Applying a Social-Relational Model to Explore the Curious Case of hitchBOT

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Book Chapter

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This paper applies social-relational models of moral standing of robots to cases where the encounters between the robot and humans are relatively brief. Our analysis spans the spectrum of non-social robots to fully-social robots. We consider cases where the encounters are between a stranger and the robot and do not include its owner or operator. We conclude that the developers of robots that might be encountered by other people when the owner is not present cannot wash their hands of responsibility. They must take care with how they develop the robot’s interface with people and take into account how that interface influences the social relationship between it and people, and, thus, the moral standing of the robot with each person it encounters. Furthermore, we claim that developers have responsibility for the impact social robots have on the quality of human social relationships.


Published first online. Book chapter in On the Cognitive, Ethical, and Scientific Dimensions of Artificial Intelligence. Philosophical Studies Series, vol. 134.

ISBN print: 9783030017996, ebook: 9783030018009