This article investigates public opinion about smart robots, with special focus on the ethical dimension. In so doing, the study reviews relevant literature and analyzes data from the comments sections of four publically available online news articles on smart robots. Findings from the content analysis of investigated comments suggest that public opinion about smart robots remains fairly negative, and that public discussion is focused on potentially negative social and economic impacts of smart robots on society, as well as various liability issues. In particular, many comments were what can only be called “apocalyptical”, suggesting that the rise of smart robots is a threat to the very existence of human beings, and that the replacement of human labour by smart robots will lead to deepening the socio-economic gap, and concentrating power and wealth in the hands of even fewer people. Further, public discussion seems to pay little attention to the debate on whether robots should have “rights”, or on the increasing environmental effects of the growth in robotics. This study contributes to the extant literature on “roboethics”, by suggesting a dendrogram approach to illustrate themes based on a qualitative content analysis. It suggests that smart robot manufacturers should ensure better transparency and inclusion in their robotics design processes to foster public adoption of robots.

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Keywords Content analysis, Ethics, Public opinion, Roboethics, Smart robot
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Journal Technology Innovation Management Review
Westerlund, M. (2020). The ethical dimensions of public opinion on smart robots. Technology Innovation Management Review, 10(2), 25–36. doi:10.22215/timreview/1326