ROBOTS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
become widespread in the 21st century similarly to cars, TV and washing
machines in the last century? If yes, how quickly will this happen? Or
already the case not only in the industry but also in everyday life?
computers robots? Is a smartphone a robot? The use of robots in health
well as for many other tasks at home such as cleaning or gardening are
examples. There might be people who say: “I don't like robots in my
while others argue: “Of course I like robots in my kitchen because I
and I don't have the time to housework every day myself." Aimee van
"In my thesis, entitled
“Designing Robots with Care: Creating an ethical framework for the
design and implementation of care robots”, I addressed robots intended
designed for nurses in their role as care giver. These robots
to help with the increase in care demands of society on healthcare
across the globe. Alongside the foreseen benefits there are a variety
ethical concerns related to this emerging technology. Such issues
the standard or quality of care might change when human nurses are no
the sole care providers or how this technology might displace care
their role as the stewards of care? I do
not claim that care robots (robots in healthcare) should be made
and used for any care purpose but I also do not claim that care robots
never be made or used. Instead, my goal has been to explore the
limits within which these robots can be made and used. To do this I
created a novel framework for their design and implementation (Care
Value Sensitive Design) that relies on the care ethics tradition along
Value-Sensitive Design approach. The hope is that by steering the
this technology in a manner that incorporates care values into the
content of the care robot, robot designers can avoid the majority of
ethical concerns or risks.” (Wynsberghe 2015: Homepage;
discussion about self-driving cars is still in its infancy. Robots may
feelings from people similar to dogs and cats for their self-awareness,
discussed before. Children are projecting the idea of life into their
like a kind of animism (Kaplan 2005). Robots can be seen from a
of view. The Shinto tradition in Japan, for instance, includes animism.
can be seen also from the point of view of social justice: workers will
their work because robots will take it, as we know from other kinds of
technologies. Following Buddhist ethics, we should not build robots
suffering. Ethical issues of cyber warfare are closely related to
(Altmann and Vidal 2013; Capurro and Marsieske 2012). Gender issues are
important topic in roboethics (Weber 2007).
the speculation, particularly in science fiction films and novels,
becoming some day autonomous moral beings toward which we would have a
of mutual respect instead of just giving them orders to accomplish a
task for us. If this were the case, the concept of robot would not be
appropriate as it implies a relation of dependency to its owner as its
following her orders in accordance with Isaac Asimov's "laws of
robotics" and with societal customs (Capurro 1995).
acceptance of robots in Japanese culture is closely related to the
mangas. As the German historian of technology Stefan Krebs remarks:
Japanese manga author, Osamu Tezuka, paints a quite technically
optimistic picture of the 21st century ―"robot society." For him, the
actual conflicts are between the developers and users of robot
not between robots and humans. Robots appear as neutral tools or as
partners. In the Japanese reception of the Tetsuwan Atomu mangas, the
conflicts are the burden of human agents alone (Leis 2006: S-2). [...]
offers no real attempts at a solution for the ethical conflicts between
and robots in his stories. To expect this would hardly do justice to
manga‘s humble pretences. Still, at the end there remains an uncritical
attitude toward technology. Here a widespread ideology of a value
science and technology shines through which can also easily be found in
West (Hornyak 2006: 47- 51).[...] pop culture often perpetuates and
stereotypes and simplified ideas of science and technology. The Tesuwan
mangas were intended to buttress the techno-euphoria of the years of
recuperation from the lost Second World War, thus contributing to the
recovery (Schodt 1988: 75-79). For this, their current effect ought to
examined all the more critically." (Krebs 2006, 67)
In her book on the acceptance of robots in
Japan, Cosima Wagner writes that:
"[...] on the one hand,
as a Japanese Studies research topic "social robots" illustrate the
"negotiation character of the
creation and use of technological artefacts" (Hörning), which for
includes the rejection of military applications of robot technology in
the other hand, as a cultural topos, they mirror dreams, desires and
human beings at a certain time and therefore have to be interpreted as
political objects as. As a source for a Japanese history of objects
robots exemplify the cultural meaning of robots, the expectations of
Japanese state and economy, the mentality of Japanese engineers and
and last but not least the socio-cultural change, which the ageing
society is about to face.” (Wagner 2013, English abstract)
KIND OF IN-BUILT RULES OF BEHAVIOUR
SHOULD ROBOTS HAVE?
