Young Girls could Kill Autonomous Driving

On behalf of Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel, M. Hashem Birahjakli investigated possible attacks on self-driving cars as part of his final thesis in 2020. The supervisor was Safak Korkut. In the chapter “Attacking Scenarios on Sensors” the student divided into invasive attacks and non-invasive attacks. In the section on invasive attacks he dealt with different sensors and examined possible attacks based on scenarios: vision-based cameras (chewing gum, lipstick, and nail polish; spraying paint; transparent colored foil; concave lenses), radar (chaff, countermeasure), lidar (mirror and reflective objects; dust; face powder), inertial measuring unit (magnet), and sonar (carrot and stick; duct tape). In the section on non-invasive attacks he dealt with fake traffic signs, invisible or fake obstacles, and roadside attacks. The results of the work suggest that every 14-year-old girl could disable a self-driving car. So far, hacking has been seen as the greatest threat to autonomous driving. But while not everyone can hack, almost everyone carries chewing gum or lipstick. The automotive industry should consider this threat seriously.

Evolutionary Machine Ethics

Luís Moniz Pereira is one of the best known and most active machine ethicists in the world. Together with his colleague The Anh Han he wrote the article “Evolutionary Machine Ethics” for the “Handbuch Maschinenethik” (“Handbook Machine Ethics”). Editor is Oliver Bendel (Zurich, Switzerland). From the abstract: “Machine ethics is a sprouting interdisciplinary field of enquiry arising from the need of imbuing autonomous agents with some capacity for moral decision-making. Its overall results are not only important for equipping agents with a capacity for moral judgment, but also for helping better understand morality, through the creation and testing of computational models of ethics theories. Computer models have become well defined, eminently observable in their dynamics, and can be transformed incrementally in expeditious ways. We address, in work reported and surveyed here, the emergence and evolution of cooperation in the collective realm. We discuss how our own research with Evolutionary Game Theory (EGT) modelling and experimentation leads to important insights for machine ethics, such as the design of moral machines, multi-agent systems, and contractual algorithms, plus their potential application in human settings too.” (Abstract) Springer VS published the “Handbuch Maschinenethik” in October 2019.  Since then it has been downloaded thousands of times.

Research Program on Responsible AI

“HASLER RESPONSIBLE AI” is a research program of the Hasler Foundation open to research institutions within the higher education sector or non-commercial research institutions outside the higher education sector. The foundation explains the goals of the program in a call for project proposals: “The HASLER RESPONSIBLE AI program will support research projects that investigate machine-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence systems whose results meet requirements on responsibility and trustworthiness. Projects are expected to seriously engage in the application of the new models and methods in scenarios that are relevant to society. In addition, projects should respect the interdisciplinary character of research in the area of RESPONSIBLE AI by involving the necessary expertise.” (CfPP by Hasler Foundation) Deadline for submission of short proposals is 24 January 2021. More information at

About the “Handbuch Maschinenethik”

The “Handbuch Maschinenethik” (ed. Oliver Bendel) was published by Springer VS over a year ago. It brings together contributions from leading experts in the fields of machine ethics, robot ethics, technology ethics, philosophy of technology and robot law. It has become a comprehensive, exemplary and unique book. In a way, it forms a counterpart to the American research that dominates the discipline: Most of the authors (among them Julian Nida-Rümelin, Catrin Misselhorn, Eric Hilgendorf, Monika Simmler, Armin Grunwald, Matthias Scheutz, Janina Loh and Luís Moniz Pereira) come from Europe and Asia. They had been working on the project since 2017 and submitted their contributions continuously until it went to print. The editor, who has been working on information, robot and machine ethics for 20 years and has been doing intensive research on machine ethics for nine years, is pleased to report that 53,000 downloads have already been recorded – quite a lot for a highly specialized book. The first article for a second edition is also available, namely “The BESTBOT Project” (in English like some other contributions) …

New Journal on AI and Ethics

Springer launches a new journal entitled “AI and Ethics”. This topic has been researched for several years from various perspectives, including information ethics, robot ethics (aka roboethics) and machine ethics. From the description: “AI and Ethics seeks to promote informed debate and discussion of the ethical, regulatory, and policy implications that arise from the development of AI. It will focus on how AI techniques, tools, and technologies are developing, including consideration of where these developments may lead in the future. The journal will provide opportunities for academics, scientists, practitioners, policy makers, and the public to consider how AI might affect our lives in the future, and what implications, benefits, and risks might emerge. Attention will be given to the potential intentional and unintentional misuses of the research and technology presented in articles we publish. Examples of harmful consequences include weaponization, bias in face recognition systems, and discrimination and unfairness with respect to race and gender.

