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Evil and roboethics in management studies


In this article, I address the issue of evil and roboethics in the context of management studies and suggest that management scholars should locate evil in the realm of the human rather than of the artificial. After discussing the possibility of addressing the reality of evil machines in ontological terms, I explore users’ reaction to robots in a social context. I conclude that the issue of evil machines in management is more precisely a case of technology anthropomorphization.

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  1. 1.

    The following offers definitions for some of the most important terms used in this document. ‘Evil’ is an action that is not simply morally wrong, but leaves no room for understanding or redemption. Evil is qualitatively, rather than merely quantitatively, distinct from mere wrongdoing. ‘Evil machine’ is a machine’s action that causes harm to humans and leaves no room for account or expiation. ‘Robot’ stands for both physical robots and virtual agents roaming within computer networks; ‘autonomous machine’ is a decision-making machine; ‘artificial intelligence’ is the ability of autonomous machines to make decisions; ‘intelligent machine’ and ‘autonomous intelligent machine’ are synonymous with ‘autonomous machine.’ ‘Machine’ is an umbrella term to cover robots and autonomous and intelligent machines. ‘Machine learning algorithm’ can be categorized as being supervised or unsupervised. Supervised algorithms can apply what has been learned in the past to new data. Unsupervised algorithms can draw inferences from datasets. An important distinction in this article is played between humans as designers and engineers, i.e., those who build the machine, and humans as users or clients, i.e., those who interact socially with the machine. The former are named ‘designers’ and ‘engineers,’ the latter ‘users,’ ‘investors,’ ‘clients,’ or, when the text moves from the specific case study to more general considerations, ‘humans’ and ‘humanoids.’ Giving human characteristics to artificial objects is a human trait called ‘to anthropomorphize.’ Biblical quotes are from the new revised standard version of the Oxford annotated Bible with Apocrypha (Croogan 2010).


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Correspondence to Enrico Beltramini.

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Beltramini, E. Evil and roboethics in management studies. AI & Soc 34, 921–929 (2019).

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  • Roboethics
  • Evil
  • Management
  • Anthropomorphism