Robot Evolution: Ethical Concerns

Ágoston E. Eiben*, Jacintha Ellers, Gerben Meynen, Sven Nyholm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Rapid developments in evolutionary computation, robotics, 3D-printing, and material science are enabling advanced systems of robots that can autonomously reproduce and evolve. The emerging technology of robot evolution challenges existing AI ethics because the inherent adaptivity, stochasticity, and complexity of evolutionary systems severely weaken human control and induce new types of hazards. In this paper we address the question how robot evolution can be responsibly controlled to avoid safety risks. We discuss risks related to robot multiplication, maladaptation, and domination and suggest solutions for meaningful human control. Such concerns may seem far-fetched now, however, we posit that awareness must be created before the technology becomes mature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number744590
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Robotics and AI
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
SN’s work on this paper is part of the research program Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies, which is funded through the Gravitation program of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO grant number 024.004.031).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Eiben, Ellers, Meynen and Nyholm.


  • ethics
  • evolutionary design
  • evolutionary robotics
  • meaningful human control
  • morphological robot evolution
  • real-world robot evolution
  • responsibility gaps


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