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Logic-Based Computational Ethics for Autonomous Agents -
This talk will describe some of my research in developing engineering tools for automatic reasoning about ethical guidelines.  The creation of intelligent systems that are autonomous, update their own objectives, and interact with humans in their daily lives, is a prime motivation in systems engineering, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence. Examples include nursing robots in hospitals and self-driving vehicles. An explicit ethical awareness in these systems is a necessary condition for successful daily interaction with humans. However, to this day, there are comparatively few algorithms, and even fewer tools, for designing ethics-equipped autonomous systems, especially when integrated with a physical control loop. This research develops a computational theory and formal design tools for ethics-equipped embodied systems.
The ethical guidelines in question specifically take the form of statements of Obligation (`The robot ought to care for the patient in greater pain'), Permission (`The robot is permitted to offer a mask to a contagious patient') and Prohibition (`The robot is forbidden from factoring gender into care decisions'). We formalize such Obligations, Permissions and Prohibitions in deontic logic, and develop model-checking and learning algorithms for deontic properties of finite automata. I will then describe the road ahead for the formal study of ethical obligations in autonomous systems.

Speaker Bio: Houssam Abbas is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Oregon State University. His research interests are in the verification and control of cyber-physical systems and formal ethical theories for autonomous agents, with particular emphasis on unpiloted ground and aerial vehicles. He received the NSF CAREER award in 2022, and participated in the Frontiers of Engineering Symposium of the National Academies of Engineering in 2022. Prior to OSU, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and a design automation engineer at Intel.

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