The problem of many hands: Who is responsible and should anyone be blamed?

Engineering projects are often performed jointly by several technical experts, meaning that the responsibility for negative outcomes is often shared by several team members. The problem of many hands arises in situations in which it is reasonable to conclude that a group of people is jointly responsible for an outcome although it is difficult or impossible to assign some responsibility to each individual member of the group. There is, so to speak, a “gap” between the responsibility assigned to the group as whole and the individual members of the group.

According to Aristotle, we are responsible for our actions just in case we voluntarily decide to perform an action and we are aware of what we are doing. Other have pointed out that the term “responsibility” often serves as an umbrella term for a wide range of slightly different notions of responsibility. Hart identifies four core notions of responsibility: (a) role-responsibility, (b) causal responsibility, (c) capacity-responsibility and (d) liability-responsibility.

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