Research & Publications

As the new director of the IWE and holder of an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for Applied Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Prof. Dr. van Wynsberghe introduces a new research focus to the IWE. This new focus strives to provide robust and comprehensive grounding to public policy guidelines for the green, proportionate and sustainable development and use of AI. To this end, the Sustainable AI Lab has been established within the IWE to further this line of research.

The research pillars of the IWE are:

The Ethics of AI and Robotics

Leadership: Prof. Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe

Members: PD Dr. Sebastian Knell | Larissa Bolte | Sophia Falk | Dr. Tijs Vandemeulebroucke

The pervasive development and use of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in the 21st century has brought optimism for progress along with concern for the stewardship of societal values and human rights. The IWE pillar for the ethics of robotics/ai deals with the impact of these technologies on: the lives of individuals, infrastructures and global society. It explores the range of ethical questions pertaining to each stage in the life cycle of robotics/ai, including idea generation, development, usage, and governance. Researchers in this pillar build on conceptual tools from the diverse branches of applied ethics and normative ethics, like ethics of technology, environmental ethics, and care ethics, to name a few.

Nature, Environment and Sustainability

Leadership: Dr. Christina Pinsdorf

The IWE conducts both theoretical and practical research into human-nature relationships. In the Anthropocene, the immense challenges posed by climate change, ecological crises, and unprecedented urbanization are becoming increasingly apparent. In addition to political action, behavioral changes and technical innovations, there is a need for continuous analysis of the moral foundations of environmental challenges, as well as the proposed solutions that aim to address anthropogenic impacts. The IWE pillar Nature, Environment and Sustainability explores the philosophical and ethical dimensions of planetary human-nature relations in their entire range: from wilderness through to megacity, from non-human animals through to ecosystems. Research in this pillar is often interdisciplinary, exploring the convergence of environmental ethics with areas such as technological innovation, land use and urban design, and a critical examination of the concept of sustainability underlies and unifies the research projects.


Leadership: Prof. Dr. Bert Heinrichs

Neuroethics, broadly conceived, is the branch of applied ethics that deals with scientific research and technological developments related to the human brain. This includes imaging techniques that provide insight into how the brain works which and are used for both scientific and medical purposes. It also includes (invasive and non-invasive) interventions to alter brain states. Topics of neuroethics currently under intense discussion are, for example, issues of neuroenhancement and brain-computer interfaces, but also, specific issues of informed consent, e.g. in Alzheimer’s research. Moreover, neuroethics is increasingly focusing on the use of AI. Of particular interest here are questions of human-machine interaction as well as the prediction of brain diseases and personality traits. IWE's work aims to better understand such philosophical and ethical issues and to develop approaches that enable responsible research and implementation.

Artificial Intelligence, Politics and Power

Leadership: Dr. Şebnem Yardımcı Geyikçi

The research pillar Artificial Intelligence, Politics and Power analyses the transformation of civil society, the public sphere, and the state in the new age of artificial intelligence. The redefinition of institutions, interests and interactions are key components of this transformation. The increasing use of AI in decision-making processes affects the nature of accountability and transparency and changes the parameters of the distribution of power between the state and society. Therefore, what actors seek to achieve through political action, i.e. interests, takes on new meanings and forms. Similarly, interaction mechanisms, which can be defined as the set of relations between actors, are also being reorganised. For example, the use of AI in the public sphere creates new forms of political and social organisation with important implications for the future of democracy and civic participation. Studies have also shown that the advanced use of AI transforms the institutional structures that hold interests and interactions together. For instance, the development of new AI technologies challenges the traditional ways in which political systems are organised. Given these complex shifts, the AI, Politics and Power research pillar aims to contribute to a critical understanding of this transformation by uncovering the ever-changing relationships between state, society and public sphere that will shape the future of politics. This research strand is inspired by the Data Pollution and Power Project conducted in 2022 at the Sustainable AI Lab.
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