From 18 to 21 August 2020, the Robophilosophy conference took place. Due to the pandemic, participants could not meet in Aarhus as originally planned, but only in virtual space. Nevertheless, the conference was a complete success. At the end of the year, the conference proceedings were published by IOS Press, including the paper „The Morality Menu Project“ by Oliver Bendel. From the abstract: „The discipline of machine ethics examines, designs and produces moral machines. The artificial morality is usually pre-programmed by a manufacturer or developer. However, another approach is the more flexible morality menu (MOME). With this, owners or users replicate their own moral preferences onto a machine. A team at the FHNW implemented a MOME for MOBO (a chatbot) in 2019/2020. In this article, the author introduces the idea of the MOME, presents the MOBO-MOME project and discusses advantages and disadvantages of such an approach. It turns out that a morality menu could be a valuable extension for certain moral machines.“ The book can be ordered on the publisher’s website. An author’s copy is available here.
The book „Culturally Sustainable Social Robotics“ (eds. Marco Nørskov, Johanna Seibt, and Oliver Santiago Quick) was published in December 2020 by IOS Press. From the publisher’s information: „Robophilosophy conferences have been the world’s largest venues for humanities research in and on social robotics. The book at hand presents the proceedings of Robophilosophy Conference 2020: Culturally Sustainable Social Robotics, the fourth event in the international, biennial Robophilosophy Conference Series, which brought together close to 400 participants from 29 countries. The speakers of the conference, whose contributions are collected in this volume, were invited to offer concrete proposals for how the Humanities can help to shape a future where social robotics is guided by the goals of enhancing socio-cultural values rather than by utility alone. The book is divided into 3 parts; Abstracts of Plenaries, which contains 6 plenary sessions; Session Papers, with 44 papers under 8 thematic categories; and Workshops, containing 25 items on 5 selected topics.“ (Website IOS Press) Contributors include Robert Sparrow, Alan Winfield, Aimee van Wynsberghe, John Danaher, Johanna Seibt, Marco Nørskov, Peter Remmers, John P. Sullins, and Oliver Bendel.
The project on robot enhancement at the School of Business FHNW has been running since the summer of 2020 and an online survey is currently being conducted. Participation is still possible until November 30, 2020. Vedrana Petrovic and Thao Doan Thi Thu sent a message to all students at the university: „We are two students studying International Management at campus Olten and currently writing our bachelor thesis about social robot enhancement. This thesis is supervised by Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel and written on behalf of the FHNW. The objective of this bachelor thesis is to examine a potential new working field related to social robots. Therefore, your responses will be very valuable to us. The online survey takes about 5-10 minutes to be completed and can be done until 30 November 2020. Any data is treated anonymously and solely used for the purpose of the survey. Also, don’t miss the chance to win two Coop vouchers worth CHF 20 each at the end of the survey! You can access the survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/Y88DNZ3 …“ Over 100 people have already taken part. In order to reach even more people, the students have agreed with the supervisor to spread the link via blogs.
Eine der weltweit wichtigsten Konferenzen für Roboterphilosophie und soziale Robotik, die ROBOPHILOSOPHY, fand vom 18. bis 21. August 2020 statt, nicht in Aarhus (Dänemark), wie ursprünglich geplant, sondern – wegen der COVID-19-Pandemie – in virtueller Form. Organisatoren und Moderatoren waren Marco Nørskov und Johanna Seibt. Ein beträchtlicher Teil der Vorträge war der Maschinenethik verpflichtet, etwa „Moral Machines“ (Aleksandra Kornienko), „Permissibility-Under-a-Description Reasoning for Deontological Robots“ (Felix Lindner) und „The Morality Menu Project“ (Oliver Bendel). Die Keynotes stammten von Selma Šabanović (Indiana University Bloomington), Robert Sparrow (Monash University), Shannon Vallor (The University of Edinburgh), Alan Winfield (University of the West of England), Aimee van Wynsberghe (Delft University of Technology) und John Danaher (National University of Ireland). Winfield zeigte sich in seinem herausragenden Referat skeptisch gegenüber moralischen Maschinen, woraufhin Bendel in der Diskussion deutlich machte, dass sie in manchen Bereichen nützlich, in anderen gefährlich sind, und die Bedeutung der Maschinenethik für die Erforschung der maschinellen und menschlichen Moral hervorhob, womit sich Winfield wiederum einverstanden zeigte. Die letzte Konferenz wurde 2018 in Wien durchgeführt. Keynoter waren damals u.a. Hiroshi Ishiguro, Joanna Bryson und Oliver Bendel. Die nächste ROBOPHILOSOPHY wird, wie die Veranstalter am Ende der Veranstaltung, bekanntgaben, 2022 an der Universität Helsinki stattfinden.
