International Interdisciplinary workshop “Moral Machines: Developments and Relations. Nanotechnologies and Hybridity”

When, local time: 
Wednesday, 18 May 2016 - 10:00am to Thursday, 19 May 2016 - 5:15pm
France, Paris
Type of Event: 
Category 7-Seminar and Workshop
Dafna Feinholz,

The international interdisciplinary workshop entitled “Moral Machines: Developments and Relations. Nanotechnologies and Hybridity” will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 18 to 19 May 2016. It is being organized in conjunction with the meeting of the Robot Ethics Working Group of UNESCO’s World Commission of the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), which is held at UNESCO Headquarters from 18 to 20 May 2016.

This meeting will examine the major ethical issues surrounding the increasingly widespread development and application of machines that encompass both physical robots and software agents, which are designed to function independently from direct human oversight, and that become able to learn by themselves new process or behaviours. The rapidity in the growth of the autonomous robots, both for civil and military purposes, leaves a gap between the effective use of the technology and its ethical application such as human well-being, safety or social benefits.

The meeting will discuss the emerging ethical issues from two perspectives. Firstly, the participants will discuss the ways in which engineers and researchers design, build and use machines/robots in accordance with human morality and ethics. They will also seek to reply to such questions as: Do we want machines/robots to make morally important decision? Are we then abdicating our responsibility to machines?

Furthermore, considering that in the future, machines/robots will be sharing the world with humans, the meeting will consider what is the ethical understanding given to machines/robots and whether they should be considered as moral agents with artificial intelligence or even living creatures. More generally, the meeting will explore the extent to which developments in robotics, as an aspect of a broader paradigm of technological convergence, point towards potential new understandings of “human” in regards to neurological implants and enhancing technologies.

The purpose of the International Workshop is to bring together more than 40 well-known experts from around the world working in the areas of philosophy and psychology of artificial intelligence, life sciences and anthropology, ethics of science and technology, including ethics of nanotechnologies and converging technologies. The workshop will provide a unique opportunity for the exchange of knowledge and best practices on what should be relations between humans and machines.

The workshop will inform the on-going reflection of the Robot Ethics Working Group of COMEST with a view of elaboration of a report on the issues of ethical approaches to autonomous machines with a focus on recommendations for various stakeholders in 2016-2017.

The workshop is being co-organized by the UNESCO’s World Commission of the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) and Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis jointly with the Centre of Research in Sociology and Politics of Paris (CRESPPA - Centre de recherches sociologiques et politiques de Paris (UMR7217)) in co-operation and with support of the Social and Human Sciences Sector of UNESCO (UNESCO/SHS), as well as with financial and in-kind contributions of Université Laval of Quebec (Canada), the French National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS - Centre national de la recherche scientifique), the French National Agency of Research (ANR - Agence Nationale de la Recherche) and the Community of Universities and establishments of the University Paris Lumières (la Communauté d’universités et établissements (COMUE) de l’Université Paris Lumières).

The main co-organizers are: Professor Marie-Helene Parizeau, President of COMEST (Université Laval) and Professor Vanessa Nurock, CRESPPA, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences of Université Paris 8 Vincennes-St Denis. The co-organizer of the workshop from UNESCO is Ms Dafna Feinholz, Chief of the Bioethics and Ethics of Science Section that ensures the Secretariat of COMEST in the Division of Ethics, Youth and Sports of UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector.