Course details


The Ethics of 'Deathbots'

SS 2022 Nora Freya Lindemann OFFLINE
B.Sc modules:
CS-BWP-PHIL - Philosophy for Cognitive Science
KOGW-WPM-PHIL - Philosophy of Mind and Cognition
M.Sc modules:
CS-MWP-PHIL - Philosophy for Cognitive Science

CS-BW - Bachelor elective course
CS-MW - Master elective course
Wed: 14-16

In February 2021, Microsoft was granted a patent for a method to create individualized chatbots. The conversational bot would be modelled after one specific person, for example an acquaintance or relative of the person using the bot. This would make it, at least theoretically, possible to have a conversation with a bot that imitates the writing behavior of a dead friend or relative. This scenario may intuitively feel odd or wrong – a sentiment which may have led Microsoft to the decision not to implement such a system (yet) because of its “disturbing” character. Other startup companies, however, promise already to program personalized deathbots. Is it wrong to have deathbots? Or may they, on the contrary, be a good development? And if so, why? Should deathbots be allowed or should their use be restricted? What does the use of deathbot mean for our understanding of the deceased and bereft person? These are pressing ethical questions as the first deathbots enter the market. The sheer possibility to program deathbots does not mean that they are ethically permissible and should be implemented – while at the same time just because they mark a new development, it does not automatically mean that they are ethically impermissible. This seminar will give an overview over the ethics of deathbots. We will discuss literature on the ethics of chatbots and deathbots, debate deathbots in contrast to other (digital) afterlife presences and have a look at the ethics of digital remains more broadly.