Service robots are becoming ever more pervasive in society-at-large. They are present in our apartments and our streets. They are found in hotels, hospitals, and care homes, in shopping malls, and on company grounds. In doing so, various challenges arise. Service robots consume energy, they take up space in ever more crowded cities, sometimes leading us to collide with them and stumble over them. They monitor us, they communicate with us and retain our secrets on their data drives. In relation to this, they can be hacked, kidnapped and abused. The first section of the article “Service Robots from the Perspectives of Information and Machine Ethics” by Oliver Bendel presents different types of service robots – like security, transport, therapy, and care robots – and discusses the moral implications that arise from their existence. Information ethics and machine ethics will form the basis for interrogating these moral implications. The second section discusses the draft for a patient declaration, by which people can determine whether and how they want to be treated and cared for by a robot. The article is part of the new book “Envisioning Robots in Society – Power, Politics, and Public Space“ that reproduces the talks of the Robophilosophy 2018 conference in Vienna (IOS Press, Amsterdam 2018).
Fig.: A transport robot in Switzerland
The University of Potsdam dedicates its current research to voices. The scientists – among them Dr. Yuefang Zhou and Katharina Kühne – are studying the first impression during communication. The survey website says: “The current study will last approximately 20 minutes. You will be asked some questions about the voice you hear. Please answer them honestly and spontaneously. There are no right or wrong answers; we are interested in your subjective perception. Just choose one out of the suggested alternatives.” Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel, FHNW School of Business, has produced three of the samples and participates in the project. “Your responses will be treated confidentially and your anonymity will be ensured. Your responses cannot be identified and related to you as an individual, if you choose to leave your e-mail address at the end of the study this cannot be linked back to your responses. All responses will be compiled together and analysed as a group.” The questionnaire can be accessed via www.soscisurvey.de/impress/.
Fig.: What is the first impression during communication?
CONVERSATIONS 2018 was a cross-disciplinary workshop to advance chatbot research. It took place on 26 October in St. Petersburg, at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. “Chatbots enable users to interact with digital services in natural language, through text or voice dialogue. Customer service and digital assistants are applications areas where chatbots already have substantial impact. Also in other application areas, such as health and fitness, education, and information services, a similar impact is foreseen.” (Website Workshop) The event was open to all scientists and practitioners with an interest in chatbot research and design. Among the organizers were experts such as Asbjørn Følstad, SINTEF (Norway), and Symeon Papadopoulos, Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (Greece). Members of the program committee were among others Adam Tsakalidis, University of Warwick (UK), Despoina Chatzakou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), Eleni Metheniti, Saarland University (Germany), Frank Dignum, Utrecht University (Netherlands), and Oliver Bendel, School of Business FHNW (Switzerland). Further information on conversations2018.wordpress.com/.
Fig.: A bridge in St. Petersburg
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
Since the late 1960s, “the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) has been known worldwide as the longest-standing working scientific conferences in Information Technology Management” (Website HICSS). In 2019, one of the tracks is dedicated to the health sector. “Addressing the complexities of today’s healthcare issues requires more than one perspective. The Information Technology in Healthcare Track serves as a forum at which healthcare, computer science, and information systems professionals can come together to discuss issues related to the application of information technology in healthcare. In bringing technical, behavioral, clinical, and managerial perspectives together, this track provides a unique opportunity to generate new insights into healthcare problems and solutions.” (Website HICSS) The track includes the minitrack “Security and Privacy Challenges for Healthcare”: “Digitizing healthcare services can provide many new benefits and opportunities. However, it can also introduce new research challenges in terms of protecting the security and privacy security of patient data and electronic health records.” (Website HICSS) In the year 2019, the conference will take place on the island of Maui. Paper submission deadline is 15 June 2018, 11:59 pm HST. Further information is available on the HICSS website.
Fig.: On the island of Maui
“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
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 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.
