Ethics & Morality of Robotics

Monday 16 July, 4pm, Oxford Union

The future of robotics raises important questions for humanity. Will robots be able to act as agents in their own right and make moral and ethical decisions? Impressive advances in artificial intelligence mean robots may become capable of replacing human beings in every task imaginable. What are the ethical implications of such a development? How do we prepare for such a future?

Questions on the ethics and morality of robotics will be debated by panelists specializing in ethics, law, computer science, data security and privacy, in the Oxford Union Debating Chamber, on 16 July 2018. 

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  • Moderator: Professor Judy Wajcman
  • London School of Economics
  • Details

    Judy Wajcman is the Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, and a Visiting Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute. She has published widely on the social shaping of technology, work and employment, and gender theory. Recent books include Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism (2015) and The Sociology of Speed: Digital, Organization, and Social Temporalities (2017).

    During 2017-18, she was a Mellon Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

  • Speaker: Professor Matthias Scheutz
  • Tufts University
  • Details

    Matthias Scheutz is a Professor in Cognitive and Computer Science in the Department of Computer Science and a Bernard M. Gordon Senior Faculty Fellow in the School of Engineering at Tufts University. He earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Vienna in 1995 and a Joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Computer Science from Indiana University Bloomington in 1999.

    He has more than 300 peer-reviewed publications in artificial intelligence, natural language processing, cognitive modeling, robotics, and human-robot interaction. His current research focuses on complex cognitive robots with natural language and machine learning capabilities.

  • Speaker: Dr Sandra Wachter
  • University of Oxford/Alan Turing Institute
  • Details

    Dr. Sandra Wachter is a lawyer and Research Fellow in Data Ethics, AI, robotics and Internet Regulation/cyber-security at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and the Alan Turing Institute in London as well as a member of the Law Committee of the IEEE. She serves as a policy advisor for governments and NGO’s around the world on regulatory and ethical questions concerning emerging technologies.

    Sandra’s research focuses on the legal and ethical implications of Big Data, AI, and robotics as well as governmental surveillance, predictive policing, and human rights online. Her current research focuses on ethical design of algorithms.

  • Speaker: Professor Jeannette Wing
  • Columbia University
  • Details

    Jeannette M. Wing is Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute and Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. From 2013 to 2017, she was a Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research. She is Consulting Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon where she twice served as the Head of the Computer Science Department and had been on the faculty since 1985. From 2007-2010 she was the Assistant Director of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation. She received her S.B., S.M., and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science, all from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Professor Wing’s general research interests are in the areas of trustworthy computing, specification and verification, concurrent and distributed systems, programming languages, and software engineering. Her current interests are in the foundations of security and privacy, with a new focus on trustworthy AI. She was or is on the editorial board of twelve journals, including the Journal of the ACM and Communications of the ACM.

    She is currently a member of: the National Library of Medicine Blue Ribbon Panel, the Science, Engineering, and Technology Advisory Committee for the American Academy for Arts and Sciences; the Board of Trustees for the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics; the Advisory Board for the Association for Women in Mathematics; and the Alibaba DAMO Technical Advisory Board. She has been a member of many other academic, government, and industry advisory boards. She received the CRA Distinguished Service Award in 2011 and the ACM Distinguished Service Award in 2014. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).

  • Speaker: Professor Francesca Rossi
  • IBM Research
  • Details

    Francesca Rossi is the AI Ethics Global Leader and a Distinguished Research Staff Member at IBM Research AI. She is also a professor of computer science at the University of Padova, Italy, currently on leave.

    Her research interests focus on artificial intelligence, specifically they include constraint reasoning, preferences, multi-agent systems, computational social choice, and collective decision making. She is also interested in ethical issues in the development and behaviour of AI systems, in particular for decision support systems for group decision making. She has published over 190 scientific articles in journals and conference proceedings, and as book chapters. She has co-authored a book and she has edited 17 volumes, between conference proceedings, collections of contributions, special issues of journals, as well as the Handbook of Constraint Programming.


She is a AAAI and a EurAI fellow, and a Radcliffe fellow 2015. She has been president of IJCAI and an executive councillor of AAAI. She is Editor in Chief of the Journal of AI Research (JAIR) and a member of the editorial board of Constraints, Artificial Intelligence, AMAI, and KAIS. She co-chairs the AAAI committee on AI and ethics and she is a member of the scientific advisory board of the Future of Life Institute and of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence.

    She is in the executive committee of the IEEE global initiative on ethical considerations on the development of autonomous and intelligent systems and she belongs to the World Economic Forum Global Council on AI and robotics. She is a member of the board of directors of the Partnership on AI, where she represents IBM as one of the founding partners.

  • Speaker: Professor Luciano Floridi
  • University of Oxford
  • Details

    Luciano Floridi is Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, where he directs the Digital Ethics Lab (DELab) of the Oxford Internet Institute. He is also Faculty Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute and Chair of its Data Ethics research Group, and Chairman of the Ethics Advisory Board of the European Medical Information Framework. He sits on the EU’s Ethics Advisory Group on Ethical Dimensions of Data Protection, on the Royal Society and British Academy Working Group on Data Governance, and on Google Advisory Board on “the right to be forgotten”.

    His areas of expertise include the philosophy of information, digital ethics, and the philosophy of technology. Among his recent books, all published by Oxford University Press: The Fourth Revolution – How the infosphere is reshaping human reality (2014), The Ethics of Information (2013), The Philosophy of Information (2011).

  • Speaker: Professor Ben Kuipers
  • University of Michigan
  • Details

    Benjamin Kuipers is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan.  He was previously at the University of Texas at Austin, where he held an endowed professorship and served as Computer Science department chair.  He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College, his Ph.D. from MIT, and is a Fellow of AAAI, IEEE, and AAAS.

    His research focuses on the representation and use of knowledge in commonsense foundational domains, including spatial knowledge of large-scale space (the cognitive map), small-scale space (immediately perceptually accessible), and peri-personal space (reachable space near the body); knowledge of objects, actions, and affordances; and qualitative reasoning about dynamical change.

    He has begun considering the role of ethical knowledge as a foundational domain of common sense, influencing the action choices of individuals and their relationships with the societies they belong to.  Ethics is certainly important for humans, and is likely to be important for non-human agents such as robots, corporations, and other intelligent systems that participate in human society.

    His recent article in the Communciations of the ACM titled How can we trust a robot? explores the importance of trust in a society where robots and human beings cooperate, and the preconditions for robots to behave ethically and morally.



Founded in 1823, the Oxford Union is a debating society with a long history of iconic debates and world-renowned speakers. The Debating Chamber, where the “Ethics and Morality of Robotics” debate will take place, has seen important international figures such as former US Secretary of State John Kerry, physicist Prof. Stephen Hawking, evolutionary biologist Prof. Richard Dawkins. 

The Oxford Union debate on “Ethics and Morality of Robotics” is an event in the LogicLounge series. LogicLounge is a recurring public outreach event organized by the Vienna Center for Logic and Algorithms (VCLA) where topics on logic, computer science and society are discussed by prominent speakers. First held at the Vienna Summer of Logic in 2014 (the largest event in the history of logic and where the Federated Logic Conference of the same year was collocated), LogicLounge has since become a regular event at the Conference on Computer Aided Verification (part of FLoC 2018) in honour of the late Prof. Helmut Veith.



  • Marta Kwiatkowska
  • Georg Weissenbacher
  • May Chan