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The Dawn of the AI Robots: Towards a New Framework of AI Robot Accountability

Tóth, Z.; Caruana, R.; Gruber, T.; Loebbecke, C.

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R. Caruana

T. Gruber

C. Loebbecke


Business, management and business ethics literature pay little attention to the topic of AI robots. The broad spectrum of potential ethical issues pertains to using driverless cars, AI robots in care homes, and in the military, such as Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. However, there is a scarcity of in-depth theoretical, methodological or empirical studies that address these ethical issues, for instance, the impact of morality and where accountability resides in AI robots’ use. To address this dearth, this study offers a conceptual framework that interpretively develops the ethical implications of AI robot applications, drawing on descriptive and normative ethical theory. The new framework elaborates on how the locus of morality (human to AI agency) and moral intensity combine within context-specific AI robot applications, and how this might influence accountability thinking. Our theorization indicates that in situations of escalating AI agency and situational moral intensity, accountability is widely dispersed between actors and institutions. ‘Accountability clusters’ are outlined to illustrate interrelationships between the locus of morality, moral intensity and accountability and how these invoke different categorical responses: (i) illegal, (ii) immoral, (iii) permissible and (iv) supererogatory pertaining to using AI robots. These enable discussion of the ethical implications of using AI robots, and associated accountability challenges for a constellation of actors - from designer, individual/organizational users to the normative and regulative approaches of industrial/governmental bodies and inter-governmental regimes.


Tóth, Z., Caruana, R., Gruber, T., & Loebbecke, C. (2022). The Dawn of the AI Robots: Towards a New Framework of AI Robot Accountability. Journal of Business Ethics, 178(4), 895-916.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 25, 2022
Online Publication Date Mar 2, 2022
Publication Date 2022-07
Deposit Date Jan 24, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 11, 2022
Journal Journal of Business Ethics
Print ISSN 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN 1573-0697
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 178
Issue 4
Pages 895-916
Public URL


Published Journal Article (852 Kb)

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