The BESTBOT was developed at the School of Business FHNW from March to August 2018. Predecessor projects were GOODBOT (2013) and LIEBOT (2016). Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel has been doing research in the young discipline of machine ethics for several years. In cooperation with robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), it designs and produces moral machines. At the beginning of 2018 Bendel presented his paper “From GOODBOT to BESTBOT” at Stanford University, which laid the foundation for the BESTBOT project. David Studer programmed the chatbot in Java. Prof. Dr. Bradley Richards assisted him in technical matters. Like LIEBOT, BESTBOT is a networked system that exploits search engines and dictionaries. It analyzes the user’s text input with text-based emotion recognition software. At the same time, face recognition is used, again with emotion recognition. For example, if the user states that he is doing well but reveals something else on his face, the chatbot addresses this contradiction. It recognizes both small and big worries. Like the GOODBOT, the BESTBOT can escalate over several levels and provide a suitable emergency number. Like its predecessor, it makes it clear that it is only a machine. It is also special that it cites the source of factual allegations. The BESTBOT will be presented at conferences in 2019.
Fig.: The chatbot uses face recognition
The international workshop “Understanding AI & Us” will take place in Berlin (Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society) on 30 June 2018. It is hosted by Joanna Bryson (MIT), Janina Loh (University of Vienna), Stefan Ullrich (Weizenbaum Institute Berlin) and Christian Djeffal (IoT and Government, Berlin). Birgit Beck, Oliver Bendel and Pak-Hang Wong are invited to the panel on the ethical challenges of artificial intelligence. The aim of the workshop is to bring together experts from the field of research reflecting on AI. The event is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation (VolkswagenStiftung). The project “Understanding AI & Us” furthers and deepens the understanding of artificial intelligence (AI) in an interdisciplinary way. “This is done in order to improve the ways in which AI-systems are invented, designed, developed, and criticised.” (Invitation letter) “In order to achieve this, we form a group that merges different abilities, competences and methods. The aim is to provide space for innovative and out-of-the-box-thinking that would be difficult to pursue in ordinary academic discourse in our respective disciplines. We are seeking ways to merge different disciplinary epistemological standpoints in order to increase our understanding of the development of AI and its impact upon society.” (Invitation letter)
Fig.: The Humboldt Box in Berlin
“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. Oliver Bendel 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.: A love doll
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. To achieve this, it will use approaches of face recognition. 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 presented his paper on 27 March 2018 at Stanford University (“AI and Society: Ethics, Safety and Trustworthiness in Intelligent Agents”, AAAI 2018 Spring Symposium Series). The PDF is available here.
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.: The cover of the book (photo: Springer)
The tentative schedule of AAAI 2018 Spring Symposium on AI and Society at Stanford University (26 – 28 March 2018) has been published. On Tuesday Emma Brunskill from Stanford University, Philip C. Jackson (“Toward Beneficial Human-Level AI … and Beyond”) and Andrew Williams (“The Potential Social Impact of the Artificial Intelligence Divide”) will give a lecture. Oliver Bendel will have two talks, one on “The Uncanny Return of Physiognomy” and one on “From GOODBOT to BESTBOT”. From the description on the website: “Artificial Intelligence has become a major player in today’s society and that has inevitably generated a proliferation of thoughts and sentiments on several of the related issues. Many, for example, have felt the need to voice, in different ways and through different channels, their concerns on: possible undesirable outcomes caused by artificial agents, the morality of their use in specific sectors, such as the military, and the impact they will have on the labor market. The goal of this symposium is to gather a diverse group of researchers from many disciplines and to ignite a scientific discussion on this topic.” (AAAI website)
Fig.: On the campus of Stanford University
Face recognition is the automated recognition of a face or the automated identification, measuring and description of features of a face. In the 21st century, it is increasingly attempted to connect to the pseudoscience of physiognomy, which has its origins in ancient times. From the appearance of persons, a conclusion is drawn to their inner self, and attempts are made to identify character traits, personality traits and temperament, or political and sexual orientation. Biometrics plays a role in this concept. It was founded in the eighteenth century, when physiognomy under the lead of Johann Caspar Lavater had its dubious climax. In the paper “The Uncanny Return of Physiognomy”, the basic principles of this topic are elaborated; selected projects from research and practice are presented and, from an ethical perspective, the possibilities of face recognition are subjected to fundamental critique in this context, including the above examples. 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.: The uncanny return of physiognomy
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.
