Call: Machine Ethics in the Context of Medical and Care Agents (MEMCA-2014)


Machine Ethics in the Context of Medical and Care Agents (MEMCA-2014)

To be held at: AISB-50, Goldsmiths, University of London, SE14 6NW, UK
Convention dates:  1-4 April 2014.

We are pleased to announce a Symposium on Machine Ethics in the Context of Medical and Care Agents, as part of the AISB-50 Annual Convention 2014 to be held at Goldsmiths, University of London, between April 1st and 4th, 2014 (detailed Convention programme tba).  The Convention is organised by the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB) (


Robots and non-embodied artificial agents are playing increasingly prominent roles in the sphere of medical treatment and care, and in personal and social support.

The aim of this symposium is to provide a forum to discuss the numerous ethical theoretical and practical questions that arise in relation to artificial Medical and Care Agents (MCAs), and more broadly, the ethical responsibilities of artificial agents which operate with increasing autonomy in spheres which involve personal contact, often with very vulnerable humans – patients, the elderly, the very young, people with learning disabilities, dementia and other special support needs.

Contributions are invited from a range of disciplines, including

  • designers and developers of MCAs;
  • those concerned with the deployment of MCAs in health or care situations;
  • those concerned with the broader social implications of the proliferation of MCAs and related autonomous agents
  • psychologists
  • roboticists, HRI specialists;
  • philosophers,    etc.


Issues that are to be addressed by this Symposium include the following (this list is indicative only):

  • Theoretical issues in Machine Ethics/Ethics of Robotics, concerning MCAs
  • Practical issues in Machine Ethics/Ethics of Robotics, with respect to the health and social care fields.
  • The nature, scope and limitations of MCAs: immediate, medium and long-term issues.
  • Architectures and other design issues for MCAs
  • Ethical autonomy and direct responsibility in MCAs: Meaning of ‘autonomy’, etc.;  to what extent possible? how far ethically advisable?
  • Physical versus virtual MCAs.
  • Ethical training for MCAs
  • MCAs as ethical advisers or trainers of humans.
  • Professional ethics issues relating to MCAs:  e.g. informed consent, privacy, autonomy, dignity of care recipients; health and safety issues;
  • Human – artificial agent interrelations in medical and care contexts, e.g.
    • ‘seniority’ in artificial agents vis-à-vis junior staff;
    • trust and authority;
    • patient acceptance/rejection;
    • levels of acceptance by professional personnel;
    • appropriate policies for professional bodies, funding bodies, commissioning authorities, etc.;
  • Long term impacts on society of proliferating artificial agents operating in close contact to humans;
  • MCAs and appearance:
    • humanoid versus other incarnations;
    • humanoid characteristics in physical body-plan;
    • facial characteristics; voice production, etc.
  • Economic pressures on the deployment of MCAs
  • Impact on the care of people with high levels of need and vulnerability;
  • Empathy, consciousness and ethical understanding in MCAs;
  • Attribution of ethical status, moral responsibility to MCAs.


Submissions to the workshop should be in the form of a short abstract of 200 words, and a longer abstract of about 1000 words.  If desired you may submit a full paper, of a length not exceeding eight pages, in the place of the longer abstract.  Submissions should be sent via EasyChair:

Submissions will be evaluated by at least two reviewers, on a double-blind basis. Selected papers will be published in the Proceedings of the AISB Convention, subject to the condition that at least ONE author of each paper accepted attends the symposium in order to present the paper, and to participate in general symposium activities.

Papers for the published proceedings should conform to a standard AISB proceedings format. Text editor templates from a previous convention can be found at: .


  1. Full paper submission deadline: January 3, 2014
  2. Notification of acceptance/rejection decisions: February 3, 2014
  3. Final versions of accepted papers (Camera ready copy): February 24, 2014
  4. Convention: April 1-4, 2014 (Confirmation of symposium dates TBA.)


Please note that there will be separate proceedings for each symposium, produced before the convention. Each delegate will receive a memory stick containing the proceedings of all the symposia. In previous years there have been awards for the best student paper, and limited student bursaries. These details will be circulated as and when they become available. Authors of a selection of the best papers will be invited to submit an extended version of the work to a journal special issue.

It is possible that external funding will be sought for the symposium.  More details will be announced in due course.

Following the end of the symposium, contributors may be invited to submit a revised version of their workshop paper to a special issue of a journal.


  • Steve Torrance, School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, Brighton UK.   (Symposium co-chair)
  • Mark Coeckelbergh, Department of Philosophy, University of Twente, The Netherlands.   (Symposium co-chair)
  • Johnny Soraker, Department of Philosophy, University of Twente, The Netherlands.
  • Blay Whitby, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton UK.
  • Aimee van Wynsberghe, Department of Philosophy, University of Twente, The Netherlands. A.L.vanw

PROGRAMME COMMITTEE (other names may be added):

  • Michael Anderson (Hartford, CT, USA)
  • Ron Chrisley (Sussex, UK)
  • Kerstin Dautenhahn (Hertfordshire, UK)
  • David Gunkel (N. Illinois, USA)
  • Patrick Lin (California Poly, USA)
  • Amanda Sharkey (Sheffield, UK)
  • Noel Sharkey (Sheffield, UK)
  • John Sullins (Sonoma State, CA, USA)
  • Shannon Vallor (Santa Clara, CA, USA)
  • Wendell Wallach (Yale, CT, USA)


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