January 2020 Download this article as a PDFAbstract

This article focuses on “roboethics” in the age of growing adoption of smart robots, which can now be seen as a new robotic “species”. As autonomous AI systems, they can collaborate with humans and are capable of learning from their operating environment, experiences, and human behaviour feedback in human-machine interaction. This enables smart robots to improve their performance and capabilities. This conceptual article reviews key perspectives to roboethics, as well as establishes a framework to illustrate its main ideas and features. Building on previous literature, roboethics has four major types of implications for smart robots: 1) smart robots as amoral and passive tools, 2) smart robots as recipients of ethical behavior in society, 3) smart robots as moral and active agents, and 4) smart robots as ethical impact-makers in society. The study contributes to current literature by suggesting that there are two underlying ethical and moral dimensions behind these perspectives, namely the “ethical agency of smart robots” and “object of moral judgment”, as well as what this could look like as smart robots become more widespread in society. The article concludes by suggesting how scientists and smart robot designers can benefit from a framework, discussing the limitations of the present study, and proposing avenues for future research.

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Keywords: AI, artificial intelligence, Ethics, Roboethics, Smart robot