Professor Mark Coeckelbergh (University of Vienna, Austria)
Title: Is it wrong to abuse an avatar in the metaverse? On the moral status of avatars and robots
Abstract: “It’s the metaverse – I’ll do what I want”. The use of avatars in the metaverse, 3D computer games, and other virtual worlds and online environments is likely to increase. This raises questions regarding potential harm to avatars, for example in the form of abuse such as sexual assault and bullying. This talk offers arguments for why abuse of avatars is wrong based on direct and indirect moral status theory and theory about virtual worlds, and compares the situation of avatars with those of robots. Particular attention is given to the embodiment function of avatars via VR headset technology and views of the ontology of metaverse that suggest that what happens in these “virtual” environments is very real. It is concluded that whereas abuse of robots in physical environments can best be problematized by means of indirect moral status theory (in particular virtue theory), avatars in the metaverse deserve additional moral consideration based on the direct moral status of those they (re)present and perform. Given these arguments and knowing that big tech companies such as Meta reach millions of people with their new technologies, including children and (other) vulnerable people, abuse issues in the context of interactions between avatars therefore need urgent moral attention from metaverse designers and developers, companies, policy makers, and other stakeholders, and may soon become a political problem not only companies can and should deal with.
Professor Vanessa Evers (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Title: Deploying Robots in everyday Society: An overview from 2005 to now
In futurist research, we envision new robotic possibilities and think through the consequences of these (im)possible innovations for people and their impact on society. In imagining a future symbiotic society with robots and people and in developing Social AI and Social robotics solutions, we have been imagining what future robotic services may look like, how to innovate technologically to make the solution come true and study the social and societal consequences. In this presentation I will discuss projects in which we created robotic technology, how we went about designing integrated AI driven robots that were envisioned to operate in everyday educational environments and how we studied the impact of these controversial technologies on people’s lives. Also, there will be a lot of interesting videos to watch as we learned to make robots for people through trial and error.