Robo Ethics (Ethical Challenges of Autonomous Machines) (Seminar)

Lecturer (assistant)
  • Jörg-Wilhelm Wernecke
  • Bogdana Dobudko
Duration2 SWS
TermSommersemester 2021
Language of instructionGerman
Position within curriculaSee TUMonline

Admission information

See TUMonline
Note: Von allen Teilnehmern wird erwartet, dass sie während des Kurses eine Präsentation halten.


pon successful completion of this module, students are able to: • identify different ethical concepts of reasoning, their opportunities and limitations, from a theoretical and practical point of view • identify specific ethical conflicts in different fields of ethical reasoning and their transforming in practice • Classifying the conflicts between e.g. technological innovation vs. ethical acceptance in society (e.g. robots & health care) • evaluate these conflicts and apply them to concrete practical examples.


When Karel Čapek first used the term "robot" in his 1920 play "Rossumovi Universální Roboti (R.U.R.)" and addressed the (social) consequences of autonomous (working) machines, he was, on the one hand, anticipating many current social problems in a visionary way, but on the other hand, he was unable to measure the current innovative technical developments and the associated social and ethical challenges. What are these current challenges? The current "Robo-Sciences" are interdisciplinary research projects (including mechanical and electrical engineering, AI, cognitive science, etc.), and the associated technological, social and ethical challenges are correspondingly diverse. In particular, the evaluation of the possible (positive and negative) consequences of the implementation of these new technologies in different life-world contexts not only affect technologically social applications, but also involve questions of technology ethics and responsibility ethics. This is because these systems ((rob)bots) act (largely) autonomously, learn from (our) data, solve many complex tasks, and can often react appropriately to unpredictable events and make (action) decisions. What are the (positive and negative) consequences regarding lifeworld implementations of autonomous (ro)bots and on what basis do we evaluate the consequences? What are the possibilities and limitations of autonomous technical systems with regard to their autonomous decisions? Which areas of autonomous decisions are affected: Production processes, social actions and / or normative evaluations? Can, must and may autonomous systems make moral evaluations and then moral decisions? Are (ro)bots to be classified as moral agents (and with which possible consequences)? Among other things, these questions will be examined in the seminar from a perspective of technology ethics and ethics of responsibility. The reference to Robo Ethics intends at the same time an introduction, then an exercise in different concepts, positions of applied ethics, in that techno-ethical classifications and evaluations are conveyed and can be discussed.


No philosphical knowledge in the background is expected.

Teaching and learning methods

presentations, discussions, text analysis, written paper


Presentation (ECTS: 2), additional Essay (ECTS: 3); Modul ED0147: presentation + research paper (1500 - 2000 words) (ECTS: 5)

Recommended literature

Will be given in the seminar.