should accomplish a task, according to programmed rules. This is not
technical but also an ethical issue. Ethics (from Greek ethiké) or moral
philosophy is a philosophical discipline dealing with morality (from
i.e., the implicit or explicit customs and rules of behavior that build
core of the culture of a society. The editors of the International
Information Ethics, special issue on Ethics of Robots, write:
main values are embedded into all our technological devices. Therefore,
question is: which values are we trying to realize through them?
creatures are a mirror of shared cultural values. Humans redefine
comparison with robots. This redefinition of living organisms in
terms has far-reaching implications. Long-term reflections need to be
and plausible scenarios need to be anticipated." (Capurro,
Weber, Weil 2006).
therefore important to analyze technology in general and robotics in
in different cultural contexts. I call this kind of analysis
robo-ethics taking into consideration that the concept of ethics itself
understood differently not only in, for instance, the Western tradition
also in other traditions. With regard to Japan, Naho Kitano from
the Japanese Ethics.
discussing the ethics of using a robot, I have been using the term
generally in my research, but it is used in very particular ways
international conferences. The word for ―"Ethics" in Japanese is Rinri. However, the
Japanese concept of ethics differs from the Western concept
of ethics, and this can lead to misunderstandings. In Japan, ethics is
study of the community, or of the way of achieving harmony in human
relationships, while in the West, ethics has a more subjective and
individualistic basis. The contrast can be observed, for example, in
concept of social responsibility. In Japan, responsibility in the sense
moral accountability for one‘s action already existed in the classical
but the individual was inseparable from status (or social role) in the
community. Each individual had a responsibility toward the universe and
community. Thus in Japan, social virtue lay in carrying out this
responsibility." (Kitano 2006, 80)
Aristotelian tradition the concept of ethics (philosophia ethiké) is,
related to moulding or 'in-forming' the individual character but ethics
together with issues concerning the family (philosophia oikonomiké, from
and the state-city (philosophia
politiké, from Greek polis)
to what Aristotle
calls 'practical philosophy' (philosophia
praktiké). In Modernity, there is,
for instance, the tradition of utilitarianism which is individual and
oriented and there is the Kantian tradition which is prima facie
towards the individual but under the perspective that her practical
should be universalizable. Ethics or moral philosophy understood as
"problematization" of morality, as I understand it following Michel
Foucault's paths of thought (Foucault 1999), deals with the customs and
of a society. There is not such a thing as a worldless isolated subject
(Heidegger 1976; Capurro, Eldred, Nagel 2013).
difference between ethics or moral philosophy and its object of study,
morality or social rules is crucial with regard to the question about
rules of behaviour for robots. Such rules are moral rules, i.e., robots
supposed to follow not to problematize them even if they might be able
'choose' between different rules. Such rules are human rules, they do
concern the robot in its being. There is a moral of robots (genitivus
obiectivus), i.e. moral programms for robots. Only in this sense
of robots as "moral machines" (Wallach and Allen 2009). And there is
an ethics of robots (or 'robo-ethics') (genitivus obiectivus), i.e.,
reflection on how to deal with robots. There is a difference between a
and an agent (Capurro 2012 and 2012a). Michael Nagenborg writes:
difference between a „program“ and an „agent“ is, that programs are
tools to be used by human beings, while „agents“ are designed to
partners with human beings. […] An AMA [artificial moral agent, RC] is
[artificial agent, RC] guided by norms which we as human beings
have a moral content. […] Agents may be guided by a set of moral norms,
the agent itself may not change, or they are capable of creating and
rules by themselves. […] Thus, there must be questioning about what
„morality“ will be fostered by AMAs, especially since now norms and
to be embedded consciously into the „ethical subroutines“. Will they be
by „universal values“, or will they be guided by specific Western or
concepts.“ (Nagenborg 2007, 2-3)
makes an important remark concerning intercultural research in general
regard to robo-ethics in the "West" and "Japan" in
particular. He writes:
believe that the positive acceptance of robots in the contemporary
possible to explain from the indigenous idea of how human relations
well as the customs and psychology of the Japanese. Such factors are
from inside, for it is taken for granted. In this paper, I attempt to
these factors and provide a theoretical explanation by means of, first,
Japanese culture of Anima and,
secondly, the idea of Japanese Ethics, ―"Rinri",
which are, I believe, urging the Japanese robotization.[...] Before
argument, I should note my awareness that Japan cannot be considered a
and single traditional entity. At the same way, although I use the
"West" without giving firm definitions, I do not characterize the
West as a uni-cultural entity. To the international readers of this
would like to clarify that I use the term ―the "West" in order to set
it as ―a "mirror" to reflect ―"Japan"." (Kitano 2006,
words, cultures are not closed and fixed entities but they are in a
process of transformation and interrelation. They are also not
i.e., they can be compared. The worst we can do is to 'argue' with
instead of digging into the cultural past that in the case of Japan is
intimately related with Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism but also
Western traditions particularly since the Meiji Era. As Edward Said
there is the problem of 'orientalism' concerning on how 'the West'
inaccurately Middle-East cultures (Said 1978). This can be extended to
in the "Far East". If we reverse the view and look at the "Far
West" from the perspective of the "Far East" we must take care
of developing an intercultural dialogue as in the case of, for
French sinologist François Jullien (Jullien 2003), otherwise
what we get is a reversed cliché, namely 'occidentalism.'