„Once we place so-called ’social robots‘ into the social practices of our everyday lives and lifeworlds, we create complex, and possibly irreversible, interventions in the physical and semantic spaces of human culture and sociality. The long-term socio-cultural consequences of these interventions is currently impossible to gauge.“ (Website Robophilosophy Conference) With these words the next Robophilosophy conference was announced. It would have taken place in Aarhus, Denmark, from 18 to 21 August 2019, but due to the COVID 19 pandemic it is being conducted online. One lecture will be given by Oliver Bendel. The abstract of the paper „The Morality Menu Project“ states: „Machine ethics produces moral machines. The machine morality is usually fixed. Another approach is the morality menu (MOME). With this, owners or users transfer their own morality onto the machine, for example a social robot. The machine acts in the same way as they would act, in detail. A team at the School of Business FHNW implemented a MOME for the MOBO chatbot. In this article, the author introduces the idea of the MOME, presents the MOBO-MOME project and discusses advantages and disadvantages of such an approach. It turns out that a morality menu can be a valuable extension for certain moral machines.“ In 2018 Hiroshi Ishiguro, Guy Standing, Catelijne Muller, Joanna Bryson, and Oliver Bendel had been keynote speakers. In 2020, Catrin Misselhorn, Selma Sabanovic, and Shannon Vallor will be presenting. More information via conferences.au.dk/robo-philosophy/.
Some universities strive to use holograms in their teaching. Through this technology, the lecturer’s representative would have a physical presence in space. Even interactions and conversations would be possible if the holograms or projections were connected to speech systems. Dr. David Lefevre, director of Imperial’s Edtech Lab, told the BBC one year ago: „The alternative is to use video-conferencing software but we believe these holograms have a much greater sense of presence“. American Samoa Community College (ASCC) has now switched on a digital platform that will stream 3D holograms of University of Hawai’i faculty members to deliver classes and engage with ASCC students in real-time. According to the website, students at the HoloCampus launch on August 20 received a lecture by UH Mānoa Water Resources Research Center researcher Chris Shuler on the subject of „sustainability and resilience“ – a theme „with special significance for the people of American Samoa and Pacific Islands nations as they face challenges such as increasing plastic waste and more dramatic weather systems brought about by climate change“ (Website University of Hawai’i). Holograms could play a role in all sorts of areas, including social and sexual relationships.
Robophilosophy or robot philosophy is a field of philosophy that deals with robots (hardware and software robots) as well as with enhancement options such as artificial intelligence. It is not only about the practice and history of development, but also the history of ideas, starting with the works of Homer and Ovid up to science fiction books and movies. Disciplines such as epistemology, ontology, aesthetics and ethics, including information and machine ethics, are involved. The new platform robophilosophy.com was founded in July 2019 by Oliver Bendel. He invited several authors to write with him about robophilosophy, robot law, information ethics, machine ethics, robotics and artificial intelligence. All of them have a relevant background. Oliver Bendel studied philosophy as well as information science and made his doctoral thesis about anthropomorphic software agents. He has been researching in the fields of information ethics and machine ethics for years.
Robots have no rights from a philosophical and ethical point of view and cannot currently get any rights. You only have such rights if you can feel or suffer, if you have a consciousness or a will to live. Accordingly, animals can have certain rights, stones cannot. Only human beings have human rights. Certain animals can be granted basic rights, such as chimpanzees or gorillas. But to grant these animals human rights makes no sense. They are not human beings. If one day robots can feel or suffer, if they have a consciousness or a will to live, they must be granted rights. However, Oliver Bendel does not see any way to get there at the moment. According to him, one could at best develop „reverse cyborgs“, i.e. let brain and nerve cells grow on technical structures (or in a robot). Such reverse or inverted cyborgs might at some point feel something. The newspaper Daily Star dealt with this topic on 28 December 2018. The article can be accessed via www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/748890/robots-ai-human-rights-legal-status-eu-proposal.
