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Hiding Behind Machines When Blame Is Shifted to Artificial Agents

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Document pages: 20 pages

Abstract: The transfer of tasks with sometimes far-reaching moral implications toautonomous systems raises a number of ethical questions. In addition tofundamental questions about the moral agency of these systems, behavioralissues arise. This article focuses on the responsibility of agents who decideon our behalf. We investigate the empirically accessible question of whetherthe production of moral outcomes by an agent is systematically judgeddifferently when the agent is artificial and not human. The results of alaboratory experiment suggest that decision-makers can actually rid themselvesof guilt more easily by delegating to machines than by delegating to otherpeople. Our results imply that the availability of artificial agents couldprovide stronger incentives for decision makers to delegate morally sensitivedecisions.

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