Articles  |    |  June 1, 2020

Robots as persons? Implications for moral education

Article by Michael J. Reiss. Published in The Journal of Moral Education.


At present there is a clear distinction between robots and persons. In this article I explore the possibility that this distinction may not hold in perpetuity, as some robots attain personhood. I argue that personhood is an emergent property in both the development of individuals and the evolution of life, that personhood may not require a carbon-based existence, and that, given that robots are being made with ever greater powers of cognition, at some point these powers of cognition may reach the point at which we need to start talking of robots as having minds and being persons. This will have implications for how we treat robots, for how we design robots and for how we understand ourselves and other creatures. There are also implications for moral education that may need to be taken seriously.

About the Author

Michael J. ReissĀ is Professor of Science Education at UCL Institute of Education, University College London, a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, President of the International Society for Science and Religion and a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. The former Director of Education at the Royal Society, he has written extensively about curricula, pedagogy and assessment in education.