Cluster Research at Virtual Philosophy Congress ECAP10


The “10th European Congress of Analytic Philosophy” (ECAP10), originally planned to take place in Utrecht, Netherlands from August 24 to 28 was hosted digitally in 2020. Every 3 years, researchers come together at this philosophy congress to exchange ideas. This year, keynote topics such as the philosophical analysis of extremism or norm nudging were focal points of discussion. Peter Königs, post-doc belonging to the research area of Applied Ethics, also planned to participate this year, but the pandemic made it impossible to get together physically. Therefore, the first Virtual European Congress of Analytic Philosophy took place in 2020 - Peter Königs took part in the discussion from his home office and presented his own contributionon the subject of Ethics: “Intelligent Systems and Responsibility Gaps”. We asked Mr. Königs a few questions about his virtual conference trip in order to get a further insight into the current situation.

  Homeoffice Copyright: © Source: Peter Königs

How can your research topic be broken down?

The use of autonomous systems - be it work robots, self-driving cars, autonomous weapon systems or medical AI - gives rise to new questions about the attribution of responsibility. Because the actions of AI-controlled systems are increasingly autonomous and unpredictable, there is a risk that ultimately nobody will be held morally responsible for what an autonomous system does. Especially when such a system causes damage, such 'responsibility gaps' could be problematic. In my lecture I tried to show that the fear of gaps in responsibility is unfounded.

What are your impressions of the conference and how do you rate the digital implementation strategy?

I think the ogranizastion really made the best of it. The ECAP10 is a very large event - by philosophy standards - and it is not that easy to switch something like this to 'online' at short notice. The conference took place on MS Teams. Each speaker has uploaded a presentation in advance. Only the discussions ("live Q&A") about the presentations that were viewed in advance were really 'live'. That worked well too.

  Logo Copyright: © ECAP

Peter Königs sees the opportunities of online events, for example, in the greater flexibility in terms of time when taking in new information and dealing with the presentations of other participants. At ECAP, this was ensured by posting the presentations online in advance and thus giving space to deal with the content at your own pace. An online discussion forum on MS Teams is also one of the positive aspects worth mentioning. In addition to the live Q&A sessions, questions for the speakers could be posted.

The digital way has advantages and disadvantages. The elimination of a costly and time-consuming journey can of course be assessed positively on the one hand, especially with regard to the climate balance, if, for example, air travel is no longer necessary. Nevertheless, there are losses in the social dimension, opportunities for small talk at the conference dinner, the networking and the collaborations that often arise from it, can hardly be replaced. However, networking and feedback on one's own scientific work remain very important even in times of Corona and at least no one has to do without the feedback with the possibility of participating from the home office.