The impact of intelligent decision-support systems on humans’ ethical decision-making:

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Compared to its technological counterparts, society as a whole will increasingly adopt a passive role in ethical decision-making processes, blindly following technologies’ instructions that are delivered on a plate. This entails a form of regression, “which is a version of the general ‘autopilot problem’” (Erler and Müller, 2021; p.10). In line with this ambiguous debate concerning IDSSs’ influence on moral deskilling, Biggar (2023) argues that IDSSs will not universally deskill their users. Instead, particular virtues (such as physical courage among soldiers) may decrease, but this loss could be offset by the cultivation of other virtues (such as prudence) (Biggar, 2023). 


With the rise and public accessibility of AI-enabled decision-support systems, individuals outsource increasingly more of their decisions, even those that carry ethical dimensions. Considering this trend, scholars have highlighted that uncritical deference to these systems would be problematic and consequently called for investigations of the impact of pertinent technology on humans’ ethical decision-making. To this end, this article conducts a systematic review of existing scholarship and derives an integrated framework that demonstrates how intelligent decision-support systems (IDSSs) shape humans’ ethical decision-making. In particular, we identify resulting consequences on an individual level (i.e., deliberation enhancement, motivation enhancement, autonomy enhancement and action enhancement) and on a societal level (i.e., moral deskilling, restricted moral progress and moral responsibility gaps). We carve out two distinct methods/operation types (i.e., processoriented and outcome-oriented navigation) that decision-support systems can deploy and postulate that these determine to what extent the previously stated consequences materialize. Overall, this study holds important theoretical and practical implications by establishing clarity in the conceptions, underlying mechanisms and (directions of) influences that can be expected when using particular IDSSs for ethical decisions.

Ryan Watkins