ICRA 2005, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation

Workshop on Roboethics

Barcelona, April 18th, 2005

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The Full-Day Workshop on Roboethics at ICRA 2005 has the purpose of promoting a high-profile, multidisciplinary discussion on the ethical implications that are increasingly raised by new research challenges and application domains of robotics.

“Techno-ethics” has been defined as the discipline aimed at studying moral (social, political, philosophical, theological) issues related to the use of technological artifacts in the Society. The concept of “Roboethics” has been also introduced, as a novel field focusing on ethical issues specifically involved in robotics research.

The workshop is organized by the IEEE-RAS Technical Committee (TC) on Roboethics, established in 2004 to provide the IEEE-RAS with a framework for taking care of ethical implications of robotics research, by promoting the discussion among researchers, philosophers, and ethicists, but also supporting the establishment of shared tools for managing ethical issues in this context.
The focus of the TC on Roboethics includes the uses of robotics research results in warfare, intentional or not, the preservation of human integrity in the interaction with robotic (and bionic) systems, and the study, scope, and development of the robot-ethics concept itself.

Speakers at the workshop address a variety of multidisciplinary topics, addressing, in particular, warfare, social-economic impacts, and philosophical and religious implications of robotics research. The case of hybrid bionic systems will be analyzed as an interesting and very challenging case-study.

List of topics

Motivation and objectives

Robotics research and applications are increasingly raising ethical questions, related to emerging interactions between robots and human beings, as well as to the closer interaction between robotics research and the biological and social sciences, for the common purpose of studying Humans.

The application of ethics to machines, including robots and computer programs, has been mostly limited so far to the consideration that designers and operators should take full responsibility of machines’ actions. However, in the near future, the robotics community will develop machines whose behavior will be an emergent and, to some extent, unforeseeable result of design and operation decisions made by humans and even by other machines. Moreover, the interaction and the physical integration of human beings and robotic systems is increasing exponentially. The social, economic, psychological, philosophical, and even spiritual impacts of this research are still unclear, but certainly they require careful analysis and attention by the robotics research community.

Considering the high level of technological sophistication reached in recent years, the fact that technology in general, and robotics in particular, are moving closer and closer to human beings and human life, an ethical reflection that constantly evaluates and guides the scientific and engineering research is of primary importance.

Starting from a series of practical cases in current robotics research and applications, different ethical issues are presented and discussed in the workshop, such as those related to warfare, to social-economic impacts, and to philosophical and religious implications. Among the objectives of the workshop is the opportunity of developing rules for robo-ethical quality insurance, aimed
at preventing unethical uses of robotics research products. Long-term objectives include the increase of robotics researcher’s ethical awareness, in the context of the ever growing interdisciplinarity that will characterize the new generation of robotics research.
A case will be considered in special depth: the case of human augmentation by robotic devices, connected in various ways to the human brain and body. This objective is pursued by an ongoing International Project (the NEUROBOTICS Integrated Project, funded by the EU). Many partners of the project will attend the workshop and will provide their concrete experience as a stimulus to the debate.

The program of the workshop includes three main parts: one focused on Techno-Ethics, one focused on Roboethics, and one on the case-study of the development of hybrid bionic systems. A conclusive session is devoted to a plenary panel discussion, with contributions from all the speakers and from the audience.