Robots and Moral Agency

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract:   Machine ethics is a field of applied ethics that has grown rapidly in the last decade. Increasingly advanced autonomous robots have expanded the focus of machine ethics from issues regarding the ethical development and use of technology by humans to a focus on ethical dimensions of the machines themselves. This thesis contains two essays, both about robots in some sense, representing these different perspectives of machine ethics. The first essay, “Is it Morally Right to use UAVs in War?” concerns an example of robots today, namely the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used in war, and the ethics surrounding the use of such robots. In this essay it is argued that UAVs might affect how the laws of war (LOW) are interpreted, and that there might be need for additional rules surrounding the use of UAVs. This represents the more traditional approach of machine ethics, focusing on the decisions of humans regarding the use of such robots. The second essay, “The Functional Morality of Robots”, concerns the robots of the future – the potential moral agency of robots. The suggestion in this essay is that robots should be considered moral agents if they can pass a moral version of the Turing Test. This represents the new focus of machine ethics: machine morality, or more precisely, machine agency.