College of Arts and Sciences

College of Arts and Sciences - Don Howard

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"Robot Ethics"

Don Howard
Professor in the Department of Philosophy
University of Notre Dame

Friday, October 23rd, 2015
Walb Classic Ballroom



There are plenty of urgent and complicated ethical challenges posed by robotics. This talk aims to survey some of the more important and to suggest ways in which we, as a world community, should approach those problems. Among them are these:

  1. Should we develop and deploy fully autonomous weapons systems, such as drones that handle everything from target identification to the kill decision?
  2. How will society and the economy be transformed by the imminent introduction of fully autonomous vehicles?
  3. How do we protect the rights of humans who will soon be interacting all day, every day with robots? Are Asimov’s “Laws of Robotics” enough?
  4. How do we manage the “de-skilling” of humans as we rely ever more on robots?
  5. How do we manage the ever more rapid displacement of human labor by machine labor, not merely in manufacturing, but also in the service sector of our economy, including the replacement of human intellectual labor by artificial intelligence?
  6. And how do we respond when the moment arrives – sooner than you might think – when the question arises about whether the robots, themselves, have rights?


Don Howard is the former director of the University of Notre Dame’s Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values and a Professor in the Department of Philosophy.  Howard received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University (1979). Howard’s research and publishing is focused in four main areas: foundations and history of modern physics, history of philosophy of science, technology ethics, and science and values.

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