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A new role for the humanities: envisioning robots in society

Robots are now included in more and more contexts of our everyday life. This development is welcomed by industry and policy-makers alike. But what will it mean for us, as individuals and societies? This is the central focus of the international research conference “Robophilosophy 2018/TRANSOR 2018”.

On 14-17 February 2018, international specialists from around the globe will come to Vienna to discuss in over 100 research presentations the implications and opportunities of the “robot revolution”, from the perspective of interdisciplinary humanities research in and on social robotics.

The international research conference “Robophilosophy 2018/TRANSOR 2018: Envisioning Robots in Society: Power, Politics, and Public Space” is organised by researchers from the University of Vienna and Aarhus University. A central focus for the conference will involve investigating the socio-political, socio-cultural and ethical challenges of automation – robots and other artificial intelligent systems – in social spaces. 

Supporting policy-makers
At this year’s conference the organisers also want to emphasise the political dimension of the new vision of robots in society.

“European legislation will be introduced in this area in the near future, and the issues of automation are concerns for humanities researchers worldwide. National ethical and legal councils, such as the newly founded Robotics Council in Austria, will need to be established throughout Europe in order to support policy-makers,” say Johanna Seibt and Marco Nørskov, the organisers of the Robophilosophy Conference Series and co-organisers of RP2018.

A new task for researchers in the humanities
Automation will likely engender profound changes that can affect our ethical and cultural values, both negatively and positively. The guidance of responsible technology development in social robotics is a new task for researchers in the humanities.  

“The ‘robot revolution’ raises a host of complex questions that can only be addressed in interdisciplinary research collaborations in which the expertise of humanities researchers plays a decisive role,” says Seibt. “Our interactions with social robots reconfigure our social and moral experience in new ways. The conference contributions describe these reconfigurations and explore how social robotics can be used to offer new opportunities to achieve human well-being, social justice and ethical values.”


Robophilosophy 2018 is the third event in the biennial Robophilosophy Conference Series, which was established in 2014 by the Research Unit for Robophilosophy at Aarhus University and will run into the 2020s. Since 2016 the international research network TRANSOR (Transdisciplinary Studies in Social Robotics) has been using the conferences as its focal venue.

In over 100 research presentations (9 keynotes, 39 session talks, 53 workshop talks and 5 posters), international specialists from 14 research disciplines and over 20 countries will try to understand the socio-cultural and existential implications of the envisaged automation of our societies. 

The conference takes place at the University of Vienna on 14-17 February. It is organised by the Chair for Media and Technology at the Philosophy Department of the University of Vienna (main organiser: Mark Coeckelbergh) in collaboration with the Research Unit for Robophilosophy at Aarhus University.  

The conference is sponsored by the Carlsberg Foundation, BMVIT (the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology), and the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Johanna Seibt, Professor with Special Responsibilities
School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University
Mail: filseibt@cas.au.dk
Phone: +4587162245