The robot as a moral agent

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In the literature, it is distinguished between potential threats arising from the robot itself, from the hardware, that could be used for example to commit a crime, like filming things without permission – and on the other hand, there is Artificial Intelligence, which could mean that the machine develops a personality, a free will, and opportunistic behavior. One example could be a robot stealing energy for self-preservation.

  1. Robots are nothing but machines: in this case, roboethics is the same as any other ethical approach in mechanics.
  2. Robots have ethical dimensions: robots have an intrinsic ethical dimension. They are one of the ways in which humans distinguish themselves from animals and help them to improve their own ethical capacity.
  3. Robots as moral agents: robots can be involved in moral situations. They can be acted upon good and evil and can perform such actions themselves. However, for this purpose, a free will is not necessarily required.
  4. Robots as a new species: according to this point of view, robots will have autonomy and consciences. They will exceed humans in moral as well as intellectual dimensions.

(Veruggio, 2006)

  1. The robot only does what it is told, without any free will or moral behavior. Nevertheless, this could lead to the misuse by third (e.g. criminal) parties.
  2. The robot develops a personality and therefore a free will. This could lead to opportunistic behavior of the robot itself.

(Reynolds and Ishikawa, 2007)

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