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

Tóth, Z. and Caruana, R. and Gruber, T. and Loebbecke, C. (2022) 'The Dawn of the AI Robots: Towards a New Framework of AI Robot Accountability.', Journal of Business Ethics, 178 (4). pp. 895-916.


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.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:25 January 2022
Date deposited:24 January 2022
Date of first online publication:02 March 2022
Date first made open access:11 May 2022

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