The Moral Responsibility Gap and the Increasing Autonomy of Systems

  • Zoë PorterEmail author
  • Ibrahim Habli
  • Helen Monkhouse
  • John Bragg
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11094)


The ethical and social implications of autonomous systems are forcing safety engineers and ethicists alike to confront new questions. This paper focuses on just one of these questions - moral responsibility - bringing together inter-disciplinary insights to an issue of growing public and regulatory concern. The central thesis is that, on a conception of moral responsibility that presupposes control, the increasing autonomy of systems prima facie diminishes the extent to which engineers and users can be considered morally responsible for system behaviour. This challenge to our normal attributions of moral responsibility as a result of autonomy has come to be known as the ‘responsibility gap’. We provide a characterisation of the moral responsibility gap, which we argue has two dimensions: causal and epistemic. At the end of the paper we highlight considerations for future work.


Moral responsibility Ethics Autonomous systems Safety 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zoë Porter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ibrahim Habli
    • 1
  • Helen Monkhouse
    • 2
  • John Bragg
    • 3
  1. 1.University of YorkYorkUK
  2. 2.HORIBA MIRAWarwickshireUK
  3. 3.MBDA UK Ltd.FiltonUK

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