The competition has had a success rate of only 15%, with the University of Bucharest being the only education institution in Romania to receive funding
Bucharest, 13th September 2023. The University of Bucharest (UB) has been granted a financing of €1,5 million from the European Commission for the project avataResponsibility developed by The Research Center in Applied Ethics (CCEA) of the Faculty of Philosophy.
The financing is offered for a period of 60 months, between January 2024 – December 2028, by the European Research Council (ERC), through the HORIZON-ERC program, following a competition with a rate of success of 15%.
The winning project, Avatar agency. Moral responsibility at the intersection of individual, collective, and artificial social entities in emergent avatar communities (avataResponsibility), explores the influence of using avatars which integrate systems of artificial intelligence in relation to behavior and moral practices.
“The most promising avatars are the digital ones, augmented and robotic, with potential uses in physical, virtual and augmented reality. All these mediums will become convergent with the expanse of metaverses, of virtual immersive worlds based on simulation and/or augmentation of the experience and infrastructure of Internet of Things (IoT). More and more experts estimate that the traditional separation between physical, virtual and augmented space will fade progressively. The use of digital, augmented and robotic avatars will become increasingly common in daily activity, be it in professions and socialization, or education and medical science”, it is shown in the description of the project.
“avataResponsibility evaluates the manner in which the use of avatars will amplify or diminish individual and collective moral responsibility, with implications regarding public policies. The exploratory research is looking for the answer to questions such as: «Are we more or less morally responsible when we act by means of avatars?» or «What ethical criteria can we apply for evaluating the effects produced by avatars equipped with artificial intelligence?» ”, mention the research team members.
The main objective of the project is to develop a regulatory frame for attributing moral responsibility, which takes into consideration the interaction between people, organizations and systems of artificial intelligence in emergent avatar communities.
The project team is coordinated by lecturer Mihaela Constantinescu, PhD, member of the teaching staff at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Bucharest and executive director of The Research Center in Applied Ethics (CCEA) and comprises both senior researchers, Constantin Vică (CCEA, UB Faculty of Philosophy), Emilian Mihailov (CCEA, UB Faculty of Philosophy), Mihnea Dobre (Humanities Division of the Research Institute of the University of Bucharest), as well as young researchers Cristina Voinea (CCEA, UB Faculty of Philosophy), Radu Uszkai (CCEA, UB Faculty of Philosophy and The Academy for Economic Studies), Anda Zahiu (CCEA, UB Faculty of Philosophy).
“They say that where there is a will, there is a way, and the fact that a team of Romanian philosophers has managed to win the financing in the ERC Starting Grant competition proves that. It wasn’t easy to find the right way to write the winning application. Part of the success is owed to the fact that we were open to collaborate both with colleagues from the University of Bucharest as well as from Oxford, Basel and Rotterdam”, underlined lecturer Mihaela Constantinescu, PhD.
The avataResponsibility project continues and extends the research agenda of the project Collective Moral Responsibility: from organizations to artificial systems. A reassessment of the Aristotelian frame (CoMoRe), unreeled between 2020-2022 and financed by the Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding throughout the competition for stimulating young independent teams (TE).