Gates and Jones Ask Big Questions

Bill Gates will start his own series of podcasts on 16 November 2020. The title is “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions”. In a YouTube video (as well as in a description of the video) he and his partner explain what it’s all about. According to the description, the podcasts pair “Bill Gates with actress and writer Rashida Jones to tackle some of the biggest questions facing us today”: “Is it too late to solve climate change? Does everybody lie? Is inequality inevitable? Join them for deep dives into these questions” (YouTube, 12 November 2020). The podcasts will be available on Apple Podcasts and other services. Gates plans to give an overview on his own blog GatesNotes of all the episodes that have run so far, not to forget a transcript of each episode. Certainly there will also be statements on robotics and artificial intelligence – at least some episodes will deal with the modern workplace. Can one hope to get big answers to big questions? The future will show.

Swiss Space Days 2020

The Swiss Space Days offer – according to the responsible persons – a platform to exchange experiences and to support cooperation. It is possible to listen to prominent speakers involving ESA directors, representatives of Swiss companies and of the Large European System Integrators. “A high level panel is closing the morning session of the first day. In the afternoon of the first Day, a session will cater to the needs of companies and a parallel session will address the interests of the scientific community. The second day is dedicated to space applications and downstream services using Earth Observation, Telecom and/or Navigation data. A panel with representatives of institutional programmes and of user companies will conclude the Swiss Space Days …” (Website Swiss Space Days) On the marketplace there are several offers and requests for partnerships and research cooperations, for example regarding IGLUNA (“IGLUNA is a platform gathering students from all around the world to demonstrate innovative space technologies”) and the voicebot SPACE THEA (“SPACE THEA is designed to accompany astronauts to Mars and to show them empathy and emotions.”). More information via

Speaking with Harmony

There is great media interest in the new book “Maschinenliebe” (ed. Oliver Bendel), which was published in October 2020. Several review copies were sent out. The title means “Machine Love”, “Machines for Love” or “Machines of Love”. Three contributions are in English. One of them – “Speaking with Harmony: Finding the right thing to do or say … while in bed (or anywhere else)” – is by Kino Coursey (Realbotix). From the abstract: “Doing or saying the right thing in response to circumstances is a constant problem, especially for embodied personal companions like Realbotix’s Harmony. In this paper we will describe the Harmony system, how it finds the right thing to say or do, and how recent advances in neural network-based natural language processing and generation will be integrated into next-generation systems. These advances will allow the transition from pattern-oriented responses to dynamic narrative-oriented response generation. Future systems will be able adapt to their situation much more flexibly, and allow a wider range of role-playing and interaction.” More information via

Spot in Chernobyl

Boston Dynamics is known for several two- and four-legged robots. Videos often show spectacular movements and stunts. Surely the scenes have to be shot often to be as impressive as possible. The robot Spot has recently been given some new features. Several media report that it was used in Chernobyl. “A team of engineers from the University of Bristol visited the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant last week to test out Spot, a four-legged robodog made by US-based robotics company Boston Dynamics … Spot is capable of making inspection rounds all by itself and can navigate hostile environments such as the highly radioactive site of the former nuclear power plant. Spot went for a walk around the surrounding areas and into the New Safe Confinement structure, a massive moveable dome of steel meant to keep in dangerous radiation from the plant’s number 4 reactor unit, which was destroyed during the 1986 disaster. The robot’s main task was to survey levels of radiation in the area, creating a three-dimensional map of the distribution.” (Website Futurism, 26 October 2020) Spot and Co. stand in the probably oldest tradition of robotics: They take over tasks that are too dangerous or too strenuous for humans.

Intimate Relationships with Humanoid Robots

In October 2020 the book “Maschinenliebe” (ed. Oliver Bendel) was published by Springer. The title means “Machine Love”, “Machines for Love” or “Machines of Love”. Three contributions are in English. One of them (“Intimate Relationships with Humanoid Robots”) is by Yuefang Zhou and Martin H. Fischer (University of Potsdam). From the abstract: “The topic of human-robot intimate relationships is not only an intensely emotional one that is present in the mass media because of its ability to stir excitement. The very same topic also requires our understanding of basic mechanisms of the human mind and of social cognition in particular. A scientifically-minded framing of the debate around whether and how we might engage in intimate relationships with humanoid robots in the near future might in turn improve our understanding of human sexuality. Viewed from this angle, intimate human-robot interaction is then merely one of many examples of studying human-machine interactions for the benefit of users and as a means of improving our knowledge about humans and the human mind. In this chapter we will adopt such a stance and discuss both social-cognitive and sexual aspects of this innovative topic, review available empirical evidence and offer some suggestions for further research.” More information via