AI and the Classical Greeks

How might the philosophies of the classical Greeks apply to today’s AI technologies? Does the concept of a virtuous life translate into the development and use of artificial intelligence? Given their belief in the value of seeking knowledge as a pathway to virtue, how might this principle apply to the creation of AI systems that learn and evolve? Plato introduces the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, justice and temperance in Book 4 of “The Republic” and Aristotle expands them and explains how to make them practical in “The Nicomachean Ethics. How can these virtues be integrated into the design and operational principles of AI systems to ensure they contribute positively to society? The Greeks faced numerous ethical dilemmas that tested their principles. Can you discuss a modern ethical dilemma in AI that may involve a young Naval Officer’s leadership and decision making, and how applying a classical Greek approach to ethics might offer a path to resolving it?  

Dr. Joe Thomas serves as the Director, VADM James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the US Naval Academy.  A retired Marine, he served previously as the Class of 1961 Professor of Leadership Education at USNA and as Director, MajGen John A. Lejeune Leadership Institute at Marine Corps University. In addition, he’s taught at the University of Notre Dame, University of Maryland, George Washington University and the National Outdoor Leadership School. He has published five books on the topics of leadership and ethics, along with numerous articles, book chapters, and research reports.  Joe supported student research that led to the award of Rhodes, Mitchell, and Fulbright scholarships. Joe holds masters’ degrees from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and the US Army War College, a PhD from George Mason University, and a Certificate in Public Leadership from the Brookings Institute.

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