Can a Robot Lie? Exploring the Folk Concept of Lying as Applied to Artificial Agents

Cognitive Science 45 (10):e13032 (2021)
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Abstract

The potential capacity for robots to deceive has received considerable attention recently. Many papers explore 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 that investigates the following three questions: (a) Are ordinary people willing to ascribe deceptive intentions to artificial agents? (b) Are they as willing to judge a robot lie as a lie as they would be when human agents engage in verbal deception? (c) Do people 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 they presently receive.

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Markus Kneer
University of Z├╝rich

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