Fig.: A detail of the poster
“Autonome Waffen, künstliche Intelligenz, Algorithmen: In einer digitalisierten Welt stellen sich zahlreiche ethische Fragen. Wo genau liegen die Problemfelder? Wie sollen wir als Gesellschaft damit umgehen? Und wo muss sogar Umdenken stattfinden? Auf diese Fragen wollen die insgesamt 20 Beiträge ausgewählter Expertinnen und Experten erste Antworten geben und einen Diskurs entfachen, der uns noch viele Jahre beschäftigen wird. Die Anthologie wird am 25. Oktober 2017 im Verlag iRights.Media erscheinen und kann bereits jetzt als Print auf iRights.Media sowie als e-Book auf Amazon und iTunes vorbestellt werden.” So die Ankündigung auf der Website von iRights.Media zum neuen Buch mit dem Titel “3TH1CS”. Nach einem Vorwort der Herausgeber (“Die Neuerfindung der Ethik ist unsere Aufgabe!”) und einem Interview mit Rafael Capurro (“Digitalisierung als ethische Herausforderung”) folgen u.a. Beiträge von Luciano Floridi (“Die Mangroven-Gesellschaft”), Oliver Bendel (“Sexroboter und Robotersex aus Sicht der Ethik”), Susan Leigh Anderson und Michael Anderson (“Ethische Roboter für die Altenpflege”), Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer (“Terminator-Ethik: Sollten Killerroboter verboten werden?”) und Hu Yong (“Das Internet ist nicht genderneutral”). Zum Abschluss gibt es ein Interview mit Kate Darling (“Von Robotern und Menschen – wo liegt die wahre Gefahr?”). Weitere Informationen über irights-lab.de/3th1cs-ethik-in-der-digitalen-welt/.
Abb.: Das neue Buch zu Informations-, Roboter- und Maschinenethik
Inverse is an American online magazine, launched by Dave Nemetz, co-founder of Bleacher Report. It is based in San Francisco, California. According to the New York Observer, Inverse “aims to capture the millennial dude market with quirky takes on subjects like tech, games (video and board) and space” (Observer, October 20, 2015). Gabe Bergado asked the ethicist Oliver Bendel about sex robots and love dolls. One issue was: “Why are more companies and people becoming more interested in sex robots?” The reply to it: “Companies want to earn money. But I don’t think that this is a big market. Sex robots will remain a niche product. But, of course, sex toys are popular, und together with virtual and mixed reality, this could be the biggest thing next year. Some people and media are sensation-seeking. That’s why they are interested in sex robots and in men and women who fall in love with machines.” Another question was: “How should governments be reacting to the development of sex robots? Should there be regulations?” The answer is short and clear again: “Sex robots will remain a niche product, and I don’t think there will be many needs for regulation. Adults can do whatever they want to do, provided that they do not affect or disturb others in extreme ways. But I’m against child-like robots in brothels. Perhaps this should be banned.” The ethicist concluded with respect to sex robots: “It is interesting for a philosopher to research them and our relationship with them.” The final version of the interview was published in the article “Sex Robots Can’t Automate Emotional Intimacy” (January 28, 2017) which is available via www.inverse.com/article/27001-sex-robots-virtual-reality-engineering-oliver-mendel-interview.
Fig.: This could be a love doll
The swissnexDay’16 will take place at the University of Basel (December 15, 2016). The second break-out session “Care-Robots – an elderly’s best friend?” starts shortly after 4 pm. An extract from the description: “Ageing societies and a lack of qualified caregivers are challenging our current system and innovative solutions are strongly needed. Japan, with 20% of its population being over 65 years, is leading the development of robotic solutions. In this session, a diverse panel will discuss the current landscape in Japan and draw comparison to the situation in Switzerland. We will also discuss ethical applications and different perception of the relationship between human + robots.” (Website swissnex) Kyoko Suzuki (Deputy Head, S&T Tokyo), Christiana Tsiourti (University of Geneva) and Christine Fahlberg (School of Business FHNW, master student of Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel) will present their current research and discuss about robots in healthcare. Christine Fahlberg is focussing on the use of nursing robots from the perspective of ethics. Keynote speakers of the swissnexDay’16 are Prof. Dr. Andrea Schenker-Wicki (President, University of Basel), Dr. med. Guy Morin (President of the Executive Council of the Canton of Basel-Stadt) and State Secretary Mauro Dell’Ambrogio (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation). Further information via www.swissnex.org/news/swissnexdays/.
