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Press release


A new role for the Humanities: envisioning robots in society

The inclusion of robots into more and more contexts of our everyday life is a prospect welcomed by industry and policy makers alike.  But what will this mean for us, as individuals and societies?

From February 14 to 17, 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 an on social robotics.

The international research conference “Robophilosophy 2018/TRANSOR 2018: Envisioning Robots in Society: Power, Politics, and Public Space” – organized by researchers from the University of Vienna and Aarhus University--will investigate the socio-political, socio-cultural, and ethical challenges of automation.

"The thematic focus on economic, societal, and policy aspects of robotics is timely, urgent, and highly relevant given ongoing transformations in industry and in society," says main organizer Mark Coeckelbergh, holding the Chair for Philosophy of Media and Technology at the University of Vienna.

Supporting policy-makers

This time the emphasis is on the political dimension of the new vision of robots in society. 

 “European legislation is on its way 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 in all of Europe in order to support policy makers” say Johanna Seibt and Marco Nørskov, the organizers of the Robophilosophy Conference Series and co-organizers of RP2018. “That Robophilosophy 2018 could take place in Vienna this time, at the center of Europe, is sending a strong signal.”

"Policy makers have to understand that they cannot just sit back and wait until the show is over; there is an urgent need to respond to the ethical and societal challenges raised by the transformations in social robotics, and economic considerations and standard policy measures are not enough. We need to prepare for the future" says Mark Coeckelbergh.

The ‘robot revolution’ raises a host of complex questions that can only be addressed in interdisciplinary research collaborations where the expertise of Humanities researchers plays a decisive role.  “It is ironic—and potentially tragic— that worldwide education and research in the Humanities are cut down when society needs them most” says Johanna Seibt.

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

Providing new visions

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 realize human well-being, social justice, and ethical values.


 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. 

Robophilosophy 2018/TRANSOR 2018  is globally the largest biennual event for Humanities Research in and on (Social) Robotics.

The conference takes place at the University of Vienna, from February 14 to 17.  It is organized by the Chair for Media and Technology at the Philosophy Department of Vienna (main organizer: Mark Coeckelbergh) in collaboration with the Research Unit for Robophilosophy at Aarhus University (co-organizers).  

Robophilosophy 2018 is the third event of the biennial Robophilosophy Conference Series, which was established  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) uses the conferences as focal venue.

The Robophilosophy Conference Series is the world’s first and so far only series of large-scale academic events devoted to “Humanities Research in and on Social Robotics”.  

The conference is sponsored by the Carlsberg Foundation, BMVIT (Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology), the University of Vienna, Aarhus University, and the Danish Council for Independent Research.

See also:

Mediaportal University of Vienna: Exploring the conferences of a robot revolution

See also:

FAQ: What is "robophilosophy"?


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