Session 2: Methodology

Wednesday August 21, 10:25-10:55 CEST, Auditorium 2 (1441-112)

Daniel Estrada, New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA

Dr. Daniel Estrada is University Lecturer in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and teaches courses in engineering ethics, AI ethics, and philosophy of mind. He has a background in computer science and philosophy, and does research in artificial agency, participation, and robot rights.  

Can A Robot Hand Grasp?

Whether artificial agents “understand” some activity or idea is a perennial question in the philosophy of AI and robotics. In this paper, I review two ways philosophers have traditionally discussed understanding, and how tensions between these approaches complicate and frustrate the attribution of understanding to the artificial agents of today, like self-driving cars or generative AI. To move past these tensions, I propose an account of understanding as a participatory activity, that is, as an activity that characteristically involves multiple agents. While this account is perhaps surprising, I argue that it handles the challenges of quasi-agents like self-driving cars and LLMs in an intuitive and satisfying way from the perspective of common-sense psychology. 

Wednesday August 21, 11:00-11:30 CEST, Auditorium 2 (1441-112)

Tom Poljanšek, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany

Tom Poljanšek is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the Georg-August University of Göttingen, specializing in theoretical philosophy. His main areas of research include the philosophy of mind, phenomenology, metaphysics/ontology, philosophy of technology and aesthetics. He is currently working on his habilitation project on The Coherence of Experience. A Philosophy of Situatedness (working title). He recently published the book Realität und Wirklichkeit. Zur Ontologie geteilter Welten (2022). 

A Dynamic Situation Ontology for Social Robotics

With current advances in the field of artificial intelligence, the moment when social robots become a natural part of our everyday lives seems ever closer. The more robots are used to interact with humans in everyday contexts, however, the more we are faced with the task of explicating the actual intricacies of everyday human behavior and make them operationalizable both theoretically and technically. To achieve this, we need in-depth descriptions and explanations of the way people actually act, think and experience under ordinary circumstances. Here, the paper identifies a research gap regarding current approaches that describe themselves as “situated:” Although such approaches often highlight the importance of “contexts” or “situations” for (human and artificial) experience and cognition, these notions themselves are usually not elaborated any further. Against that, the paper provides a phenomenological definition of situations as fundamental units of (human and artificial) cognition as well as the outlines for a dynamic situation ontology. 

Wednesday August 21, 11:30-12:05 CEST, Auditorium 2 (1441-112)

Michael Funk, University of Vienna, Austria

Dr. Michael Funk is senior scientist at the Faculty of Computer Science, University of Vienna, Austria. Hitherto he had been employed at the Chair of Philosophy of Technology (Univ. Vienna, 2016-2021) – where he also obtained a doctoral degree in philosophy – and in the same sector at TU Dresden (2007-2015). Dr. Funk can look back at more than ten years of experience in transdisciplinary research at the cross roads of philosophy and computer science. He is author as well as editor of numerous books and articles in philosophy of technoscience. Specific topics include applied ethics of Robotics and AI, epistemology of informatics and methods of transdisciplinary research. See for detailed information: 

The Role of Personal Knowledge in Social robotics and its Ethics

My contribution to the Robophilosophy 2024 conference is a rereading of Michael Polanyi´s 1958 released book Personal Knowledge. A specific focus is on current challenges in Robot and AI Ethics. Personal knowledge and tacit knowledge are synonyms. Both emphasize processes of knowing, which are more than we can tell. This non-propositional dimension includes skills, expertise, imagination, intuition and when it comes to ethics it is similar to wisdom or even phronesis. Against this background I raise the question: Which role plays personal knowledge in 21st-century social robotics? With Polanyi I am going to discover how ethics and epistemology can go hand in hand. Although his approach is as old as first footsteps in modern AI development (the Dartmouth Conference was in 1956), I argue that personal knowledge still plays a major role in digital societies. Moreover, social relations and its embodied traditions of tacit knowing belong to critical infrastructures of liberal democracies. In times of digital sovereignty, social robots and AI regulatory frameworks, Michael Polanyi still remains an informative source. His approach is not limited to individual wisdom, but contains a specific political relevance. Human bodies are fragile, but socially shared human knowing might be even more vulnerable. We should pay more attention to this fragility – instead of reducing human-robot-relations to what AI can do best.