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Digital Society Initiative

Evaluation of digital support in ethical decision making

This project uses empirical studies and ethical and legal analyses to investigate the impact of automating ethical decision-making in the security sector.

A core feature of digitization is the increasing delegation of decision-making functions to software systems. This applies in particular to cases in which human decision-makers have to make decisions under time pressure and uncertainty. Such decisions are typical for the security context (military, police, emergency medical response and rescue). It is to be expected that more and more digital systems will be used in this context to support the human decision maker or even make certain decisions.

This raises ethical questions about accountability and acceptance as technical systems are increasingly equipped with autonomous capabilities and operate in conditions where decision options become more diverse, but the decisions themselves raise critical ethical questions, e.g. the acceptance of collateral damage.

The aim of this project is to investigate how to ensure that digitized decision support and automated decision functions lead to an ethically acceptable result when a human decision maker has to make decisions quickly and under uncertainty. To this end, both normative analyses and experiments will be carried out.

As part of the project, a video podcast was produced by the DSI and the Swiss Drone and Robotics Centre (SDRC DDPS). This explores the question of why the Swiss Armed Forces could one day also use rescue robots and explains the related technical, ethical and legal issues.

Core team

  • Prof. Abraham Bernstein (DSI)
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Burri (University of St. Gallen)
  • Dr. Markus Christen (DSI)


armasuisse Science and Technology