International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 249–260 | Cite as

The Five Robots—A Taxonomy for Roboethics

  • Steffen SteinertEmail author


The distillation of four “gravitational centers” of discourse on the ethically relevant issues regarding robots constitutes the elements of the taxonomy developed in this paper. In this paper I take the birds-eye perspective, looking on the ongoing discussions and picking out clusters: (1) Robots as mere means to achieve a specific goal; (2) the robot as an addressee/recipient of ethical behavior; (3) the robot as a moral agent; (4) the robot as an ethical impact-factor. A fifth dimension is then introduced: The “meta-perspective” invites ethicists and researchers in robotics to be sensitive to how their discipline and thinking is influenced.

One the one hand, this taxonomy helps roboticists to navigate through the ethical discourse, on the other hand it creates a common ground for the needed dialogue between professional ethicists and people with hands on experience in robotics. The paper concludes with implications for future collaborations between ethicists and researchers.


Roboethics Robots Ethics of robotics Moral machines Moral agents 



I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers who really helped me to improve the quality of this paper. Further, I am indebted to Editor-in-Chief Shuzhi Sam Ge and JEO Assistant Anand David for their guidance during the publication process.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Neurophilosophy and Ethics of NeuroscienceMunichGermany

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