A Story of Ethical and Moral Dilemma The Exposition of Artificial Intelligence, Death, and Mourning

The objective of this article is to select a case study presumably involving some sort of ethical or moral dilemma for study and identify applicable pragmatic ethical or moral principle(s) and decision-making processes. The framework and instrument is the use of Kiddler’s Ethical Decision-Making and Action Model— using his nine checkpoints (Johnson, 2007). The particular case study chosen to apply the model to was a particular article involving the use of an artificial intelligence (AI) griefbot created in the mist of the death, mourning, and grief process undergone by whom I will refer hereafter in this article as the protagonist. Griefbots are intriguing given the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Apparently, after the death of the protagonist’s father, he creates what amounts to as a griefbot that has the capability to search the internet, online data sources, and electronic artifacts that belonged to his father. This griefbot also has the capability to respond to queries, requests, and interact (possibly using his father’s voice when applicable). The supposed purpose of the griefbot is to preserve the memory of his mourned father and “… reclaim (or continue) interactivity…” (Raicu, 2018). Our protagonist's griefbot project has morphed into something much bigger and the ability to possibly perform simulations and higher order AI and facilitates the ethical and moral dilemma. According to Holland (2014), such actions may be manifestations of the grieving process, to include loss and how people react to grief, e.g., an emotional response of feeling “… powerlessness, helplessness, and sense of being out of control” (part. 1).

Kiddler’s Nine Checkpoints for Decision-Making: Struggling to Recognize the Ethical Dilemma

Justice is Blind, Ethics, and Morals Requires Effort

With reference to the article's objective and Kiddler’s nine checkpoints for decision-making, “… ethical issues can be ‘disorderly and sometimes downright confusing’” (Johnson, 2007, p. 73). And, in the case of the protagonist and Kiddler’s first checkpoint, one must first recognize that there is an ethical or moral dilemma or issue. The protagonist seems to be struggling to recognize any such ethical dilemma. At first glance, one may agree and not be able to articulate any ethical or moral dilemmas even existing. Only that one is dealing with death, as we grieve differently and in our own space and time. The protagonist’s grief, however tragic, seems to be more of a personal issue than anything else. There also appears to be no etiquette for this type of situation either. In fact, there is no proper or right way to grieve for the loss of loved ones. However, using Kiddler’s nine checkpoints mentioned earlier, one might observe our protagonist to have “tripped” Kiddler’s fourth checkpoint, item 2 “stench when he now enlists his daughter to interact extensively with the griefbot in an effort to remember her grandfather (Johnson, 2007, p. 76). At this point there should have been the stench of intuition that there might be an ethical dilemma and long-term implications in introducing his daughter to the griefbot, none was apparently considered.

The Right vs Right Paradigm and Artificial Intelligence: The Griefbot, to Strike a Principled Compromise

The Use of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augment Reality is More Common Than You Think

Into the article by Raicu (2018), the protagonist seems to have clearly entered Kiddler’s 5th checkpoint and the right vs. right paradigm in implementing what is apparently a noble cause by his own account to memorialize and honor his dead father-- the patriarch of the family, his values and legacy. This possibly done in an effort for his children to know where his own family values come from, to see and hear it first-hand (not exactly first hand but with the help of AI) from her grandfather. Clearly a case of right vs right (Johnson, 2007). The choice to continue to use the bot may also be a case of striking a discord with Kiddler’s short and long-term, right vs right, in that short-term “… advantages often come at the expense of long-term benefits” (p. 77). In that sense, it may also be an individual vs community dilemma with AI in general as technology continues to push the boundaries of societal change in directions we have never envisioned before. For example, who would have imagined such a thing as a griefbot? In fact, at this point, Kiddler’s checkpoints 6 and 7, applicable and resolution of principles and looking for a third way to resolve the ethical and moral dilemma becomes very relevant; a possible compromise. However, once the genie has been let out of the bottle (the griefbot), one can never put it back in.

Crossing Lines: Kiddler’s Eighth Checkpoint, Decisions and Moral Courage

The Innocence of Youth Caught Up in an Ethical and Moral Dilemma

With that, it seems that the protagonist, with reference to Kiddler’s eighth of ninth checkpoints, has decided to not only move forward with the griefbot, but to involve and engage his daughter heavily in the experience. At this point, he appears to be way across the line of a possible dilemma. And finally, Kiddler’s checkpoint nine—reflection, seems to be an important and sorely missing aspect in our protagonist’s thought process. We should all take time for reflection now and then, especially now considering the pandemic. Perhaps he is again blinded by the grieving process and as Holland (2014) puts it, the ability to heal, move on and to change is not present or developed as yet. Perhaps he is numb from the whole experience. The reflection process involves understanding the benefits of gratitude for what his father has given him, finding his own sense of meaning and purpose in life, and finally, finding peace and acceptance (Holland, 2014). He must find his own path.

Conclusion and Reflection: Win-Win

When Will You Take the Time to Reflect?

As a possible resolution to the ethical and moral dilemma of the griefbot, our protagonist may consider a rule-based principle as outlined in the stages of moral development (Johnson, 2007). It may be worth while to use such a ruled-based system as an intervention of sorts to help move the protagonist towards level III of the moral stages in box 3.1 and stages 5 and 6 (Johnson, 2007); the Social Contract and Utilitarian Ethical Principles; i.e., the obligation to the social contract and welfare for all. In this way, no one really loses as our protagonist sees his father in a new light as having raised a wonderful man because of who he was and his father would want him in turn to live his own full life. In this sense, the resolution of level III represents a win-win. God bless us all as we reflect on our own current situation, ethical and moral dilemmas.


Holland, D. (2014). The essential guide to grief and griefing. Retrieved from O'Reilly Safari Books Online.

Johnson, C. E. (2007). Ethics in the workplace: Tools and tactics for organizational transformation (Ch 3, PDF). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/12906_Chapter3.pdf

Raicu, I. (2018). AI, Death, and Mourning. Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/internet-ethics/resources/ai-death-and-mourning/

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William Hamilton


All photos licensed to William E Hamilton by Envato Elements