There are fields in which the contribution of applied ethics and deontics are more than needed, such as that of the programming of artificial intelligence connected to robots which might interact with human beings. Chaudhuri and Vardi (their article can be downloaded here) quote the following case:
Once released on our streets, self-driving cars will almost certainly face circumstances where they just cannot avoid harming a human.
It is thus imperative that the new generations of intelligent machines be not just efﬁcient or functional but also ethical.
A case which might appear even closer to readers of this blog is that of softwares needing to handle the allocation of resources. These need to receive several bits of information, but to neglect some of them (e.g., “membership in a political party”), while taking into account others (e.g. “academic ability”, which Chaudhuri and Vardi do not explain further).
Now, all these issues do not only need the help of ethicists who are willing to engage in the elaboration of appropriate programs, but also of deontic logicians. Consider the following example, again from the same article:
[W]hat if a drone in a battleﬁeld is obligated to ensure p, but it is impossible to ensure p? Is the drone still required to fulﬁll its other obligations? The answer should presumably be yes. However, note that this is a departure from classical [deontic, EF] logic, where the impossibility to meet p would amount to an inconsistency, rendering moot every other consideration.
This entails the need to elaborate a deontic logic which is no longer bound to the limits of Standard Deontic Logic and, for instance, values differently different obligations, so that a failure to accomplish a minor obligation does not make the system collapse. This consideration would already be enough to make researchers curious about deontic systems developed outside the Lutheran tradition (it might be worth remembering that deontic logic started in the West in Scandinavia and has until now been primarily developed in Northern Europe and the US) and thus entailing, most probably, different biases, so that the combination of various systems could pave the way for the creation of a more comprehensive one, able to process different sorts of conflicts. It is in this connection perhaps not surprising that the authors of this article are both coming from outside the precincts of the majority of scholars working on deontic logic (respectively, from India and Israel).
On top of that, there are specific reasons to want to come closer to the Mīmāṃsā deontics, since it precisely entails a hierarchy of prescriptions/obligations (see the comments to this post).
Now, a different question: On which side does it depend that programmers and logicians interact so little with historians of philosophy?
For another post on Mīmāṃsā deontic read by contemporary logicians, see here.
(cross-posted on my personal blog)