Can a robot lie?


The potential capacity for robots to deceive has received considerable attention recently. Many papers focus on the technical possibility for a robot to engage in deception for beneficial purposes (e.g. in education or health). In this short experimental paper, I focus on a more paradigmatic case: Robot lying (lying being the textbook example of deception) for nonbeneficial purposes as judged from the human point of view. More precisely, I present an empirical experiment with 399 participants which explores the following three questions: (i) Are ordinary people willing to ascribe intentions to deceive to artificial agents? (ii) Are they as willing to judge a robot lie as a lie as they would be when human agents engage in verbal deception? (iii) Do they blame a lying artificial agent to the same extent as a lying human agent? The response to all three questions is a resounding yes. This, I argue, implies that robot deception and its normative consequences deserve considerably more attention than it presently attracts.

Author's Profile

Markus Kneer
University of Graz


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