Schlagworte: Information Ethics

The Uncanny Return of Physiognomy

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 Conference in Vienna

“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

Fig.: Creating artificial beings

Clarity on Digital Labor

“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)

Electric Smell Machine

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

Fig.: Towards the digital smell

The Synthetization of Human Voices

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

Fig.: What will we hear in the future?

Robots in Public Spaces

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

New Members of Dutch Advisory Board

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

Fig.: The meetings were held in Amsterdam

Researcher in Ethics of Data and Algorithms

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

Comments on Ethical and Legal Issues

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 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

Abb.: Es entstehen immer mehr hybride Wesen und Vorgänge

NWO Responsible Innovation Programme

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

Fig.: At the Universiteit Leiden

Information Cultures in the Digital Age

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

Fig.: Selfies belong to the digital age

Cyber-Human Systems

In these days, the Hasler Foundation presents the new research program “Cyber-Human Systems”, with a budget of 5 millions Swiss francs. Some information from the website: “Computing plays an ever increasing role in all aspects of our life. As a consequence, society and information technology continuously interact and influence each other in a complex process. In this context, cyber-human system research investigates the increasingly coupled relationship between humans and computing with the broad goal of advancing human capabilities. Novel models, methods, theories and technological innovations in information technology are developed to increase our understanding of this new class of computing systems and to exploit their large economical and societal potential.” (Website Hasler) The text continues: “Research in cyber-human systems addresses specifically all aspects close to the interface between humans and information technology. It is concerned with novel computing platforms such as wearable, textile-integrated and mobile devices or even person-embedded sensors and computers. The research also explores systems that interact with users through multiple modalities such as new interaction techniques, computer displays and even brain-machine interfaces. Algorithmic aspects in cyber-human systems concentrate on local data processing in smart devices at the network edge rather than sending all data to the cloud for processing.” According to a press release, research subjects include interfaces between digital and human world, computing like machine learning at the edge and analysis of economic and societal consequences. More information via

Fig.: A cyborg girl

Commercial Drones in Switzerland

Commercial drones can be used for the transport of components and the good delivering as well as for the monitoring of consumers. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) often come in combination with cameras and other equipment and are spies in the form of high-tech products. Sometimes, they drop out of the sky and hurt people. In Zurich, private drones seem to be a big problem for safety and security, and the laws have been tightened and improved. Remote-controlled commercial drones shall have cameras, gripper arms or a transportation space. In a current project, three master students of the School of Business (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW) try to answer the following questions: What kinds of drones are available for commercial purposes? In which ways these UAV can be used? What are the technical challenges and possibilities? What are the problems from the perspective of information ethics? What are the general challenges in Switzerland? The results are expected by the end of summer 2016. Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel is the contact for all questions concerning the research project and possible follow-up activities.

Fig.: A drone in the air

Die 4. Revolution

Luciano Floridi ist Professor für Philosophie und Informationsethik an der Universität Oxford. Sechs Jahre lang hatte er den “UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics” inne. Zurzeit ist er Mitglied des Expertenrats, der Google bei der Umsetzung des Rechts auf Vergessenwerden berät. Dieses, auch (eher missverständlich) Recht auf Vergessen genannt, steht in einem engen Zusammenhang mit der informationellen Autonomie. 2013 erschien “The Ethics of Information” (Oxford University Press), 2014 “The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality” im selben Verlag. Suhrkamp wird dieses Buch im Oktober 2015 unter dem Titel “Die 4. Revolution: Wie die Infosphäre unser Leben verändert” auf den Markt bringen. In der schwer verständlichen Produktbeschreibung ist von Menschen die Rede, die vorgeschichtlich, geschichtlich und hypergeschichtlich leben, letztere damit “in Gesellschaften und Lebenswelten, wo die IKT und ihre Möglichkeiten der Datenverarbeitung nicht bloß wichtige, sondern essenzielle Voraussetzungen für die Erhaltung und weitere Förderung des Wohlstands aller und jedes Einzelnen sowie der gedeihlichen Entwicklung insgesamt sind” (Buchinformation Suhrkamp).

