Colloquium TU Delft: Experiments, Exploration and Robots

Event starts at: 21st of November, 2016 | 15:30
Event ends at: 21st of November, 2016 | 17:00
Event location: TU Delft, Boardroom (A1.370)

Departmental colloquium TU Delft, Ethics and Philosophy of Technology

Date: November 21, 2016; 15:30 – 17:00 hr.
Location: Boardroom (A1.370)

Speaker: Viola Schiaffonati, Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, Politecnico di Milano

The debate on the experimental method, its role, its limits, and its possible applications has recently gained attention in autonomous robotics. If, from the one hand, classical experimental principles, such as repeatability and reproducibility, play as an inspiration for the development of good experimental practices in this research area, from the other hand, some recent analyses have evidenced that rigorous experimental approaches are not yet full part of the research habits in this community.

In this presentation, by investigating autonomous robotics, I will claim that the traditional notion of experimentation cannot be always applied as such to computer engineering and I will propose that the notion of explorative experiment is a good candidate to be considered in some situations. By explorative experiments I mean a form of investigation of novel and interesting ideas or techniques without the typical constraints of rigorous experimental methodologies. These are experiments that are driven by the desire of investigating the realm of possibilities pertaining to the functioning of an artefact and its interaction with the environment in the absence of a proper theory or theoretical background. Moreover, while recognizing a substantial continuity of the engineering sciences with the natural ones, I will try to show why the latter need not only an adaptation from the traditional frameworks already established in the philosophy of science (Staples 2015), but also a shift from them.

In my endeavor, I plan to move along three different but interconnected directions. The first one deals with the notion of directly action-guiding experiment, as characterizing a significant part of the experimental practice in autonomous robotics, in opposition to the one of epistemic experiment. The second direction concerns the debate around engineering epistemology, and whether adapting frameworks from the traditional philosophical debate can suffice to take into account the peculiarity of the discipline. Finally, the third direction acknowledges the empirical turn in the recent philosophy of technology, introduces the framework of technoscience as an engineering way of being in science, and invites philosophers of science to take this notion seriously in order to shed light on a range of questions that have been neglected so far.

Viola Schiaffonati is associate professor at Politecnico Milano. She got the Laurea degree in Philosophy from Università degli Studi di Milano in 1999 and the PhD in Philosophy of Science from Università di Genova in 2004. She has been visiting scholar at the Department of Philosophy of the University of California at Berkeley during the academic year 2000/01 and visiting researcher at the Suppes Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Science and Technology of the Stanford University in 2005. Currently she is associate professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione e Bioingegneria of Politecnico di Milano. Her main research interests include: the philosophical foundations of artificial intelligence and robotics, and the philosophy of computing sciences and information, with particular attention to the philosophical issues of computational science and the epistemology of experiments.