Robophilosophy Conference Series

Introduction: Robophilosophy Conferences are biennial events of the Robophilosophy Conference Series, which features international research conferences presenting interdisciplinary SSH (Humanities and Social Sciences) research on and in social robotics.  The conference series was inaugurated in 2014 to respond to the fast-growing need for a new type of interdisciplinary research that can assist policy makers to navigate the profound cultural challenges of social robotics, the emerging signature technology of the 21st century. Robophilosophy conferences are highly interdisciplinary, bringing together researchers from the humanities, social sciences (including psychology and cognitive science), HRI, and robotics.  The conferences address both the theoretical and practical-ethical issues that arise when robots are used everywhere in society, in public spaces, at work, and at home.  Since 2014 the Robophilosophy Conference Series has featured are the world’s largest research events in this interdisciplinary research area.

History:  The conference series was founded in 2013 by philosophers Johanna Seibt, Marco Nørskov, Raul Hakli, Raffaele Rodogno in the context of a research project supported by the Velux Foundation and realized at the Institute of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.  The series was inaugurated in 2014  with the conference RP2014: Sociable Robots and the Future of Social Relations, (August 2014, Aarhus) and since then has taken place every two years: RP2016: What Social Robots Can and Should Do (August 2016, Aarhus); RP2018: Envisioning Robots in Society: Power, Politics, and Public Space (February 2018, Vienna); RP2020: Culturally Sustainable Social Robotics (August 2020, Aarhus); RP2022: Social Robots in Social Institutions (August 2022,Helsinki).  Already  at the inaugural conference in 2014, it  became clear that the conference addressed an important lacuna in the research landscape observed by researchers both West and East; since then, in tandem with the advancement of social robotics worldwide, the events serve a fast-growing global research community. By now the conference series has produced over 2000 resesarch publications (reviewed research papers in the Robophilosophy Proceedings, but also in special issues of international journals, and peer-reviewed chapters for collective volumes.

Scope and Topics: Robophilosophy conferences originally were supposed to present research in the new area of applied interdisciplinary research in philosophy called “robophilosophy” (link), defined as “philosophy of, for, and by social robotics” (J. Seibt)[1].   The introduction of  the new field of robophilosophy was not only to acknowledge that social robotics raises deep theoretical questions that go far beyond the ethical-practical questions investigated in “robo-ethics” (link), but also, given the profound disruptive potential of social robotics,  that philosophy needed to take a pro-active  rather than reflective  stance and engage itself directly with research and  development of the new technology.  Since these early days Robophilosophy Conferences increasingly have become the forum of global research exchange on the deep conceptual, cultural, and methodological  issues of social robotics.  From 2016 onwards the events of the series attract also researchers from other Humanities and the social sciences engaged in HRI research, as well as roboticists and computer scientists who wish to explore theoretical issues that do not fit with the scope of engineering conferences.  Each Robophilosophy Conference has a special theme but covers a large number of the following standard topical divisions: Theoretical Tools for Describing Human-Robot Interactions; Reconceiving of Social Agency, Empathy, Emotion,  and Cognition; Methods; Case Studies; Cultural Change;  Policy and Politics; Ethical Issues and Moral Machines; Changes of the Work Place; Educational and Care Robotics; Art and Robotics.  Since HRI (link) is an emerging multidisciplinary field that still lacks descriptive and methodological integration, Robophilosophy Conferences enable productive interactions between conceptual research, including the methodological reflections typical of analytical philosophy of science, phenomenological inquiry, and empirical research with qualitative and quantitative methods.

Organization and Committees: The series is conceived as a sequence of international conferences held every two years, with changing locations.  There is a double-tier organization, with series organizers J. Seibt and M. Nørskov (until 2022), and larger teams of conference organizers realizing the local events.  Series organizers and conference organizers invite for each event a program committee consisting of about 20-30 experienced, well-known (senior) researchers from all of the main disciplinary perspectives engaged at Robophilosophy Conferences.  

Conference Format: Robophilosophy Conferences present typically between 80-100 research contributions, consisting of 6-8 keynotes, short research papers of 30 minutes organized in four tracks with topical divisions, and 8-10 workshops and panels. While the events are focused on research exchange, Robophilosophy Conferences also aim to include performance art and art installations with robots.

Submission and Review Process: All submissions are peer-reviewed. Details on submissionare posted on the website of the relevant event.

Venue and Location:  Robophilosophy Conferences are since 2020 hybrid events, they take place in changing international locations. The venue is typically a large national university.  

Notable Speakers: Hiroshi Ishiguro, Illah Nourbakhsh, Mark Coeckelbergh, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Luciano Floridi, David Gunkel, Peter H. Kahn, John P. Sullins, Wendell Wallach, Noel Sharkey, Christopher Bartneck, Selmer Bringsjord, Jennifer Robertson, Kathleen Richardson, Amanda Sharkey, Simon Penny, Wendy Ju, Domenico Parisi, Benjamin Kuipers, Guy Standing, Catelijne Muller, Juhu Heikkilä, Joanna Bryson, Oliver Bendel, Selma Sabanovic, Aimee van Wynsberghe, Robert Sparrow, Shannon Vallor, Alan Winfield, John Danaher, Sven Nyholm, Virginia Dignum, Maja Mataric, Seumas Miller, Rachid Alami, Catrin Misselhorn, Sherry Turkle, David Chalmers, Melanie Mitchell, Anthony Elliott, Emily Cross.

At RP2016 the Foundation for Responsible Robotics held its inaugural session, and at RP2018  the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethically Alighed Design was publically launched. 

Publications and Proceedings:   See menu button "conference research output".

Sponsorships Main sponsor of the conference series: The Carlsberg Foundation. Single events have been addiitionally supported by:  Danish Research Council, Velux Foundation, Nordforsk Foundation,  the Academy of Finland, the Kone Foundation, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, and the Federation of the Finnish Learned Societies, and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology.

Previous Conferences:   The series has so far hosted five events.  The menu buttons on the right hand side lead to the websites fo the events.

RP2014: Preface to Robophilosophy 2014: Sociable Robots and the Future of Social Relations;  Link to e-book.

RP2016: Preface to Robophilosophy/TRANSOR 2016: What Social Robots Can and Should Do; Links to e-book.

RP2018: Preface to Robophilosophy 2018: Envisioning Robots in Society--Power, Politics, and Public Space,  Links to e-book.

RP2020: Preface to Robophilosophy 2020: Culturally Sustainable Social Robotics;  Links to e-book.

RP2020: Preface to Robophilosophy 2022: Social Robots in Social Institutions;  Links to e-book.



[1] See Seibt, J. 2014. “Why Robophilosophy Now?” in: Seibt, J., Hakli, R., Nørskov, M., (eds). Sociable Robots and the Future of Social Relations. Proceedings of Robo-philosophy 2014, IOS Press, 1-3; Seibt, J. 2017b “Robophilosophy”, in: R. Braidotti, M. Hlavajova (eds.), Posthumanist  Glossary, Bloomsbury, 390-394. Seibt, J. Hakli, R, Nørskov, M. (forthcoming), Robophilosophy--Philosophy of, for, and by Social Robotics, MIT Press.