Fig.: Reading faces
According to the website, the Health Ethics and Policy Lab is a multidisciplinary research group established in 2017 at the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at ETH Zurich. The work focuses on the ethical, legal, societal, and policy implications of artificial intelligence, precision medicine, biotechnology, and digital health. The Health Ethics and Policy Lab is now looking for a postdoctoral researcher to work with Prof. Prof. Dr. Effy Vayena and her team “on a research project examining the legal and ethical challenges related to data sharing in digital health” (Website). “In particular, the project will explore the applicability of blockchain technology to medical data sharing and its impact on privacy and security. The research project is funded within the Personalized Health and Related Technologies (PHRT) scheme, a strategic focus area of the ETH Domain.” (Website) More information and application via apply.refline.ch/845721/6202/pub/2/index.html.
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
In a few days the book “Love and Sex with Robots”, edited by David Levy and Adrian D. Cheok, will be published. From the information on the Springer website: “This book constitutes the refereed proceedings of the Third International Conference on Love and Sex with Robots, LSR 2017, held in December 2017, in London, UK. The 12 revised papers presented together with 2 keynotes were carefully reviewed and selected from a total of 83 submissions. One of the biggest challenges of the Love and Sex with Robots conference is to engage a wider scientific community in the discussions of the multifaceted topic, which has only recently established itself as an academic research topic within, but not limited to, the disciplines of artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, robotics, biomedical science and robot ethics etc.” Included are contributions by Oliver Bendel (“SSML for Sex Robots”), Sophie Wennerscheid (“Posthuman desire in robotics and science fiction”) and Dr. Rebekah Rousi (“Lying cheating robots – robots and infidelity”). The book can be pre-ordered via www.springer.com/de/book/9783319763682. Already on the market is the book with the same title, which contains the contributions of the LSR 2016 at Goldsmiths.
Fig.: The cover of the new book (photo: Springer)
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
“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.: Creating artificial beings
“Exciting times with great opportunities exist right around the corner. Digital labor, the term given to the continuum of technologies ranging from automating swivel-chair activities such as cutting and pasting content from one system to another right up to cognitive solutions that can think, learn and reason like humans, is no longer a consideration but a mandate.” These records are taken from the preface of KPMG’s new report “Clarity on Digital Labor”. “Swiss politics in the digital age” on pages 20 – 23 is an interview with Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr, “Nurturing leaders in the digital economy” an article by Nitin Manoharan, Philip Morris International. Ramona Delco did the interview with Oliver Bendel, published under the title “Digital labor as a co-working opportunity”. The information and machine ethicist living in Zurich has been dealing with semi-automated, highly and fully automated driving, autonomous cars, care and therapy robots, photo drones and chatbots for years. Recently, he has turned more and more to the use of cooperation and collaboration robots. The report can be downloaded here.
Abb.: Pepper belauscht Klein und Bendel (Foto: Daimler und Benz Stiftung/Dorn)
Adrian David Cheok is director of the Mixed Reality Lab which “aims to push the boundaries of research into interactive new media technologies through the combination of technology, art, and creativity” (Website Mixed Reality Lab). He is editor of several academic journals and of the book “Love and Sex with Robots” (together with Kate Devlin and David Levy) which was published in 2017. In a current press release, he presents an electric smell machine for internet and virtual smell. “Here we are excited to introduce the world’s ﬁrst computer controlled digital device developed to stimulate olfactory receptor neurons with the aim of producing smell sensations purely using electrical pulses. Using this device, now we can easily stimulate the various areas of nasal cavity with different kinds of electric pulses. During the initial user experiments, some participants experienced smell sensations including ﬂoral, fruity, chemical, and woody. In addition, we have observed a difference in the ability of smelling odorants before and after the electrical stimulation. These results suggest that this technology could be enhanced to artiﬁcially create and modify smell sensations. By conducting more experiments with human subjects, we are expecting to uncover the patterns of electrical stimulations, that can effectively generate, modify, and recall smell sensations. This invention can lead to internet and virtual reality digital smell.” (Press Release, 10 August 2017) More via imagineeringinstitute.org/press-release-electric-smell-machine-for-internet-virtual-smell/.