WHAT ARE THE SOCIAL RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES?
and particularly intercultural roboethics are young fields of research
and Asaro 2015; Capurro 2009; Decker and Gutmann 2011, Beavers 2010;
2007) See also the EU Projects ETICA and ETHICBOTS as well as the
roboethics.org. The dialogue between the "West" and "Japan"
on roboethics started some ten years ago. Naho Kitano, Makoto Nakada
Nishigaki have made important contributions to the field (Capurro and
2013; Nishigaki 2012). On the relation between robots and Shintoism in
to Western notions of body and soul Jared Bielby writes:
difference exists between traditional
western and Japanese presumptions regarding the possibility of humans
co-existing with robots. Traditional western culture prejudices such a
through engrained suspicion, their fears situated in their religious
cultural biases of life and death as grounded in ancient Greek and
notions of dualism of body and soul, and thus good and evil. The
likewise look to a co-existence with robots through engrained religious
cultural lenses as well, but in the case of the Japanese, they do so in
of harmony, a presumption that arises from Shinto notions of animistic
energies. These energies, known as kami
in Shintoism, not only infuse all
objects that exist, whether tree, rock, water, animal, human, and even
created inanimate objects such as robots and puppets, but also possess
incarnation to ideas, such as love, passion, or fear. While the nature
kami can be understood in terms similar to western notions of spirits
or gods, kami do not
constitute the same moral metaphysical qualities that allow for a
dualism of good and evil. Instead, while certain kami may exhibit what in
western notions could be deemed either beneficent or maleficent
are not separated by terms of good and evil, but only by ideas of
pollution. No matter the qualities exhibited by various kami, all kami constitute vital life
energies, and death in Shintoism
is not understood in
terms of endings or evil in the way that it is in the west." (Bielby
takes a critical view of this Japanese tradition when he writes
may have been for the Japanese people of old, as Kaplan indicates, a
protecting their spiritual essence. However, it is undeniable that the
spiritual essence has long been undermined through Japanese ignorance
philosophical inquiry into technology. The insensibility of Japanese
modernity can also be very dangerous. If everything has its own spirit,
all things are of equal value, why are we not allowed to reconstruct
as freely as we like? In response to the problem of robots or cyborgs,
simplistic division using the words "the Japanese spirit" and
"Western learning" is no longer sufficient." (Nishigaki 2012,
critical view on "all things are of equal value" as seen from the
perspective of everything having "its own spirit" can be also applied
to the view that if everything is nothing but a bunch of digital data
the same ethical problem.
the issue of the autonomous subject Nishigaki writes:
was Kant, as is well known, who scrutinized this problem profoundly and
discussed human free will, which led to the moral argument in his book
"Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (The Critique of Practical Reason)".
argument is often referred to in Western countries when talking about
autonomy of a robot. In Japan, on the other hand, the consideration of
free will and autonomy tends to be neglected. Instead, cooperation with
surrounding people is most valued. Therefore, autonomy is easily
community life. The ordinary life of the average Japanese is mostly
with a clock-like, mechanical rhythm.[...] This tendency ― to harmonize
one's surroundings and to behave in a manner similar to that of others
oneself ― can be dangerous in a highly developed information society
on the WWW. Measures should be taken against the suppression of
opinions in popular social movements. Japanese people must deliberate
deeply about autonomous subjects." (Nishigaki 2012, 22)
Japanese robot tradition is not grounded on questions of human
dignity and subjectivity but with the harmonic interplay of humans with
living and non-living beings as experienced in puppetry. We can both
each other if we, in the 'West' retrieve our own puppetry tradition
giving up the autonomy/heteronomy issue and vice versa in the case of
"Japan". In other words, if in the Internet of Things, robots go
online, we get reversed problems in Japan and in Western countries. The
issue of robot autonomy is no longer the same. Also, the modern Western
particularly Kantian view of ourselves as autonomous subjects changes
begin to live our lives online. While Japanese people must deliberate
being autonomous subjects in the information society, Western people
what it means to be heteronomic beings not only in WWW but also in
life with regard to the Internet of Things. In other words, the online
dependency on its creator might be turned on its head, increasing our
dependency on them. We have to explore the interplay of autonomy and
heteronomy, taking into consideration that both terms are not identical
their meaning with regard to robots and humans as far as, for instance,
fact that humans are contingent free beings. There is an interaction
robots themselves as well as between humans with and without the
robots. In the Internet of Things, stand-alone autonomous robots belong
past (Haarkötter and Weil 2015; Balkam 2015). An online robot is
oxymoron, it is obvious. Online robots are the next generation.
