Once we place so-called ‘social robots’ into the social practices of our everyday lives and lifeworlds, we create complex, and possibly irreversible, interventions in the physical and semantic spaces of human culture and sociality. The long-term socio-cultural consequences of these interventions is currently impossible to gauge. While the use of ‘social’ robots in service functions, i.e. within the care-, education-, and entertainment sector, promises great economic gain, it also potentially infringes upon ethical, epistemic, existential, and other socio-cultural core values.
After a decade of interdisciplinary research into social robotics and Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) we still lack a clear understanding and regulative directives for how to ensure that social robotics will contribute to a community’s resources for human well-being—to the practices in which members of a community experience justice, dignity, autonomy, privacy, security, authenticity, knowledge, freedom, beauty, friendship, sensitivity, empathy, compassion, creativity, and other socio-cultural core values, as these may be shared, or vary, across cultures.
As governments of the highly developed countries worldwide implement “industry 4.0” and prepare to enter the “automation age” (McKinsey) central questions concerning the larger cultural significance of social robots remain unclear and are more urgent than ever: How can we create cultural dynamics with or through social robots that will not impact our value landscape negatively? How could we design human-robot interactions in ways that will positively cultivate the values we, or people anywhere, care about?
Robophilosophy 2020 will explore these and related questions, with its usual broad scope, embracing both theoretical and practical angles. Robophilosophy is foremost “philosophy of, for, and by social robotics”, but it is a new area of interdisciplinary and often experimental research. Thus topically relevant research submissions from any discipline are welcome. The event is an invitation to philosophers and other Humanities researchers, as well as researchers in social robotics and HRI, to explore in detail, and from interdisciplinarily informed perspectives, how the Humanities can contribute to shaping a future where social robotics is guided by the goals of enhancing socio-cultural values rather than mere utilities.
The event will anew present and elaborate the core message of the robophilosophy conference series: only if Humanities researchers join forces with the research community and practitioners in social robotics and HRI can we create futures worth living.
Research Unit for Robophilosophy, Aarhus University; The Research Network for Transdisciplinary Studies in Social Robotics