, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 237–250

Toward Modeling and Automating Ethical Decision Making: Design, Implementation, Limitations, and Responsibilities


DOI: 10.1007/s11245-012-9127-x

Cite this article as:
Reed, G.S. & Jones, N. Topoi (2013) 32: 237. doi:10.1007/s11245-012-9127-x


One recent priority of the U.S. government is developing autonomous robotic systems. The U.S. Army has funded research to design a metric of evil to support military commanders with ethical decision-making and, in the future, allow robotic military systems to make autonomous ethical judgments. We use this particular project as a case study for efforts that seek to frame morality in quantitative terms. We report preliminary results from this research, describing the assumptions and limitations of a program that assesses the relative evil of two courses of action. We compare this program to other attempts to simulate ethical decision-making, assess possibilities for overcoming the trade-off between input simplification and output reliability, and discuss the responsibilities of users and designers in implementing such programs. We conclude by discussing the implications that this project highlights for the successes and challenges of developing automated mechanisms for ethical decision making.


Decision support Ethical judgment Evil Military Modeling and simulation Robotic systems 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Modeling, Simulation, and AnalysisUniversity of Alabama in HuntsvilleHuntsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Alabama in HuntsvilleHuntsvilleUSA

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