Sociological and philosophical framing

- Research Unit 4 -

SCIoI introduces a new approach to intelligence research. It gives rise to several cross-sectional questions that go beyond analyzing and synthesizing intelligent behavior.

First, SCIoI strives to overcome disciplinary boundaries by using synthetic artifacts as tools to investigate intelligent behavior in the biological sphere and vice versa. This methodology raises novel epistemological questions. What kind of knowledge about the biological sphere can we obtain from synthetic artifacts, or from hybrid settings in which artificial agents interact with a biological counterpart? Under what conditions and for which purposes can we treat synthetic artifacts as functional equivalents of biological agents? What are the advantages and pitfalls of this methodology?

Second, we expect that our preliminary working definition of intelligence will need to be revised as we learn more about the principles that underlie intelligence. For example, the conceptual boundary between an intelligent agent and its physical environment becomes blurred when apparently passive bodily processes such as compliant rubber hands become features of the behavioral repertoire. How can we formulate a functional account of intelligence that encapsulates these extensions without losing the consistency and specificity expected from a definition?

Finally, any research that aims at creating intelligent behavior in artificial agents raises ethical questions, as underlined by the ongoing public debate on the societal impact of artificial intelligence and robotics. In response, SCIoI embeds measures to ensure ethically responsible research deeply into the structure of the cluster by adopting a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) strategy. A central element here is a perpetual dialog between intelligence researchers, researchers on RRI, and the public - already during the research process. This dialog offers a unique opportunity not only to investigate ethical questions in direct interaction with artificial intelligence researchers, but also to extend the RRI methodology - an evolving approach previously employed primarily in applied research - to fundamental research.

This cross-sectional research unit addresses these questions by ensuring a tight dialog between the projects outlined in Research Units 1-3 and sociologists and philosophers of science, technology and the mind. The Berlin Forum for Integrative Science and Technology Studies - to be established by the TU Berlin in 2018 - will support this dialog and provide an ideal platform for an intense communication with stakeholders and society.