Fig.: Will humans be replaced in healthcare?
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.
Abb.: Es entstehen immer mehr hybride Wesen und Vorgänge
Jared Bielby announced in these days that “Information Cultures in the Digital Age: A Festschrift in Honor of Rafael Capurro” is complete “and set to be published by Springer in July 2016″ (Information via ICIE mailing list). “Matt Kelly and I have had the privilege of working with some of the most forward thinking scholars of the field during our time as editors for this very important volume on information culture and practice.” (Information via ICIE mailing list) The Co-chair of the International Center for Information Ethics declared: “For several decades Rafael Capurro has been at the forefront of defining the relationship between information and modernity through both phenomenological and ethical formulations. In exploring both of these themes Capurro has re-vivified the transcultural and intercultural expressions of how we bring an understanding of information to bear on scientific knowledge production and intermediation. Capurro has long stressed the need to look deeply into how we contextualize the information problems that scientific society creates for us and to re-incorporate a pragmatic dimension into our response that provides a balance to the cognitive turn in information science.” (Information via ICIE mailing list) With contributions from 35 scholars from 15 countries, the book “focuses on the culture and philosophy of information, information ethics, the relationship of information to message, the historic and semiotic understanding of information, the relationship of information to power and the future of information education” (Information via ICIE mailing list). Further information at www.infoculturesbook.com.
Fig.: Selfies belong to the digital age
Der Artikel “Die Industrie 4.0 aus ethischer Sicht” erscheint am 23. Juli 2015 in der Zeitschrift HMD Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik, 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.
Abb.: Ihr Verhalten kann Einfluss auf die Produktion haben
Die 2nd European TA Conference, die zweite internationale Tagung zur Technologiefolgenabschätzung, findet vom 25. bis zum 27. Februar 2015 in Berlin statt. Der Call for Papers wurde in diesen Tagen veröffentlicht. Die Session “Mobilizing TA for Responsible Innovation – Philosophies, Ethics and Stakeholders” wird von Harro van Lente, Tsjalling Swierstra und Pierre Benoit Joly von der Maastricht University organisiert. Im Call heißt es: “The notion of ‘responsible innovation’ has become fashionable amongst policy makers and knowledge institutes. In the new Horizon 2020 calls of the European Union ‘responsible research and innovation’ (RRI) figures prominently as a condition and an aim in itself. Arguably, the rise of RRI will show considerable overlap with the aims, philosophies and practices of TA. The overlap, though, will not be perfect and this raises questions about both RRI and TA.” Weitere Informationen sind über berlinconference.pacitaproject.eu/ verfügbar.
Am 15. März 2013 trägt Oliver Bendel bei der European TA Conference in Prag zum Thema “Towards a Machine Ethics” vor. Das Abstract, das im Frühjahr im Tagungsband veröffentlicht wird, hebt mit den Worten an: “There is an increasing use of autonomous machines such as agents, chatbots, algorithmic trading computers, robots of different stripes and unmanned ground or air vehicles. They populate the modern world like legendary figures and artificial creatures in Greek mythology – with the main difference being that they are real in the narrow sense of the word. Some are only partially autonomous (acting under human command) while others are completely autonomous within their area of action. A genuinely autonomous machine should be able to act in a moral way, able to make decisions that are good for humans, animals and the environment. But what does it mean for machines to behave morally? Should they learn moral rules? Should they evaluate the consequences of their acts? Or should they become a virtuous character, following Aristotle? How is it possible to implement the classical normative models of ethics and is there a need for new ones?” Der erste, zweite und dritte Abschnitt des Beitrags wird knapp zusammengefasst; dann wird auf den vierten eingegangen: “Fourthly, the paper tries to answer the question if and how it is possible to implement the classical normative models of ethics and which models should be preferred. Seven important normative approaches are described and estimated relating to their suitability for machine processing. Then the focus shifts to duty-based ethics, ethics of responsibility and virtue ethics that seem to be serious candidates. With a short technical analysis it can be shown that they fit to machine processing, apart from some limitations. The most promising approach may be the combination of the selected normative models. It is not only similar in the ‘normal’ human ethics, but also an opportunity to balance out weaknesses of the autonomous machines and to allow them alternatives. In addition, other methods like orientation on reference persons and social media evaluation could be used.” Am Ende werden Wichtigkeit und Schwierigkeit des jungen Forschungsgebiets der Maschinenethik gleichermaßen betont und persönliche und allgemeine Einschätzungen gegeben.