February 05, 2009


By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Colin Allen will give two lectures on Feb. 12 and 13 as part of the Arnold L. Putterman Lectureship series at Bucknell University. Both lectures, which are free and open to the public, are sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the philosophy department.

Building moral robots
Allen, a British robotics expert, will discuss "Machine Morality: Teaching (Ro)Bots Right from Wrong" on Thursday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center.

Allen has been recruited by the U.S. Navy to advise them on building robots that do not violate the Geneva Conventions, according to a recent article in the British newspaper Telegraph.

Allen told the Telegraph, "The question they want answered is whether we can build automated weapons that would conform to the laws of war. Can we use ethical theory to help design these machines? It's time we started thinking about the issues of how to take ethical theory and build it into the software that will ensure robots act correctly rather than wait until it's too late."

Allen also will discuss "Ethics and the Science of Animal Minds" on Friday, Feb. 13, at 5 p.m. in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center.

Animal behavior and cognition
Allen is professor of history and philosophy of science and professor of cognitive science at Indiana University, Bloomington, as well as a faculty member of IU's Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior.

With broad research interests in the general area of philosophy of biology and cognitive science, he is best known for his work on animal behavior and cognition, particularly with respect to nonhuman animals.

He is the author or co-author of several other books including his most recent, Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, co-authored with Wendell Wallach. Other books are The Cognitive Animal: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives on Animal Cognition and Species of Mind: The Philosophy and Biology of Cognitive Ethology. He also is co-editor of a special issue of the journal Biology and Philosophy on animal cognition and associate editor of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Allen received his B.A. in philosophy from University College London and his Ph.D. in philosophy from UCLA where he also did graduate work in computer science (artificial intelligence). He has received funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit Allen's webpage.

The Arnold  L. Putterman Lectureship was established by Arnold L. Putterman, Class of 1960, in memory of Isaac and Pearl Putterman. The subject of the annual lecture is to be in the humanities, the social sciences, the history of philosophy, or the history of the natural sciences.

Contact: Division of Communications

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