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.
Fig.: Robophilosophy in Vienna
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.
Fig.: An animal-friendly vehicle?
„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.
Fig.: Empirical research is necessary
„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/.
Bei der internationalen Konferenz „Robophilosophy“, die seit 14. Februar 2018 an der Universität Wien stattfindet, treffen sich Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler aus der ganzen Welt. Die Kameras waren in den ersten zwei Tagen vor allem auf den Keynote-Speaker Hiroshi Ishiguro (Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, Osaka University, Japan) gerichtet, den im Moment vielleicht berühmtesten Robotiker. Bei der Konferenz verblüffte er das Publikum mit der kühnen Behauptung, seine humanoiden Roboter (sein Doppelgänger eingeschlossen) befänden sich nicht mehr im Uncanny Valley. Weitere Keynote-Speaker waren Guy Standing (Basic Income Earth Network and School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK) und Oliver Bendel (Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik, Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW, Schweiz). Oliver Bendel brachte eine Roboterquote für den öffentlichen Raum ins Spiel. Am 17. Februar, am letzten Konferenztag, referiert Joanna Bryson (Department of Computer Science, University of Bath, UK). Auch bei den Vorträgen und Workshops finden sich bekannte Namen, etwa Charles M. Ess (UiO Department of Media and Communication, Oslo) und Catrin Misselhorn (Institut für Philosophie, Universität Stuttgart). Veranstalter sind Mark Coeckelbergh und Janina Loh (Institut für Philosophie, Universität Wien).
„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
The conference „Robophilosophy 2018 – Envisioning Robots In Society: Politics, Power, And Public Space“ will take place in Vienna (February 14 – 17, 2018). According to the website, it has three main aims; it shall present interdisciplinary humanities research „in and on social robotics that can inform policy making and political agendas, critically and constructively“, investigate „how academia and the private sector can work hand in hand to assess benefits and risks of future production formats and employment conditions“ and explore how research in the humanities, including art and art research, in the social and human sciences, „can contribute to imagining and envisioning the potentials of future social interactions in the public space“ (Website Robophilosophy). Plenary speakers are Joanna Bryson (Department of Computer Science, University of Bath, UK), Alan Winfield (FET – Engineering, Design and Mathematics, University of the West of England, UK) and Catelijne Muller (Rapporteur on Artificial Intelligence, European Economic and Social Committee). Deadline for submission of abstracts for papers and posters is October 31. More information via conferences.au.dk/robo-philosophy/.
Fig.: Reflexions on robots