The young discipline of machine ethics refers to the morality of semi-autonomous and autonomous machines, robots, bots or software systems. They become special moral agents, and depending on their behavior, we can call them moral or immoral machines. They decide and act in situations where they are left to their own devices, either by following pre-defined rules or by comparing their current situations to case models, or as machines capable of learning and deriving rules. Moral machines have been known for some years, at least as simulations and prototypes. Machine ethics works closely with artificial intelligence and robotics. The term of machine morality can be used similarly to the term of artificial intelligence. Oliver Bendel has developed a graphic that illustrates the relationship between machine ethics and artificial intelligence. He presented it at conferences at Stanford University (AAAI Spring Symposia), in Fort Lauderdale (ISAIM) and Vienna (Robophilosophy) in 2018.
Fig.: The terms of machine ethics and artificial intelligence
„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/.
The book chapter „Co-robots from an Ethical Perspective“ by Oliver Bendel was published in March 2018. It is included in the book „Business Information Systems and Technology 4.0“ (Springer). The abstract: „Cooperation and collaboration robots work hand in hand with their human colleagues. This contribution focuses on the use of these robots in production. The co-robots (to use this umbrella term) are defined and classified, and application areas, examples of applications and product examples are mentioned. Against this background, a discussion on moral issues follows, both from the perspective of information and technology ethics and business ethics. Central concepts of these fields of applied ethics are referred to and transferred to the areas of application. In moral terms, the use of cooperation and collaboration robots involves both opportunities and risks. Co-robots can support workers and save them from strains and injuries, but can also displace them in certain activities or make them dependent. Machine ethics is included at the margin; it addresses whether and how to improve the decisions and actions of (partially) autonomous systems with respect to morality. Cooperation and collaboration robots are a new and interesting subject for it.“ The book can be ordered here.
Fig.: Man and robot?
„Robophilosophy 2018 – Envisioning Robots In Society: Politics, Power, And Public Space“ is the third event in the Robophilosophy Conference Series which focusses on robophilosophy, a new field of interdisciplinary applied research in philosophy, robotics, artificial intelligence and other disciplines. The main organizers are Prof. Dr. Mark Coeckelbergh, Dr. Janina Loh and Michael Funk. Plenary speakers are Joanna Bryson (Department of Computer Science, University of Bath, UK), Hiroshi Ishiguro (Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, Osaka University, Japan), Guy Standing (Basic Income Earth Network and School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK), Catelijne Muller (Rapporteur on Artificial Intelligence, European Economic and Social Committee), Robert Trappl (Head of the Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Austria), Simon Penny (Department of Art, University of California, Irvine), Raja Chatila (IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in AI and Automated Systems, Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics, Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris, France), Josef Weidenholzer (Member of the European Parliament, domains of automation and digitization) and Oliver Bendel (Institute for Information Systems, FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland). The conference will take place from 14 to 17 February 2018 in Vienna. More information via conferences.au.dk/robo-philosophy/.
Fig.: Robophilosophy in Vienna
Oliver Bendel was invited by the Green European Foundation to the second edition of the Green Salon around robotics and artificial intelligence in Vienna on the 12th of February 2018. „The Green Salon is an invitation-only event for the Green family and independent experts and thinkers from across Europe, to discuss important topics that will shape the future of the European Union. While research and industry in Europe and beyond have achieved immense progress in recent years, the public and political debate on the moral and legal implications of the use and further development of these new technologies is still in its infancy. A challenging situation, which needs to alarm as well as motivate Greens to meaningfully shape the debate on how we can make sure emerging technologies serve humans appropriately, while remaining under their full control. In particular, the impact of automation on job markets, and of new technologies in general on the very nature and future of work, are at the core of the discussion. Beyond simple adaptation discourses of mainstream media and other political families, the Green Salon aims at taking the debate further for the Greens and their partners.“ (Invitation Letter of the Green European Foundation) The Green European Foundation is a European-level political foundation funded by the European Parliament.
Fig.: To Vienna!
