The Reversed Cyborg

Chimeras in the biological and medical sense are organisms that consist of cells or tissues of different individuals and yet form closed and viable (not necessarily reproductive) organisms. They can be located within a species or between species and can be both plants and animals. There are natural (blood chimeras in mammals) and artificial mixed organisms (grafting in plants, animal-human embryos). Cyborgs are not chimeras in this sense. Nevertheless, research in this field might also be relevant for them, in particular for inverted or reversed cyborgs, for example robots in which an animal or human brain or organ is implanted. Animal-human chimeras for the production of human organs are regarded as unproblematic by many ethicists. According to a comment by Oliver Bendel, this is astonishing, since findings from animal ethics and veterinary medicine and in particular suffering and death of non-human living beings are ignored.

The Fight against Plastic in the Seas

The pollution of water by plastic is a topic that has been in the media for a few years now. In 2015, the School of Engineering FHNW and the School of Business FHNW investigated whether a robotic fish – like Oliver Bendel’s CLEANINGFISH (2014) – could be a solution. In 2018, the information and machine ethicist commissioned another work to investigate several existing or planned projects dealing with marine pollution. Rolf Stucki’s final thesis in the EUT study program was based on “a literature research on the current state of the plastics problem worldwide and its effects, but also on the properties and advantages of plastics” (Management Summary, own translation). “In addition, interviews were conducted with representatives of the projects. In order to assess the internal company factors (strengths, weaknesses) and external environmental factors (opportunities, risks), SWOT analyses were prepared on the basis of the answers and the research” (Management Summary) According to Stucki, the results show that most projects are financially dependent on sponsors and donors. Two of them are in the concept phase; they should prove their technical and financial feasibility in the medium term. With regard to social commitment, it can be said that all six projects are very active. A poster shows a comparison (the photos were alienated for publication in this blog). WasteShark stands out as a robot. He is, so to speak, the CLEANINGFISH who has become reality.

How to Treat Animals

Parallel to his work in machine ethics, Oliver Bendel is trying to establish animal-machine interaction (AMI) as a discipline. He was very impressed by Clara Mancini’s paper “Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI): A Manifesto” on animal-computer interaction. In his AMI research, he mainly investigates robots, gadgets, and devices and their behavior towards animals. There are not only moral questions, but also questions concerning the design of outer appearance and the ability to speak. The general background for his considerations is that more and more machines and animals meet in closed, half-open and open worlds. He believes that semi-autonomous and autonomous systems should have rules so that they treat animals well. They should not disturb, frighten, injure or kill them. Examples are toy robots, domestic robots, service robots in shopping malls and agricultural robots. Jackie Snow, who writes for New York Times, National Geographic, and Wall Street Journal, has talked to several experts about the topic. In an article for Fast Company, she quotes the ethicists Oliver Bendel and Peter Singer. Clara Mancini is also expressing her point of view. The article with the title “AI’s next ethical challenge: how to treat animals” can be downloaded here.