and Internet of Things Playing Together" is the title of a plenary
of the conference RoboBusiness Europe, Milan, 29-30 April, 2015
societies ruled and controlled by parliaments and mass media might be
bureaucratic robotic rules increasing the heteronomic dependency of
robots beyond present surveillance systems as well as beyond this
cyberspace (Capurro 1993; Lessig 1999). Who are we who live in this
bureaucratic digital capitalism? (Weber 1973, 379ss).
over already a lot of tasks in the field of
producing material things (Greek poiesis)
but also in the field of human action
(Greek praxis) (Arendt 1958).
A dystopian scenario may be a kind of robot-divide
between people who can afford buying robots and those who cannot.
become soon job killers leading to mass unemployment, similarly to what
happened during the Industrial Revolution in the19th century but
not only physical but also intellectual work (Bernau 2015). From
the perspective of Critical Political Economy, the question to be asked
whether robots will lead to a transformation of "digital labor"
within an "exploitation economy" into "playful digital
work" (Fuchs and Sevignani 2013).
dystopian scenario may be that in short time robots
will be so cheap that everybody who wants them will be able to buy
similarly to computers and smartphones, prototypes to the type of robot
robot-human interactions implied above.The "second machine age"
(Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014) could lead to prosperity if we are ready
invest in education empowering humans for creative tasks that they can
better than robots. We must also develop societal moral and legal rules
robot age that should be internationally accepted. Changing a tool
changing a form of life, which is an ethical issue (Spinosa, Flores,
1997). As in the case of other machines, robots will break down. What
consequences? (Flores Morador 2009). For a critical epistemological
view on robots see (Negrotti 2012, Capurro 1995 and 2009). The Henn na
Hotel in Nagasaki is the first hotel with their main staff
consisting entirely of robots (Henn na Hotel "Evolve Hotel" 2015).
operating software companies may produce a
standardized software for robots. Hackers may go into the software of
robot, using them for other purposes than those intended by their
may cause serious or unfavorable results not only for the owner. Issues
safety and security belong to the core of robo-ethics. There is an
ethical and legal debate about autonomous cars taken under control by,
instance, cyber-carjackers (Lin 2013). Some fifty years ago we started
designing cities adapted to cars. Today we have car-free areas in the
the near future we will have to think about robot-free zones.
It is crucial
to be proactive concerning which aspects of
human life should not be robot-oriented. Producers and users of robots
take care that they are appropriately recycled as this is or should be
with other electronic technologies (e-waste). This is a key issue of a
ecological ethics in the era of online robots (Capurro 2010). The
and ethical analysis of cultural traditions with regard to robots is a
issue not only for users but also for inventors and producers of
robots. One point where policy,
and industry meet, is
(Nagenborg et al. 2007). In industrial history, regulations in the
cars are a good example. A hundred years ago nobody thought about car
Who are we in
the robot era? According to the German
philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, morality and law are "symbolic immune
systems" necessary for an individual and a society to survive
2009). As in the case of biological immune systems, it is necessary to
critically about them when changes in the living and cultural
place. This is the reason why we need intercultural robo-ethics. It
problematize the current "symbolic immune systems" with regard to the
changes that take place in societies due to the development and use of
Robots belong to the core of today's "anthropotechnologies"
(Sloterdijk), i.e., of technologies that we use not only to perform
also to change ourselves. Human-robot interactions are embedded in
artistic traditions. Robots are masks of human desire (Brun 1981,
1992). Engineers, scientists, politicians, users and, last but not
writers, project their desires, nightmares, and dreams, according to
society in which they live, its history and culture. This is the reason
research in intercultural robo-ethics is an important task for society,
only in Japan.
thanks Prof. Makoto Nakada (University of
Tsukuba, Japan), Prof. Martin Pohl (University of Tsukuba, Japan),
(University of Alberta, Canada), Dr. Felix Weil (CEO, Quibiq,
Germany), Joseph E. Brenner (International Society for Information
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