Ascribing Moral Responsibility for The Actions of Autonomous Weapons Systems: A Moral Gambit

27 Pages Posted: 4 May 2022 Last revised: 23 May 2022

See all articles by Mariarosaria Taddeo

Mariarosaria Taddeo

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Alexander Blanchard

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Date Written: January 7, 2022

Abstract

In this article we focus on the attribution of moral responsibility for the actions of autonomous weapons systems (AWS). We begin our analysis with a description of the ‘responsibility gap’ and the characteristics of AWS that determine it, we then consider alternative approaches – collective moral responsibility and faultless distributed moral responsibility – to classic ethical approaches for the allocation of moral responsibility and assess their validity when considering AWS. We argue that both these approaches do not address the decoupling of the actions of these systems from the intentions of the human agents who design, develop, and deploy them. For this reason, they fail to address the responsibility gap. We then introduce the concept of meaningful moral responsibility, that is a moral responsibility attributed to individuals in a justified and fair way and which is accepted by individuals as an assessment of their own moral character. When meaningful moral responsibility can be attributed, the responsibility gap is resolved. We argue that, while this can be the case for the use of non-lethal AWS, it is not the case for the actions of lethal autonomous weapon systems.

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Weapons Systems, Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, Meaningful Moral Responsibility, Moral Responsibility, Responsibility Gap

Suggested Citation

Taddeo, Mariarosaria and Blanchard, Alexander, Ascribing Moral Responsibility for The Actions of Autonomous Weapons Systems: A Moral Gambit (January 7, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4096934 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4096934

Mariarosaria Taddeo (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Alexander Blanchard

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) ( email )

Signalistgatan 9, SE-169 70
Solna
Sweden

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