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Developing Ethics for Eldercare Robots

Prof. Dr. Susan L. Anderson, one of the most famous machine ethicists in the world, attended the 23rd Berlin Colloquium. She summarized her talk („Developing Ethics for Eldercare Robots“) in the brochure of the event with regard to the technology of care robots as follows: „Ideally, we would like eldercare robots to be able make correct ethical decisions on their own. This poses many challenges for machine ethicists. There are those who claim that ethics cannot be computed, that ethics is subjective, and/or that it makes no sense to speak of a robot as being an ethical agent. I argue to the contrary, maintaining that it is possible to represent numerically the ethical dilemmas with which an eldercare robot might be presented; and the robot could be given an ethical principle, derived from cases where ethicists agree as to the correct answer, to compute which of the possible actions it could perform at a given moment in time is the best one. It can also explain why it did what it did, if challenged. The robot will not be a full ethical agent, lacking some qualities of human agents; but it is all we need, and even desire.“ Susan L. Anderson had been invited by Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel, who is himself a machine ethicist.

Fig.: Susan L. Anderson together with Michael Anderson (Photo: Daimler and Benz Foundation)