Robot rights? Towards a social-relational justification of moral consideration

TitleRobot rights? Towards a social-relational justification of moral consideration
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsCoeckelbergh, M
JournalEthics and Information Technology
Date Published2010
Publication Languageeng
AbstractShould we grant rights to artificially intelligent robots? Most current and near-future robots do not meet the hard criteria set by deontological and utilitarian theory. Virtue ethics can avoid this problem with its indirect approach. However, both direct and indirect arguments for moral consideration rest on ontological features of entities, an approach which incurs several problems. In response to these difficulties, this paper taps into a different conceptual resource in order to be able to grant some degree of moral consideration to some intelligent social robots: it sketches a novel argument for moral consideration based on social relations. It is shown that to further develop this argument we need to revise our existing ontological and social-political frameworks. It is suggested that we need a social ecology, which may be developed by engaging with Western ecology and Eastern worldviews. Although this relational turn raises many difficult issues and requires more work, this paper provides a rough outline of an alternative approach to moral consideration that can assist us in shaping our relations to intelligent robots and, by extension, to all artificial and biological entities that appear to us as more than instruments for our human purposes.