KMi’s Maven of the Month: Prof. Viola Schiaffonati

The KMi Maven of the Month initiative originated back in 1995, as a collaboration between the Knowledge Media Institute and the BBC’s Open University Production Unit. It was one of the first Internet Radio in the world (, that used state of the art technologies (for the time…), including RealAudio, CU-SeeMe, Netscape browser and chat windows, as well as standard telephone landlines.  

This year, KMi has relaunched the initiative, as a series of virtual Q&A sessions with top experts (mavens or connoisseurs) on major socio-technological topics. These pervasive topics call for an inclusive discussion, across different departments and disciplines. Colleagues from the different OU Faculties are welcome to join the discussion! 

On December 2nd at 11 AM (GMT), Prof. Viola Schiaffonati from Politecnico di Milano will present a special session on "Computers, Robots and Experiments". Below you will find an overview of the themes of this session, as well as the Maven’s bio.  

Prof. Schiaffonati will kick off the event with a 20 min presentation of her perspective on the topic. Then, 25-30 min will be devoted to the Q&A, with a combination of curated questions from the event hosts (Prof. Enrico Motta and Agnese Chiatti from KMi), as well as live questions from the audience. To get a better sense of what to expect from this event, you can check out the recording of the previous Maven of the Month episode, at this link.   

Be sure to register for the event through this Eventbrite link to collect your free ticket ahead of time*, and to receive updates and links for joining the session!  

* Participation is limited to OU staff and students. 

Maven: Prof. Viola Schiaffonati 

Event Title: Computers, robots, and experiments 
Abstract: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics technologies are revolutionizing our lives and one of the most difficult challenges is to shape them in accordance with human values and needs. In this talk, I will argue that to achieve this goal an epistemic and methodological dimension should be added to the ethical one usually discussed. In particular, I will claim that the traditional notion of controlled experiment needs to be revised in the case of AI and robotics, and the novel framework of explorative experiment introduced. This framework sets the ground not only for new epistemic categories but also for reconsidering the traditional moral principles guiding experimentation in the case of AI and robotics, where uncertainty about their impacts and risks is very high. 

Maven’s Bio: Viola Schiaffonati is an associate professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at Politecnico di Milano, Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering. She holds a PhD in Philosophy of Science from Università di Genova. She has been visiting scholar at the Department of Philosophy of the University of California at Berkeley and visiting researcher at the Suppes Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Science and Technology of the Stanford University. Viola Schiaffonati is the director of the CINI National Laboratory on Informatics & Society (IeS), Editor-in-Chief of Mondo Digitale, a magazine published by AICA (Italian Association of Computing), and Associated Editor of the Springer journal Science and Engineering Ethics. She currently serves as expert in the European Commission expert group on Artificial Intelligence and Data in education and training. Her research interests are in the philosophy of AI and robotics, the epistemology and methodology of experiments in computer engineering and autonomous robotics, the ethical issues of intelligent and autonomous systems. 



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