Journal Article

Sometimes it’s hard to be a robot: A call for action on the ethics of abusing artificial agents

Blay Whitby

in Interacting with Computers

Published on behalf of British Computer Society

Volume 20, issue 3, pages 326-333
Published in print May 2008 | ISSN: 0953-5438
Published online February 2008 | e-ISSN: 1873-7951 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.intcom.2008.02.002
Sometimes it’s hard to be a robot: A call for action on the ethics of abusing artificial agents

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This is a call for informed debate on the ethical issues raised by the forthcoming widespread use of robots, particularly in domestic settings. Research shows that humans can sometimes become very abusive towards computers and robots particularly when they are seen as human-like and this raises important ethical issues.

The designers of robotic systems need to take an ethical stance on at least three specific questions. Firstly is it acceptable to treat artefacts – particularly human-like artefacts – in ways that we would consider it morally unacceptable to treat humans? Second, if so, just how much sexual or violent ‘abuse’ of an artificial agent should we allow before we censure the behaviour of the abuser? Thirdly is it ethical for designers to attempt to ‘design out’ abusive behaviour by users?

Conclusions on these and related issues should be used to modify professional codes as a matter of urgency.

Keywords: Robot ethics; Abusive interaction; Ethical design

Journal Article.  6444 words. 

Subjects: Human-Computer Interaction

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