for a cybernetic regulator to be both effective and ethical:

  1. Purpose expressed as unambiguously prioritized goals.
  2. Truth about the past and present.
  3. Variety of possible actions.
  4. Predictability of the future effects of actions.
  5. Intelligence to choose the best actions.
  6. Influence on the system being regulated.
  7. Ethics expressed as unambiguously prioritized rules.
  8. Integrity of all subsystems.
  9. Transparency of ethical behaviour.

Of these nine requisites, only the first six are necessary for a regulator to be effective.

If a system does not need to be ethical, the three requisites ethics, integrity, and transparency are optional.


Ethical Design Process

Any existing design process can be made ethical by using the Ethical Regulator Theorem (ERT) as a decision function for acceptance testing of the requirements and specifications.

This ensures that the design process can only produce systems that are ethically adequate.


Super-Ethical Systems

A six-level framework is proposed for classifying cybernetic and superintelligent systems, which uses the Ethical Regulator Theorem to distinguish between two important subclasses of superintelligent systems. Consequently, a bifurcation is identified in our future time-line that results in one of two mutually exclusive outcomes:

  • Humanity is protected by superintelligent, ethically adequate Super-Ethical systems.
  • Humanity is dominated by superintelligent, ethically inadequate Super-Unethical systems.

By predicting the existence of a race condition, the Ethical Regulator Theorem provides a concrete and viable strategy to avoid the danger that creating superintelligent machines could lead humanity into a cybermisanthropic dystopia.


To learn more...

See Ethical Regulators and Super-Ethical Systems.


W. Ross Ashby Digital Archive

This domain also hosts a copy of the W. Ross Ashby Digital Archive.