Mind the gap: responsible robotics and the problem of responsibility

Ethics and Information Technology 22 (4):307-320 (2020)
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Abstract

The task of this essay is to respond to the question concerning robots and responsibility—to answer for the way that we understand, debate, and decide who or what is able to answer for decisions and actions undertaken by increasingly interactive, autonomous, and sociable mechanisms. The analysis proceeds through three steps or movements. It begins by critically examining the instrumental theory of technology, which determines the way one typically deals with and responds to the question of responsibility when it involves technology. It then considers three instances where recent innovations in robotics challenge this standard operating procedure by opening gaps in the usual way of assigning responsibility. The innovations considered in this section include: autonomous technology, machine learning, and social robots. The essay concludes by evaluating the three different responses—instrumentalism 2.0, machine ethics, and hybrid responsibility—that have been made in face of these difficulties in an effort to map out the opportunities and challenges of and for responsible robotics.

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David Gunkel
Northern Illinois University