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Robotics in Germany and Japan

Philosophical and Technical Perspectives

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Edited By Michael Funk and Bernhard Irrgang

Germany and Japan are two of the worldwide leading countries in robotics research. Robotics as a key technology introduces technical as well as philosophical and cultural challenges. How can we use robots that have a human-like appearance in everyday life? Are there limits to technology? What are the cultural similarities and differences between Germany and Japan? These are some of the questions which are discussed in the book. Five chapters comprehend an intercultural and interdisciplinary framework including current research fields like Roboethics, Hermeneutics of Technologies, Technology Assessment, Robotics in Japanese Popular Culture and Music Robots. Contributions on cultural interrelations, technical visions and essays round out the content of this book.
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Roboethics and the Synthetic Approach – A Perspective on Roboethics from Japanese Robotics Research

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Kohji Ishihara

Introduction

The term “roboethics,” which refers to ethics as applied to the field of robotics, was coined by Italian robotics researcher Gianmarco Veruggio in 2002 (Veruggio & Operto 2008, p. 1504). This term is a family member of a group of new terms relating to the ethics of technology, such as “neuroethics” and “nanoethics” (Ishihara & Fukushi 2010). Roboethical issues are not new; they have always been a major theme in the literature of science fiction. Indeed, Karel Čapek´s play “R.U.R.” ([1920] 2004), in which the term “robot” was coined, dealt with the ethical dilemmas raised by manufacturing humanoid intelligences. Moreover, it is well known that Isaac Asimov´s stories about robots beginning in the 1940s were the source of the Three Laws of Robotics (Asimov [1979] 1991). However, it was not until recently, perhaps beginning in 2004, when the first international symposium on roboethics was held in Italy and a roboethics committee was established at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE-RAS), that ethical issues concerning robots came to be regarded as topics of academic discussion (Veruggio & Operto 2008, p. 1504). Roboethics has common characteristics with neuroethics and nanoethics: (1) it deals with a new, emerging field where notable applications in the real world are expected, and (2) it attempts to specify and discuss ethical issues before they enter public awareness (Ishihara 2009, pp. 20-21). However, of course, there are some issues that are...

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