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Event details of PEPTalk #10: Evolutionary Robotics: ethical concerns and responsibility gaps
13 January 2022

Rapid developments in evolutionary robotics are enabling advanced systems of robots that can autonomously reproduce and evolve. The emerging technology of robot evolution challenges existing AI ethics because the inherent adaptivity, stochasticity, and complexity of evolutionary systems might weaken human control and induce new types of hazards. In this talk Sven will very briefly introduce evolutionary robotics and then focus on the ethical concern of ascribing responsibility. What risks are related to robot evolution? How can robot evolution be responsibly controlled to avoid these risks? Sven will discuss the underlying control problem of (semi)autonomous robotic systems and the responsibility gap that occurs when there are risks of harm for which someone should take responsibility, but there is no obvious candidate to ascribe the responsibility to. How do you fill such a responsibility gap and which ethical concepts play a role in this issue? 

The speakers:

Sven Nyholm is assistant professor of philosophical ethics at the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University. His main research areas are applied ethics (especially the ethics of technology), ethical theory and the history of ethics. Nyholm's research covers a wide range of topics in ethics, including well-being and meaning in life, the philosophy of love and sex, agency and moral responsibility, the concept of the self, and the ethics of human-robot interaction. Within the philosophy of technology, Nyholm has written on topics such as the ethics of self-driving cars, humanoid robots, autonomous weapon systems, deep brain stimulation, human enhancement, and self-tracking technologies. His most recent publications include an article about ethical concerns related to robot evolution, written together with Ágoston Eiben, Jacintha Ellers and Gerben Meynen 

Zazie van Dorp works for PEPT as a student assistant. She studies Philosophy and Law, both at the University of Amsterdam.  Her interest lies with ethics and regulation of technology. She is especially interested in questions of agency, responsibility and solidarity when working with (lifestyle)apps.

[Save the date!: February 10: Connecting the ethics and epistemology of AI featuring Federica Russo, March 3: Beyond debiasing of AI featuring Seda Gürses and Agathe Balayn.]


If you want to join, please register via and you will receive the Zoom link by email.