Fig.: Towards the digital smell
The synthetization of voices, or speech synthesis, has been an object of interest for centuries. It is mostly realized with a text-to-speech system (TTS), an automaton that interprets and reads aloud. This system refers to text available for instance on a website or in a book, or entered via popup menu on the website. Today, just a few minutes of samples are enough in order to be able to imitate a speaker convincingly in all kinds of statements. The article “The Synthetization of Human Voices” by Oliver Bendel (published on 26 July 2017) abstracts from actual products and actual technological realization. Rather, after a short historical outline of the synthetization of voices, exemplary applications of this kind of technology are gathered for promoting the development, and potential applications are discussed critically in order to be able to limit them if necessary. The ethical and legal challenges should not be underestimated, in particular with regard to informational and personal autonomy and the trustworthiness of media. The article can be viewed via rdcu.be/uvxm.
Fig.: What will we hear in the future?
There are more and more service robots in “open” spaces, safety and surveillance robots, transport and delivery robots, information and navigation robots and entertainment and toy robots. They are on their way in places that many of us share, and that are public. This poses various challenges. The article “Service Robots in Public Spaces: Ethical and Sociological Considerations” by Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel (School of Business, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW) addresses these challenges – from the moral and social points of view – and proposes solutions, among other things on the ethical, technical and organizational level, as well as offering assistance for roboticists and for legislative and political instances. The article was published in Telepolis (25 June 2017). It is Oliver Bendel’s twelfth contribution since 2008 in Germany’s oldest online magazine (founded in 1996).
Fig.: The K5 robot can be seen in Stanford
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) supports and finances the thematic research programme Responsible Innovation (NWO-MVI). According to the responsible person, its aim is to carry out early phase research into ethical and societal issues related to innovation so that these can be taken into account during the design process. The input may come from information ethics, technology ethics and machine ethics or from other suitable disciplines. Researchers from the humanities, the technological and medical sciences and the social sciences can submit joint proposals, whereby a collaboration with partners from the private and public sector is possible and desirable. Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW) was invited in summer 2016 to join the programme’s international advisory board which is composed of approximately ten members and which plays an important role in assessing the submitted proposals in terms of scientific quality and societal relevance. The decisions have been taken in December 2016. More information via www.nwo.nl.
Fig.: The meetings were held in Amsterdam
The Oxford Internet Institute is looking for a full-time postdoctoral researcher who will work on the ethical challenges posed by the internet of things, with a focus on privacy, trust, and personal identity. The researcher “will review the literature, elaborate new analyses and hypotheses, and publish the results, in collaboration with Professor Floridi” (Website Oxford Internet Institute). “The selected candidate will also contribute to the dissemination of the findings through presentations, the organisation of workshops, participation into conferences, and social media.” (Website Oxford Internet Institute) According to the website of the Oxford Internet Institute, candidates who have completed a doctorate in philosophy or any other relevant discipline with a strong component of ethics are welcome. The position “is available immediately for 24 months in the first instance, with the possibility of renewal thereafter, funding permitting” (Website Oxford Internet Institute). Only applications received before 12:00 midday GMT on November 30, 2016 will be considered. Further information via https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/new-positions/.
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
Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel from the School of Business FHNW will act as an external reviewer for The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO, the Dutch Research Council) and will assess the merits of a research proposal submitted under the NWO Responsible Innovation programme. The aim of this multidisciplinary programme is to explore the ethical and societal issues surrounding innovations like autonomous cars, electronic patient files and the smart energy meter. The NWO website declares: „Highly promising innovations can fail because ethical and societal questions are not taken into account in good time. … In the case of responsible innovation possible ethical and societal consequences of the innovation are already involved at an early stage. For this NWO has developed the Responsible Innovation research programme.“ (Website NWO) A new registration round started in June 2016. „The programme is for joint projects of researchers engaged in the humanities, science and the social and behavioural sciences. Together with companies and civil society organisations, they identify at the development stage of innovations the potential ethical and societal issues that may arise. Addressing these issues early on will increase support among stakeholders and also the likelihood of successful innovations.“ (Website NWO) More information via www.nwo.nl.
Fig.: At the Universiteit Leiden