Artificial Intelligence and its Siblings

Artificial intelligence (AI) has gained enormous importance in research and practice in the 21st century after decades of ups and downs. Machine ethics and machine consciousness (artificial consciousness) were able to bring their terms and methods to the public at the same time, where they were more or less well understood. Since 2018, a graphic has attempted to clarify the terms and relationships of artificial intelligence, machine ethics and machine consciousness. It is constantly evolving, making it more precise, but also more complex. A new version has been available since the beginning of 2021. In it, it is made even clearer that the three disciplines not only map certain capabilities (mostly of humans), but can also expand them.

Welcome to the AI Opera

Blob Opera is an AI experiment by David Li in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture. According to the website, it pays tribute to and explores the original musical instrument, namely the voice. “We developed a machine learning model trained on the voices of four opera singers in order to create an engaging experiment for everyone, regardless of musical skills. Tenor, Christian Joel, bass Frederick Tong, mezzo‑soprano Joanna Gamble and soprano Olivia Doutney recorded 16 hours of singing. In the experiment you don’t hear their voices, but the machine learning model’s understanding of what opera singing sounds like, based on what it learnt from them.” (Blop Opera) You can drag the blobs up and down to change pitch – or forwards and backwards for different vowel sounds. It is not only pleasurable to hear the blobs, but also to see them. While singing, they look around and open and close their mouths. Even their tongues can be seen again and again.

Evolutionary Machine Ethics

Luís Moniz Pereira is one of the best known and most active machine ethicists in the world. Together with his colleague The Anh Han he wrote the article “Evolutionary Machine Ethics” for the “Handbuch Maschinenethik” (“Handbook Machine Ethics”). Editor is Oliver Bendel (Zurich, Switzerland). From the abstract: “Machine ethics is a sprouting interdisciplinary field of enquiry arising from the need of imbuing autonomous agents with some capacity for moral decision-making. Its overall results are not only important for equipping agents with a capacity for moral judgment, but also for helping better understand morality, through the creation and testing of computational models of ethics theories. Computer models have become well defined, eminently observable in their dynamics, and can be transformed incrementally in expeditious ways. We address, in work reported and surveyed here, the emergence and evolution of cooperation in the collective realm. We discuss how our own research with Evolutionary Game Theory (EGT) modelling and experimentation leads to important insights for machine ethics, such as the design of moral machines, multi-agent systems, and contractual algorithms, plus their potential application in human settings too.” (Abstract) Springer VS published the “Handbuch Maschinenethik” in October 2019.  Since then it has been downloaded thousands of times.

Research Program on Responsible AI

“HASLER RESPONSIBLE AI” is a research program of the Hasler Foundation open to research institutions within the higher education sector or non-commercial research institutions outside the higher education sector. The foundation explains the goals of the program in a call for project proposals: “The HASLER RESPONSIBLE AI program will support research projects that investigate machine-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence systems whose results meet requirements on responsibility and trustworthiness. Projects are expected to seriously engage in the application of the new models and methods in scenarios that are relevant to society. In addition, projects should respect the interdisciplinary character of research in the area of RESPONSIBLE AI by involving the necessary expertise.” (CfPP by Hasler Foundation) Deadline for submission of short proposals is 24 January 2021. More information at haslerstiftung.ch.

New Journal on AI and Ethics

Springer launches a new journal entitled “AI and Ethics”. This topic has been researched for several years from various perspectives, including information ethics, robot ethics (aka roboethics) and machine ethics. From the description: “AI and Ethics seeks to promote informed debate and discussion of the ethical, regulatory, and policy implications that arise from the development of AI. It will focus on how AI techniques, tools, and technologies are developing, including consideration of where these developments may lead in the future. The journal will provide opportunities for academics, scientists, practitioners, policy makers, and the public to consider how AI might affect our lives in the future, and what implications, benefits, and risks might emerge. Attention will be given to the potential intentional and unintentional misuses of the research and technology presented in articles we publish. Examples of harmful consequences include weaponization, bias in face recognition systems, and discrimination and unfairness with respect to race and gender.