Fig.: A human brain could be part of a reverse cyborg
In November 2018 the „Proceedings of Robophilosophy 2018“ with the title „Envisioning robots in society – power, politics, and public space“ were published. Editors are Mark Coeckelbergh, Janina Loh, Michael Funk, Johanna Seibt, and Marco Nørskov. In addition to the contributions of the participants, the book also contains abstracts and extended abstracts of the keynotes by Simon Penny, Raja Chatila, Hiroshi Ishiguro, Guy Standing, Catelijne Muller, Juha Heikkilä, Joanna Bryson, and Oliver Bendel (his article about service robots from the perspective of ethics is available here). Robophilosophy is the most important international conference for robophilosophy and roboethics. In February 2018 it took place at the University of Vienna. Machine ethics was also an issue this time. „Robots are predicted to play a role in many aspects of our lives in the future, affecting work, personal relationships, education, business, law, medicine and the arts. As they become increasingly intelligent, autonomous, and communicative, they will be able to function in ever more complex physical and social surroundings, transforming the practices, organizations, and societies in which they are embedded.“ (IOS Press) More information via www.ios.com.
Semi-autonomous machines, autonomous machines and robots inhabit closed, semi-closed and open environments. There they encounter domestic animals, farm animals, working animals and/or wild animals. These animals could be disturbed, displaced, injured or killed. Within the context of machine ethics, the School of Business FHNW developed several design studies and prototypes for animal-friendly machines, which can be understood as moral machines in the spirit of this discipline. They were each linked with an annotated decision tree containing the ethical assumptions or justifications for interactions with animals. Annotated decision trees are seen as an important basis in developing moral machines. They are not without problems and contradictions, but they do guarantee well-founded, secure actions that are repeated at a certain level. The article „Towards animal-friendly machines“ by Oliver Bendel, published in August 2018 in Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics, documents completed and current projects, compares their relative risks and benefits, and makes proposals for future developments in machine ethics.
„Sex robots are coming, but the argument that they could bring health benefits, including offering paedophiles a ’safe‘ outlet for their sexual desires, is not based on evidence, say researchers. The market for anthropomorphic dolls with a range of orifices for sexual pleasure – the majority of which are female in form, and often boast large breasts, tiny waists and sultry looks – is on the rise, with such dummies selling for thousands of pounds a piece.“ (Guardian, 5 June 2018) These are the initial words of an article in the well-known British daily newspaper Guardian, published on 5 June 2018. It quotes Susan Bewley, professor of women’s health at Kings College London – and Oliver Bendel, professor at the School of Business FHNW and expert for information and machine ethics. He is not in favor of a ban on the development of sex robots and love dolls. However, he can imagine that the area of application could be limited. He calls for empirical research in the field. The article can be accessed via www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jun/04/claims-about-social-benefits-of-sex-robots-greatly-overstated-say-experts.
„Moral Machines? The Ethics and Politics of the Digital World“ is a symposium organized by two research fellows, Susanna Lindberg and Hanna-Riikka Roine at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. „The aim of the symposium is to bring together researchers from all fields addressing the many issues and problems of the digitalization of our social reality, such as thinking in the digital world, the morality and ethics of machines, and the ways of controlling and manipulating the digital world.“ (Website Symposium) The symposium will take place in Helsinki from 6 to 8 March 2019. It welcomes contributions addressing the various aspects of the contemporary digital world. The organizers are especially interested „in the idea that despite everything they can do, the machines do not really think, at least not like us“. „So, what is thinking in the digital world? How does the digital machine ‚think‘?“ (Website Symposium) Proposals can be sent to the e-mail address email@example.com by 31 August 2018. Decisions will be made by 31 October 2018. Further information is available on https://blogs.helsinki.fi/moralmachines/.