Abb.: Evolution und Revolution

Call for Papers zu “Ethics of Big Data”

Die Zeitschrift International Review of Information Ethics hat ihren Call for Papers zu “Ethics of Big Data” veröffentlicht. Darin heißt es: “This issue of IRIE attempts to explore the political, social, and ethical dimensions of big data.” (Website IRIE) Mögliche Themen sind u.a. “Big data and emerging regimes of mass surveillance”, “Big data and mass marketing”, “Big data and mass communication”, “Big data and counter-terrorism, policing and national security” und “Online privacy”. Gastherausgeber sind Prof. Dr. Klaus Wiegerling, Dr. Michael Nerukar und Christian Wadephul vom Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung und Systemanalyse (ITAS) am Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT). An Michael Nerukar können auch Fragen gerichtet werden ( Die Deadline für Extended Abstracts ist der 30. September 2015. Weitere Informationen über

Die Industrie 4.0 aus ethischer Sicht

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

Abb.: Ihr Verhalten kann Einfluss auf die Produktion haben

Assistenzsysteme helfen Tieren

Am 9. Oktober 2014 ist der Artikel “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Animals” von Oliver Bendel in der Zeitschrift Künstliche Intelligenz erschienen. Im Abstract heißt es: “Advanced driver assistance systems are widely used. Some support and inform the driver. Others relieve him or her of certain tasks – and transform the human-guided system into a semi-autonomous one. For some years also fully autonomous systems have been on the roads, so-called self-driving cars, as prototypes of companies and within research projects. From the perspective of ethics – both of the special fields of ethics like animal ethics, information ethics and technology ethics and of machine ethics which can be understood as a counterpart to human ethics – advanced driver assistance systems raise various questions. The aim of this paper is to derive suggestions from animal ethics and other disciplines for the improvement and development of the systems. The basis are literature analysis and own classifications and considerations. The result is that there are many possibilities to expand existing systems and to develop new functions in the context with the aim to reduce the number of animal victims.” Der Artikel kann über bezogen werden.

Abb.: Die Katze unter dem Auto

Robot Car

Der Robot Car findet seinen Weg. Er hupt und weicht aus. Er bleibt stehen, neugierig, verspielt. Vor einem Kind oder einer Kuh. Er verhandelt mit anderen Fahrzeugen, wenn es um die Vorfahrt geht oder einen Unfall gegeben hat, er schickt Nachrichten an die Polizei, die Werkstatt und den Hersteller. Der Artikel “Cloud am Steuer”, der vor einiger Zeit in der GDI Impuls erschienen ist, kann nun kostenlos als PDF heruntergeladen werden. Ein Dank geht an das Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute – und den Autor Christian Rauch. Wenn Roboter über die Straßen steuern, so fragt er, “welche ethischen und rechtlichen Konsequenzen hat das”? Beantwortet wird das von Patrick Lin, Roboter- und Maschinenethiker an der California Polytechnic State University, und Oliver Bendel, Wirtschaftsinformatiker, Informationsethiker und Maschinenethiker an der Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW.

Abb.: Auto und Kuh

Call zur Ethik des Internets der Dinge

Die International Review of Information Ethics (IRIE) hat einen Call for Papers zum Thema “Ethics for the Internet of Things” veröffentlicht. Deadline für die Einreichung der Abstracts ist der 31. August 2014. Auf der Website der Zeitschrift heißt es: “The 22nd issue of IRIE will tackle the ethical challenge of the Internet of Things and therefore furnish a contribution to the establishment of an ethics for it. This ethics is anchored in the field of information ethics, yet it radicalizes to a certain degree the fundamental issues in this field, insofar as the entire mesosphere appears as a sphere shaped by information and its technologies. And hence, the boundaries then disappear between electronic technology and what underpins it.” Mögliche Themen seien “Privacy in the IoT”, “Access to beneficial use of IoT and social justice”, “Establishment of trust in the IoT” und “Status of agents and agency in the IoT”. Gastherausgeber sind Hektor Haarkötter und Felix Weil. Weitere Informationen über

“Information ethics can give a new impetus”

In den VμE-Nachrichten, herausgegeben vom Fraunhofer-Verbund Mikroelektronik, erschien im Sommer 2013 ein Interview zu Informations- und Maschinenethik. Oliver Bendel erklärte, was man sich unter diesen Disziplinen vorstellen kann, ging auf die Einflussmöglichkeiten von Forschern ein und wünschte sich die Stärkung der philosophischen Ethik gegenüber der theologischen bzw. theonomen. Inzwischen ist die englische Version der Zeitschrift erschienen, mitsamt dem Interview auf den Seiten 8 und 9. Es wird mit folgenden Worten eingeleitet: “Technological progress opens up new opportunities for action that make our lives safer and more comfortable – as long as we take advantage of it responsibly. VμE spoke to the commercial computer scientist and author Prof. Oliver Bendel about the ethical dimension of research, and current issues.” Die vollständige englischsprachige Zeitschrift ist als PDF verfügbar.