Of, For, and By the People: The Legal Lacuna of Synthetic Persons

Conferring legal personhood on purely synthetic entities is a very real legal possibility, one under consideration presently by the European Union. We show here that such legislative action would be morally unnecessary and legally troublesome. While AI legal personhood may have emotional or economic appeal, so do many superficially desirable hazards against which the law…

The ethics of algorithms: Mapping the debate

In information societies, operations, decisions and choices previously left to humans are increasingly delegated to algorithms, which may advise, if not decide, about how data should be interpreted and what actions should be taken as a result. More and more often, algorithms mediate social processes, business transactions, governmental decisions, and how we perceive, understand, and…

What Should We Want From a Robot Ethic

There are at least three things we might mean by ethics in robotics: the ethical systems built into robots, the ethics of people who design and use robots, and the ethics of how people treat robots. This paper argues that the best approach to robot ethics is one which addresses all three of these, and…

Why We Need Better Ethics for Emerging Technologies

Technological revolutions are dissected into three stages: the introduction stage, the permeation stage, and the power stage. The information revolution is a primary example of this tripartite model. A hypothesis about ethics is proposed, namely, ethical problems increase as technological revolutions progress toward and into the power stage. Genetic technology, nanotechnology, and neurotechnology are good…

When will people regard robots as morally competent social partners?

We propose that moral competence consists of five distinct but related elements: (1) having a system of norms; (2) mastering a moral vocabulary; (3) exhibiting moral cognition and affect; (4) exhibiting moral decision making and action; and (5) engaging in moral communication. We identify some of the likely triggers that may convince people to (justifiably)…

How Robots Can Affect Human Behavior: Investigating the Effects of Robotic Displays of Protest and Distress

The rise of military drones and other robots deployed in ethically-sensitive contexts has fueled interest in developing autonomous agents that behave ethically. The ability for autonomous agents to independently reason about situational ethics will inevitably lead to confrontations between robots and human operators regarding the morality of issued commands. Ideally, a robot would be able…

Overriding Ethical Constraints in Lethal Autonomous Systems

This article describes the philosophy, design, and prototype implementation of an operator override system intended for use in managing unmanned robotic systems capable of lethal behavior. The ethical ramifications associated with the responsibility assignment of such a system are presented, which guide the development of the proof-of-concept system that serves as the basis for the…

Machine Ethics: Creating an Ethical Intelligent Agent

The newly emerging field of machine ethics (Anderson and Anderson 2006) is concerned with adding an ethical dimension to machines. Unlike computer ethics -- which has traditionally focused on ethical issues surrounding human use of machines -- machine ethics is concerned with ensuring that the behavior of machines toward human users, and perhaps other machines…

The Ethical Landscape of Robotics

In this article, we highlight the possible benefits, as well potential threats, related to the widespread use of robots. We follow the view that a robot cannot be analyzed on its own without taking into consideration the complex sociotechnical nexus of today's societies and that high-tech devices, such as robots, may influence how societies develop…

Applied Professional Ethics for the Reluctant Roboticist

Since robots are designed to interact with humans, robotics applications always have ethical implications. Until recent decades, most robotics applications were of an industrial nature and therefore far removed from close interactions with people for safety reasons. In that milieu, the ethical impacts of robots on human relations were more subtle and could be mostly…

Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design

This report is designed as a preliminary investigation into the risk and ethics issues related to autonomous military systems, with a particular focus on battlefield robotics as perhaps the most controversial area. It is intended to help inform policymakers, military personnel, scientists, as well as the broader public who collectively influence such developments. Our goal…

Autonomous Vehicles Need Experimental Ethics: Are We Ready for Utilitarian Cars?

The wide adoption of self-driving, Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) promises to dramatically reduce the number of traffic accidents. Some accidents, though, will be inevitable, because some situations will require AVs to choose the lesser of two evils. For example, running over a pedestrian on the road or a passer-by on the side; or choosing whether to…

From Killer Machines to Doctrines and Swarms, or Why Ethics of Military Robotics Is Not (Necessarily) About Robots

Ethical reflections on military robotics can be enriched by a better understanding of the nature and role of these technologies and by putting robotics into context in various ways. Discussing a range of ethical questions, this paper challenges the prevalent assumptions that military robotics is about military technology as a mere means to an end,…

Is the Concept of an Ethical Governor Philosophically Sound?

In a series of publications, Ronald Arkin and his team (Arkin, 2009; Arkin et al., 2009) have proposed the concept of an ethical governor, which is supposed to effectively control and enforce the ethical use of lethal force by robots on the battlefield. The idea of an ethical governor, although presently of little influence on…

Killer Robots: Legality and Ethicality of Autonomous Weapons

Military robots and other, potentially autonomous robotic systems such as unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) could soon be introduced to the battlefield. Look further into the future and we may see autonomous micro- and nanorobots armed and deployed in swarms of thousands or even millions. This growing automation of warfare…

The responsibility gap: Ascribing responsibility for the actions of learning automata

Traditionally, the manufacturer/operator of a machine is held (morally and legally) responsible for the consequences of its operation. Autonomous, learning machines, based on neural networks, genetic algorithms and agent architectures, create a new situation wherein the manufacturer/operator of the machine is in principle not capable of predicting the future machine behaviour anymore, and thus cannot…