Social Machines – how will robotics change interaction between humans?

Already today, some people prefer the company of a pet to that of a human. Due to improvement in social robotics, could the same happen with robots?

Could a robot be your friend or your parent’s caretaker? Could Siri be your coach or even your girlfriend? Improvements in social robots and Artificial Intelligence suggest that robots, digital and physical alike, are set to interact with us in more human-like ways in the near future. But what consequences will result from this development? On the one hand, social robots have the potential to make better, individualized support accessible to the lonely, the elderly, and the mentally ill, among others. On the other hand, as sex robots, virtual spouses and friends, it is possible that they will become part of every aspect of our social life. The consequences of this process for social norms and interactions between humans are hard to predict. Some people prefer the company of a pet to that of a human - could the same happen with robots? And should society grant its members this choice or would it erode the social fabric?


Join us for an exciting evening and find out! Together with our experts we will access what is already there, what is likely to happen, and where ethical questions loom. But to get the most interesting answer from our speakers, we need the best questions. Help us by submitting exciting questions. Go to and enter the event-code "reatch" to post your question.



Naveen Shamsudhin: Engineer, currently at ETH researching the history of robotics.

Jean-Daniel Strub: Co-founder of ethix - Lab for innovation ethics and Brauer & Strub | Medizin Ethik Politik. Member of the city council Zurich.

Anne Scherer:  Professor for quantitative marketing at University of Zurich, investigating digitalization driven dehumanization.

Igor Krawczuk:  Doctoral student at EPFL, working on low energy machine learning hardware.


The evening starts with 4 short talks, continues with an interactive panel discussion, and ends with an Apéro. The event is part of the 100 Ways of Thinking Festival 2018 organized by the University of Zurich and the cogito foundation.