“Artificial Intelligence May End Our World, But That Is Not the Main Problem”

Mark CoeckelberghName: Professor Mark Coeckelbergh

Position: Professor of Technology and Social Responsibility
Faculty: Technology

Research Topic: Computer Ethics & Emerging Technology

What does your research entail?
Well, it involves thinking about the ethical aspects of new and emerging technologies in the area of Information and communication technologies (ICT).

What is the focus area for the research?
It focuses on looking at new developments in robotics, for example, robots that are created for healthcare and military use.

Why this area specifically?
I investigate the ethical and social consequences of these technologies. So, I explore how they could change people’s lives and proactively assess what problems they may cause in the future if they become a new paradigm.

What current ethic projects are you involved in?
I am involved in a European project called DREAM, which aims to design robots that help autistic children to learn through Robot Assisted Therapy and Robot Enhanced Therapy. It is important for me to be involved throughout the development stage of this project because as an ethics expert and philosopher, I can give continual advice and ensure that the projects are on the right track ethically before completion rather than after.

It’s obvious that ethics in technology are important to you. What is your most important area of research in terms of it having a benefit to society?
As well as the study of how new technological developments are effecting society, I am also researching the inherent benefits that can be found in the acts of people within society. I am reflecting on how new technological developments are effecting society, to avoid society sleepwalking into a future they might not be comfortable with.


In 2014 Mark Coeckelbergh was nominated for the World Technology Awards in the category “Ethics”. Learn more about Professor Mark Coekelbergh’s research and read the compelling interview by DMU Graduate Champion, Dan Morgans.

Place of Birth: Leuven, Belgium in 1975.

Qualifications: Social Sciences and Political Sciences Degree from University of Leuven, MA in Social Philosophy from University of East Anglia, PhD in Philosophy from The University of Birmingham.

Hobbies: Painting, writing poems & playing piano

Other Projects: Worked on engineering ethics at the University of Bath (UK) and at the Belgian Nuclear research centre SCK-CEN.

Teaching History: Taught at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands & became Assistant Professor at the Philosophy Department of the University of Twente, Netherlands where he started working on the ethics of robotics.

Awards: Prize of the Dutch Society for Bioethics (with J. Mesman) 2007. Nominated for the World Technology Awards in the category “Ethics”.


Professor Coeckelbergh’s image from his WIRED article ‘Sure, Artificial Intelligence May End Our World, But That Is Not the Main Problem’

Professor Coekelbergh has published on robots and ICT in health care. He has written a book on vulnerability and technology entitled Human Being @ Risk in which he proposes an ‘anthropology of vulnerability’ and engages with discussions about human enhancement and transhumanism. His first published books focused on freedom, autonomy, and the roleof imagination in moral reasoning.
His more recent books discuss the problem of disengagement and distancing in our use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and our relation to the environment. In Environmental Skill he argues against modern and romantic ways of relating to the environment and in Money Machines he discusses new financial ICTs. He also wrote opinion articles in the Guardian and in WIRED.


In 2013 Professor Coeckelbergh became Managing Director of the 3TU Centre for Ethics and Technology and then in 2014 he was appointed full professor at the Centre of Computing and Social Responsibility at De Montfort University.

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