Ethical Aspects of Human–Robot Collaboration in Industrial Work Settings

by Madelaine Ley/

Madelaine Ley


In this chapter, we review and expand on the current ethical research on Human–Robot Collaboration in industrial settings. To date, the ethical issues discussed include: job loss, reorganization of labour, informed consent and data collection, user-involvement in design, hierarchy in decision-making, and coerced acceptance of robots. These wide-ranging issues are a useful starting point for discussion, yet as the number of robots designed and deployed as collaborators in industrial settings grows, ethical research must evolve to allow for more nuance in the previously listed issues as well as a recognition of novel concerns as they arise. In this paper, we suggest new ethical aspects related to collaborative robots in industrial settings, including: emotional impact on workers; effects of limited movement; the potential effects of working with one’s replacement; the ‘chilling effects’ of performance monitoring; the possibility for disclosure of new and unintended information through data collection; and the inability to challenge computerized decisions. Taken together these thoughts are meant to open the door towards new forms of moral learning necessary for assessing the ethical acceptability of human–robot collaborations on the factory floor.

  • Delft
  • Ethics