Swiss Space Days 2020

The Swiss Space Days offer – according to the responsible persons – a platform to exchange experiences and to support cooperation. It is possible to listen to prominent speakers involving ESA directors, representatives of Swiss companies and of the Large European System Integrators. “A high level panel is closing the morning session of the first day. In the afternoon of the first Day, a session will cater to the needs of companies and a parallel session will address the interests of the scientific community. The second day is dedicated to space applications and downstream services using Earth Observation, Telecom and/or Navigation data. A panel with representatives of institutional programmes and of user companies will conclude the Swiss Space Days …” (Website Swiss Space Days) On the marketplace there are several offers and requests for partnerships and research cooperations, for example regarding IGLUNA (“IGLUNA is a platform gathering students from all around the world to demonstrate innovative space technologies”) and the voicebot SPACE THEA (“SPACE THEA is designed to accompany astronauts to Mars and to show them empathy and emotions.”). More information via ssd2020.b2match.io.

Speaking with Harmony

There is great media interest in the new book “Maschinenliebe” (ed. Oliver Bendel), which was published in October 2020. Several review copies were sent out. The title means “Machine Love”, “Machines for Love” or “Machines of Love”. Three contributions are in English. One of them – “Speaking with Harmony: Finding the right thing to do or say … while in bed (or anywhere else)” – is by Kino Coursey (Realbotix). From the abstract: “Doing or saying the right thing in response to circumstances is a constant problem, especially for embodied personal companions like Realbotix’s Harmony. In this paper we will describe the Harmony system, how it finds the right thing to say or do, and how recent advances in neural network-based natural language processing and generation will be integrated into next-generation systems. These advances will allow the transition from pattern-oriented responses to dynamic narrative-oriented response generation. Future systems will be able adapt to their situation much more flexibly, and allow a wider range of role-playing and interaction.” More information via www.springer.com/de/book/9783658298630.

Spot in Chernobyl

Boston Dynamics is known for several two- and four-legged robots. Videos often show spectacular movements and stunts. Surely the scenes have to be shot often to be as impressive as possible. The robot Spot has recently been given some new features. Several media report that it was used in Chernobyl. “A team of engineers from the University of Bristol visited the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant last week to test out Spot, a four-legged robodog made by US-based robotics company Boston Dynamics … Spot is capable of making inspection rounds all by itself and can navigate hostile environments such as the highly radioactive site of the former nuclear power plant. Spot went for a walk around the surrounding areas and into the New Safe Confinement structure, a massive moveable dome of steel meant to keep in dangerous radiation from the plant’s number 4 reactor unit, which was destroyed during the 1986 disaster. The robot’s main task was to survey levels of radiation in the area, creating a three-dimensional map of the distribution.” (Website Futurism, 26 October 2020) Spot and Co. stand in the probably oldest tradition of robotics: They take over tasks that are too dangerous or too strenuous for humans.

Intimate Relationships with Humanoid Robots

In October 2020 the book “Maschinenliebe” (ed. Oliver Bendel) was published by Springer. The title means “Machine Love”, “Machines for Love” or “Machines of Love”. Three contributions are in English. One of them (“Intimate Relationships with Humanoid Robots”) is by Yuefang Zhou and Martin H. Fischer (University of Potsdam). From the abstract: “The topic of human-robot intimate relationships is not only an intensely emotional one that is present in the mass media because of its ability to stir excitement. The very same topic also requires our understanding of basic mechanisms of the human mind and of social cognition in particular. A scientifically-minded framing of the debate around whether and how we might engage in intimate relationships with humanoid robots in the near future might in turn improve our understanding of human sexuality. Viewed from this angle, intimate human-robot interaction is then merely one of many examples of studying human-machine interactions for the benefit of users and as a means of improving our knowledge about humans and the human mind. In this chapter we will adopt such a stance and discuss both social-cognitive and sexual aspects of this innovative topic, review available empirical evidence and offer some suggestions for further research.” More information via www.springer.com/de/book/9783658298630.

AI in Medical Robotics

The Emmy Noether Research Group “The Phenomenon of Interaction in Human-Machine Interaction” and the Institute of Ethics, History, and Theory of Medicine (LMU Munich) host a lecture series “on some of the pressing issues arising in the context of implementing and using AI in medicine”. “Each date will consist of three short talks by renowned experts in the respective fields followed by a roundtable discussion. All lectures are held online (Zoom) until further notice.” (Website The Philosophy of Human-Machine Interaction) On 19 November 2020 (18.00-19.30) the topic will be “AI in Medical Robotics”. Speakers will be Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland), Prof. Dr. Manfred Hild (Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin) and Dr. Janina Loh (University of Wien). The presentation language is German. More information via interactionphilosophy.wordpress.com.