High-school students debate about the ethical and social implications of robotics with the support of researchers from IRI, CSIC-UPC

IRI, the Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial, a Joint University Research Institute of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), was involved in the last edition of the program “Young People, Science and Ethics” co-organised by the FCRi and “la Caixa” Foundation, in collaboration with the Government of Catalonia.

Students at the participant "Institut ICÀRIA" high-school
Students at the participant “Institut ICÀRIA” high-school

Its main objective is to stimulate youngsters’ critical capacity and encourage them to participate in ethical debates related to the social implications around current science-related issues such as climate change, biomedicine, nanotechnology and robotics. High school students debate and learn about the ethical aspects of scientific research and draw their own conclusions, with the support of scientists specialising in each subject and ethics experts.

The theme of the second edition, organised in the academic year 2017-2018, was the ethical implications of robotics and artificial intelligence. For this reason, several experts coming from IRI introduced various aspects of robotics to students and helped them identify and address the ethical issues surrounding them.

Sergi Foix from IRI in conversations about robotics with students
Sergi Foix from IRI in conversations about robotics with students

IRI’s researchers Gerard Canal, Sergi Foix, Anaís Garrell, and Joan Vallvé, visited a number of high-schools to debate on four roboethics topics: the impact of robotics in the labour market, the limits of artificial intelligence, affective relationships with robots, and robots in war. In addition, the students’ teachers were also trained in robotics by our researcher Pablo Jiménez.

Finally, a closing ceremony took place in CosmoCaixa Barcelona where all the participating students from the different schools got together to debate on the selected topics and to draw conclusions. Once the students presented their conclusions, IRI professor and ERC Grantee Carme Torras gave a conference about the connection amongst robotics, ethics and literature.

IRI participation in this activity was carried out in the framework of the IRI María de Maeztu Strategic Research Program on Human Centered Robotics, within the topic “ethical, regulatory and philosophical aspects of social robotics”.