A special session „Formalising Robot Ethics“ takes place within the ISAIM conference in Fort Lauderdale (3 to 5 January 2018). The program is now available and can be viewed on http://isaim2018.cs.virginia.edu/program.html. „Practical Challenges in Explicit Ethical Machine Reasoning“ is a talk by Louise Dennis and Michael Fischer, „Contextual Deontic Cognitive Event Calculi for Ethically Correct Robots“ a contribution of Selmer Bringsjord, Naveen Sundar G., Bertram Malle and Matthias Scheutz. Oliver Bendel will present „Selected Prototypes of Moral Machines“. A few words from the summary: „The GOODBOT is a chatbot that responds morally adequate to problems of the users. It’s based on the Verbot engine. The LIEBOT can lie systematically, using seven different strategies. It was written in Java, whereby AIML was used. LADYBIRD is an animal-friendly robot vacuum cleaner that spares ladybirds and other insects. In this case, an annotated decision tree was translated into Java. The BESTBOT should be even better than the GOODBOT.“
Machine ethics researches the morality of semiautonomous and autonomous machines. The School of Business at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW realized a project for implementation of a prototype called GOODBOT, a novelty chatbot and a simple moral machine. One of its meta rules was it should not lie unless not lying would hurt the user. It was a stand-alone solution, not linked with other systems and not internet- or web-based. In the LIEBOT project, the mentioned meta rule was reversed. This web-based chatbot, implemented in 2016, could lie systematically. It was an example of a simple immoral machine. A follow-up project in 2018 is going to develop the BESTBOT, considering the restrictions of the GOODBOT and the opportunities of the LIEBOT. The aim is to develop a machine that can detect problems of users of all kinds and can react in an adequate way. It should have textual, auditory and visual capabilities. The paper “From GOODBOT to BESTBOT” describes the preconditions and findings of the GOODBOT project and the results of the LIEBOT project and outlines the subsequent BESTBOT project. A reflection from the perspective of information ethics is included. Oliver Bendel will present his paper in March 2018 at Stanford University (“AI and Society: Ethics, Safety and Trustworthiness in Intelligent Agents”, AAAI 2018 Spring Symposium Series).
Fig.: What will the BESTBOT look like?
Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel was invited to give a lecture at the ISAIM special session „Formalising Robot Ethics“. „The International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics is a biennial meeting that fosters interactions between mathematics, theoretical computer science, and artificial intelligence.“ (Website ISAIM) Oliver Bendel will present selected prototypes of moral and immoral machines and will discuss a project planned for 2018. The GOODBOT is a chatbot that responds morally adequate to problems of the users. It’s based on the Verbot engine. The LIEBOT can lie systematically, using seven different strategies. It was written in Java, whereby AIML was used. LADYBIRD is an animal-friendly robot vacuum cleaner that spares ladybirds and other insects. In this case, an annotated decision tree was translated into Java. The BESTBOT should be even better than the GOODBOT. Technically everything is still open. The ISAIM conference will take place from 3 to 5 January 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Further information is available at isaim2018.cs.virginia.edu/.
Fig.: What should she be able to do?
The Digital Europe Working Group Conference Robotics will take place on 8 November 2017 at the European Parliament in Brussels. The keynote address will be given by Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Society and Economy. The speakers of the first panel are Oliver Bendel (Professor of Information Systems, Information Ethics and Machine Ethics at the School of Business FHNW, via video conference), Anna Byhovskaya (policy and communications advisor, Trade Union Advisory Council of the OECD) and Malcolm James (Senior Lecturer in Accounting & Taxation, Cardiff Metropolitan University). The third panel will be moderated by Mady Delvaux (Member of the European Parliament). Speaker is Giovanni Sartor (Professor of Legal Informatics and Legal Theory at the European University Institute). The poster can be downloaded here. Further information is available at www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/events/sd-group-digital-europe-working-group-robotics.
Abb.: Das Atomium in Brüssel
Machine ethics researches the morality of semiautonomous and autonomous machines. In the year 2013, the School of Business at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW realized a project for implementation of a prototype called GOODBOT, a novelty chatbot and a simple moral machine. One of its meta rules was it should not lie unless not lying would hurt the user. It was a stand-alone solution, not linked with other systems and not internet- or web-based. In the LIEBOT project, the mentioned meta rule was reversed. This web-based chatbot, implemented in 2016, could lie systematically. It was an example of a simple immoral machine. A follow-up project in 2018 is going to develop the BESTBOT, considering the restrictions of the GOODBOT and the opportunities of the LIEBOT. The aim is to develop a machine that can detect problems of users of all kinds and can react in an adequate way. It should have textual, auditory and visual capabilities.
Fig.: The GOODBOT