Interview with Dr. Janina Loh

Robot ethics: “We cannot empirically decide which ethical system is the correct one”

Maika Möbus

At ML Conference in Berlin, we caught up with keynote speaker Dr. Janina Loh. Watch the video to learn about the ethical issues surrounding robots and autonomous cars—and why she believes universal guidelines for robots ethics can and should not be established.

Robot ethics are a fairly new philosophical discipline. We spoke to Dr. Janina Loh (University of Vienna, Faculty of Philosophy and Education) about the central points of this discussion, illustrated by the famous ethical dilemma of autonomous vehicles, and what different approaches there are for implementing ethical values.

She also goes into detail about why she believes it will be neither possible nor desirable to establish a universal set of ethical guidelines. As we have different ethical systems that we use in everyday life even on a local level, we face the difficulty of choosing which ethical values to equip robots with:

We cannot empirically decide which ethical system is the correct one.

And lastly, who should be the authority on global ethical guidelines? As Dr. Janina Loh further states, it would be “a god-like authority that one cannot question from the outside. That is a very dangerous idea because it has the tendency of being ideological or dogmatic.”

mlDr. Janina Loh (née Sombetzki) is university assistant (Post-Doc) in the field of philosophy of technology and media at the University of Vienna. She studied at the Humboldt University Berlin and wrote her dissertation (2009-2013) on the issue of responsibility – Verantwortung als Begriff, Fähigkeit, Aufgabe. Eine Drei-Ebenen-Analyse (Springer 2014). After a post-doc position at the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel (2013-2016), Janina Loh is now (since April 2016) in Vienna. She just published the first German Introduction to Trans- and Posthumanism (Junius 2018) and is about to publish an Introduction to Robot Ethics in German language (Suhrkamp 2019). She habilitates on the Critical-Posthumanist Elements in Hannah Arendt’s Thinking and Work (working title). Janina Loh’s main research interests lie in the field of trans- and posthumanism (especially critical posthumanism), robot ethics, feminist philosophy of technology, responsibility research, Hannah Arendt, theories of judgement, and ethics in the sciences.
Maika Möbus
Maika Möbus has been an editor for Software & Support Media since January 2019. She studied Sociology at Goethe University Frankfurt and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

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