Ethics of Technology

Ethics is the systematic study of what is obligatory, forbidden and permissible. Ethics of Technology is ethics applied to technical domains and domains depending heavily on technology. Ethics of Technology as a research area gives a platform from which we can systematically investigate the constantly emerging ethical issues surrounding technology in a time where the engineering sciences have an increasing impact on society. Especially the rapid development within the computing sciences and the life sciences calls for immediate ethical attention in close contact with the technical sciences. 

 

The research area Ethics of Technology thus provides support for DTU’s mission to use the natural sciences and technical sciences to benefit society. 

 

Our approach falls within analytical ethics and formal modelling, but we mainly conduct interdisciplinary research involving scientists within the technical domains. The current research within Ethics of Technology at DTU falls under two focus areas: robot ethics and machine ethics and bioethics and food ethics. These areas have great potential for the benefit of society but also have major perceived risks and uncertainties. Therefore, decision support within these areas needs to be based upon a sound ethical foundation, in order to promote transparence, fairness and informed public acceptance. The work within Ethics of Technology has as one of its primary aims to provide such foundation.

 

The research area Ethics of Technology supports meeting DTU’s strategic goals for research and education, in particular:

 

  • We are conducting research within robot ethics and we will continue and strengthen national and international collaboration within the HERA project. We will be able to develop innovative teaching methods within the RATA project.
  • We see potential for developing the bio-ethics area further both in research and in teaching in cooperation between Technology of Ethics and e.g. DTU Bioengineering and DTU Food.

In the following two sections we elaborate on our ongoing research within the two focus areas.

 

Robot Ethics and Machine Ethics

 

Key words: formalizing ethical principles for robots, uncertainty about values, intentions, consequences of actions, learning values, human-robot interaction, meta-ethics, deontic logic, multi-agent systems and modelling energy users.

Social robots will need to behave in accordance with human values and norms, and in some cases they will have to function ethically. Therefore, there is currently a possibility for ethicists and roboticists to collaborate on the project of devising a robot ethics. Our contribution to this project consists in making logical systems for ethical and deontic reasoning. These formal systems will help clarify the foundations of robot ethics and can be implemented in robots. When we do that it is called machine ethics. Our research into machine ethics (with collaborators from Freiburg University) is being conducted within the HERA project (Hybrid Ethical Reasoning Agents):    www.hera-project.com.  

The RATA project (Robots As Teaching Assistants) project uses AI and the robotic platform Pepper to develop robot teaching assistants. This will give rise to research in ethical human-robot interaction and high-level reasoning cognitive robotics in authentic teaching situations at DTU. With this project, we will be able to strengthen and develop innovative teaching methods and strengthen ties to Compute, Learn T and Learning Lab DTU.

 

Bioethics and Food Ethics

 

Key words: Bioethics, formalizing ethical principles for economic models and risk management, distributive principles, normative economics, consequences of actions, meta-ethics, food ethics, gastronomic science.

Bio-ethics is ethics applied to the biological domain, an area that continues to give rise to ethical dilemmas and the need for clarification. In particular, we have investigated numerous ethical issues related to food and its production, lifestyle diseases, plant breeding techniques, as well as details of the normative foundation of health economics. We have also investigated the concept of taste analytically as a contribution to the establishment of a foundation for a gastronomic science. Current and future work also includes studies of the normative foundation of risk analysis. Aiming at aggregation, we need to find unambiguous formulations of ethical principles, such as the precautionary principle.

 

Teaching

 

The Ethics of Technology team at DTU teaches the course in Philosophy of Science in Engineering, and the course in Ethics for teachers at DTU Diploma.

Ethics is the systematic study of what is obligatory, forbidden and permissible. Ethics of Technology is ethics applied to technical domains and domains depending heavily on technology. Ethics of Technology as a research area gives a platform from which we can systematically investigate the constantly emerging ethical issues surrounding technology in a time where the engineering sciences have an increasing impact on society. Especially the rapid development within the computing sciences and the life sciences calls for immediate ethical attention in close contact with the technical sciences. 

The research area Ethics of Technology thus provides support for DTU’s mission to use the natural sciences and technical sciences to benefit society. 

Our approach falls within analytical ethics and formal modelling, but we mainly conduct interdisciplinary research involving scientists within the technical domains. The current research within Ethics of Technology at DTU falls under two focus areas: robot ethics and machine ethics and bioethics and food ethics. These areas have great potential for the benefit of society but also have major perceived risks and uncertainties. Therefore, decision support within these areas needs to be based upon a sound ethical foundation, in order to promote transparence, fairness, and informed public acceptance. The work within Ethics of Technology has as one of its primary aims to provide such foundation.

The research area Ethics of Technology supports meeting DTU’s strategic goals for research and education, in particular:

  • We are conducting research within robot ethics and we will continue and strengthen national and international collaboration within the HERA project. We will be able to develop innovative teaching methods within the RATA project.
  • We see potential for developing the bio-ethics area further both in research and in teaching in cooperation between Technology of Ethics and e.g. DTU Bioengineering and DTU Food.

In the following two sections we elaborate on our ongoing research within the two focus areas.

 


Contact

Per Dannemand Andersen
Professor/Deputy Head of Department
DTU Management Engineering
+45 45 25 45 35