Machine Ethics in the Context of Medical and Care Agents

Organising Committee
  1. Steve Torrance
  2. Mark Coeckelbergh
  3. Johnny Soraker
  4. Aimée Van Wynsberghe
  5. Blay Whitby
Date: Thursday 3rd April and Friday 4th April Programme Comittee
  • Michael Anderson (Hartford, CT, USA)
  • Ron Chrisley (Sussex, UK)
  • Kerstin Dautenhahn (Hertfordshire, UK)
  • David Gunkel (N. Illinois, USA)
  • Patrick Lin (California Poly, USA)
  • Amanda Sharkey (Sheffield, UK)
  • Noel Sharkey (Sheffield, UK)
  • John Sullins (Sonoma State, CA, USA)
  • Shannon Vallor (Santa Clara, CA, USA)
  • Wendell Wallach (Yale, CT, USA)
Description: Robots and non-embodied artificial agents are playing increasingly prominent roles in human society. One group of application areas concerns medical treatment and care and personal and social support: treatment and care for people in hospitals, care homes and private houses and other domestic contexts & areas where artificial agents will be doing the jobs of people working in close proximity to many individuals, often the most vulnerable members of the population. Artificial agents in these applications will be fulfilling functions that routinely require interactive and affective sensitivity, practical knowledge of a range of rules of professional conduct, and general ethical insight, autonomy and responsibility. They will be working with people who are in fragile states of health, or who have physical or cognitive disabilities of various kinds, who are very young or very old, etc. The professions involved have well-defined codes of conduct for dealing with children, old people and other vulnerable individuals, in relation to minimizing harm, responsible and safe action, privacy, informed consent, respect for personal autonomy, security, and so on. Artificial agents working in such professional contexts are likely to be required to be, or looked on as, ethical agents, in a rich sense of the term. However, it is a matter of debate as to when it will be appropriate to make them shoulder, or share, moral blame or credit for outcomes resulting from their actions. The aim of this symposium is to provide a forum to discuss the numerous ethical theoretical and practical questions that arise in relation to artificial Medical and Care Agents (MCAs), and more broadly, the ethical responsibilities of artificial agents which operate with increasing autonomy in spheres which involve personal contact, often with very vulnerable humans & patients, the elderly, the very young, people with learning disabilities, dementia and other special support needs. Contributions are invited from a range of disciplines, including:
  • Designers and developers of MCAs;
  • Those concerned with the deployment of MCAs in health or care situations;
  • Those concerned with the broader social implications of the proliferation of MCAs and related autonomous agents
  • Psychologists
  • Roboticists, HRI specialists;
  • Philosophers,
  • etc.
TOPICS OF INTEREST: Issues that are to be addressed by this Symposium include the following (this list is indicative only):
  • Theoretical issues in Machine Ethics/Ethics of Robotics, concerning MCAs
  • Practical issues in Machine/Robot Ethics, concerning health and social care
  • The nature, scope and limitations of MCAs: immediate, medium and long-term issues.
  • Architectures and other design issues for MCAs
  • Ethical autonomy and direct responsibility in MCAs: Meaning of "autonomy", etc.; to what extent possible? how far ethically advisable?
  • Physical versus virtual MCAs.
  • Ethical training for MCAs
  • MCAs as ethical advisers or trainers of humans.
  • Professional ethics issues relating to MCAs: e.g. informed consent, privacy, autonomy, dignity of care recipients; health and safety issues;
  • Human & artificial agent interrelations in medical and care contexts, e.g.
    • "Seniority" in artificial agents vis-à-vis junior staff;
    • Trust and authority;
    • Patient acceptance/rejection;
    • Levels of acceptance by professional personnel;
    • Appropriate policies for professional bodies, funding bodies, commissioning authorities, etc.;
  • Long term impacts on society of proliferating artificial agents operating in close contact to humans;
  • MCAs and appearance:
    • Humanoid versus other incarnations;
    • Humanoid characteristics in physical body-plan;
    • Facial characteristics; voice production, etc.
  • Economic pressures on the deployment of MCAs
  • Impact on the care of people with high levels of need and vulnerability;
  • Empathy, consciousness and ethical understanding in MCAs;
  • Attribution of ethical status, moral responsibility to MCAs.
SUBMISSION AND PUBLICATION DETAILS Submissions to the workshop should be in the form of a short abstract of 200 words, and a longer abstract of about 1000 words. If desired you may submit a full paper, of a length not exceeding eight pages, in the place of the longer abstract. Submissions should be sent via EasyChair: Submissions will be evaluated by at least two reviewers, on a double-blind basis. Selected papers will be published in the Proceedings of the AISB Convention, subject to the condition that at least ONE author of each paper accepted attends the symposium in order to present the paper, and to participate in general symposium activities. Papers for the published proceedings should conform to a standard AISB proceedings format. Text editor templates from a previous convention can be found at: