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
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
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
EU rules for the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, to settle issues such as compliance with ethical standards and liability for accidents involving self-driving cars, should be put forward by the EU Commission, urged the Legal Affairs Committee on January 12, 2017. The media has reported on this in television, radio and newspapers. According to the Parliament’s website, rapporteur Mady Delvaux said: „A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics. In order to address this reality and to ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework.“ (Website European Parliament) The members of the European Parliament push „the Commission to consider creating a European agency for robotics and artificial intelligence to supply public authorities with technical, ethical and regulatory expertise“ (Website European Parliament). „They also propose a voluntary ethical conduct code to regulate who would be accountable for the social, environmental and human health impacts of robotics and ensure that they operate in accordance with legal, safety and ethical standards.“ (Website European Parliament) To be more concrete, roboticists could include „kill“ switches so that robots can be turned off in emergencies. This poses questions about, for example, which robots should be enhanced, and which persons should be able to „kill“ them. More information via www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170110IPR57613/robots-legal-affairs-committee-calls-for-eu-wide-rules.
Fig.: A robot reads the ethical conduct code
„Artificial intelligence (AI) raises a number of ethical and political challenges in the present and near term, with applications such as driverless cars and search engines and potential issues ranging from job disruption to privacy violations. Over a longer term, if AI becomes as or more intelligent than humans, other governance issues such as safety and control may increase in importance. What policy approaches make sense across different issues and timeframes?“ (Website European Parliament) These are the initial words of a description of the workshop „Robotics and Artificial Intelligence – Ethical Issues and Regulatory approach“, organised by the Policy Department of the European Parliament. The first part „will focus on basic ethical and policy questions raised by the development of robotics and AI on the basis of presentations by experts“ (Website European Parliament). According to the description, this will be followed by a discussion with national parliamentarians on what the legislator should do and on which level, with the European Parliament’s draft legislative initiative report on „Civil Law Rules on Robotics“ as a basis. Further information can be found on the European Parliament’s website (www.europarl.europa.eu).
Prior to the hearing in the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany on 22 June 2016 from 4 – 6 pm, the contracted experts had sent their written comments on ethical and legal issues with respect to the use of robots and artificial intelligence. The video for the hearing can be accessed via www.bundestag.de/dokumente/textarchiv/2016/kw25-pa-digitale-agenda/427996. The documents of Oliver Bendel (School of Business FHNW), Eric Hilgendorf (University of Würzburg), Norbert Elkman (Fraunhofer IPK) and Ryan Calo (University of Washington) were published in July on the website of the German Bundestag. Answering the question „Apart from legal questions, for example concerning responsibility and liability, where will ethical questions, in particular, also arise with regard to the use of artificial intelligence or as a result of the aggregation of information and algorithms?“ the US scientist explained: „Robots and artificial intelligence raise just as many ethical questions as legal ones. We might ask, for instance, what sorts of activities we can ethically outsource to machines. Does Germany want to be a society that relegates the use of force, the education of children, or eldercare to robots? There are also serious challenges around the use of artificial intelligence to make material decisions about citizens in terms of minimizing bias and providing for transparency and accountability – issues already recognized to an extent by the EU Data Directive.“ (Website German Bundestag) All documents (most of them in German) are available via www.bundestag.de/bundestag/ausschuesse18/a23/anhoerungen/fachgespraech/428268.
Der Artikel „Die Industrie 4.0 aus ethischer Sicht“ ist am 23. Juli 2015 in der Zeitschrift HMD – Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik erschienen, als „Online-First“-Artikel auf SpringerLink. Die deutsche Zusammenfassung: „Der vorliegende Beitrag arbeitet die wesentlichen Merkmale der Industrie 4.0 heraus und setzt sie ins Verhältnis zur Ethik. Es interessieren vor allem Bereichsethiken wie Informations-, Technik- und Wirtschaftsethik. Am Rande wird auf die Maschinenethik eingegangen, im Zusammenhang mit der sozialen Robotik. Es zeigt sich, dass die Industrie 4.0 neben ihren Chancen, die u. a. ökonomische und technische Aspekte betreffen, auch Risiken beinhaltet, denen rechtzeitig in Wort und Tat begegnet werden muss.“ Das englische Abstract: „This article highlights the essential features of the industry 4.0 and puts them in relation to ethics. Of special interest are the fields of applied ethics such as information, technology and business ethics. Machine ethics is mentioned in passing in connection with social robotics. It is evident that the industry 4.0 in addition to opportunities, affecting among other things economic and technical aspects, includes also risks which must be addressed in word and deed in a timely manner.“ Weitere Informationen über link.springer.com/article/10.1365/s40702-015-0163-z.
Am 14. Februar 2014 startet der MOOC „Autonomous Mobile Robots: Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robots – basic concepts and algorithms for locomotion, perception, and intelligent navigation“. In der Beschreibung auf der Website heißt es: „Robots are rapidly evolving from factory workhorses, which are physically bound to their work-cells, to increasingly complex machines capable of performing challenging tasks in our daily environment. The objective of this course is to provide the basic concepts and algorithms required to develop mobile robots that act autonomously in complex environments. The main emphasis is put on mobile robot locomotion and kinematics, environment perception, probabilistic map based localization and mapping, and motion planning.“ Der Kurs wird u.a. von Prof. Dr. Roland Siegwart, Dr. Paul Furgale und Dr. Margarita Chli geleitet. Er dauert 15 Wochen, bei einer Arbeitsbelastung von fünf Stunden pro Woche. Ob auch auf Maschinen- oder Roboterethik eingegangen wird, ist nicht bekannt.