Lecture on The Ethics of Human–Robot Interaction and Traditional Moral Theories

17 November 2022
The Hague
Organised by:
Asser Institute

The rapid introduction of different kinds of robots and other machines with artificial intelligence (AI) into different domains of life raises the question of whether robots can be moral agents and moral patients. In other words, can robots perform moral actions? Can robots be on the receiving end of moral actions? To explore these questions, Sven Nyholm relates the new area of the ethics of human–robot interaction to traditional ethical theories such as utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, and virtue ethics. These theories were developed with the assumption that the paradigmatic examples of moral agents and moral patients are human beings. As Nyholm argues, this creates challenges for anybody who wishes to extend the traditional ethical theories to new questions of whether robots can be moral agents and/or moral patients.


About the speaker

Dr Sven Nyholm is an Associate Professor at the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University. His main areas of research 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 weapons systems, deep brain stimulation, human enhancement, and self-tracking technologies.



16:45–17:00         Arrival and registration

17:00–17:05         Introductory remarks - Dr Berenice Boutin, Senior Researcher in International Law, DILEMA Project Leader (Asser Institute)

17:05–17:45         The Ethics of Human–Robot Interaction and Traditional Moral Theories - Dr Sven Nyholm, Associate Professor of Philosophy (Utrecht University)

17:45–18:00         Q&A moderated by Dr Sadjad Soltanzadeh, Postdoctoral Researcher in Ethics and Philosophy of Technology, DILEMA Project (Asser Institute)

HSD Partners involved