Workshop on the Ethics of Molecular Robotics

Molecular robotics is an emerging discipline that aims to produce artificial molecular systems that can adapt to change in the environment, self-organize and evolve. By co-designing possible and desirable futures and co-creating the Ethical Principles, molecular roboticists in Japan have been collaborating with social scientists and stakeholders to participate in the governance of technology development in a reflexive manner. Similar experiences can also be found in the European RRI and TA activities, which highlight the integration of ethical consideration in multi-/inter- disciplinary research management and stakeholder engagement. This workshop aims to share an understanding of molecular robotics and its ethical and social implications and exchange knowledge and lessons of the governance of emerging technologies in Norway, Europe and Japan.

Date: 12:00-16:00, Wednesday 30 October 2019
Venue: Work Research Institute (AFI), OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

  • Introduction by Go Yoshizawa (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘ELSI and RRI of molecular robotics – from a scientist’s perspective’ Akihiko Konagaya (School of Computing, Tokyo Institute of Technology)
  • ‘Lessons from co-creating the Ethical Principles for Molecular Robotics’ Naoto Kawahara (Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Kyushu University Hospital)
  • ‘Responsible governance of science and technology: cases of GMO and stem cell’ Ryuma Shineha (Faculty of Arts and Literature, Seijo University)
  • ‘Current issues in patenting in Europe’ Nico Groenendijk (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘The ethics of creating cyborgs – Coping with potential ethical consequences in open ended multidisciplinary research’ Mads Dahl Gjefsen & Knut Jørgen Vie (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘Experiments in interdisciplinarity: opportunities and challenges’ Erik Thorstensen & Clare Shelley-Egan (AFI, OsloMet)

Workshop on Opening Ethics Research and Research Governance

Open science and innovation comes to the fore in Horizon Europe by assimilating (or dissolving) thematic elements of RRI, but it remains unclear what is meant by ‘openness’ and how the existing ‘Science with and for Society’ (SwafS) concepts and practices (e.g. RRI, ELSI, TA) are related to such open approaches. One of the practical challenges here is that ethics research applied to medicine, environment and robotics/AI has been rather separately developed although scientific research is increasingly converging and inter-/trans- disciplinary. Another challenge is that scientific research now requires more bottom-up, networked and adaptive governance across organisational and institutional boundaries. This workshop will therefore examine the concept of openness by addressing issues on ethics research and research governance in Norway, Europe and Japan.

Date: 12:00-16:00, Friday 13 September 2019
Venue: Work Research Institute (AFI), OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

  • Introduction by Go Yoshizawa (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘Local enactment of human practices: iGEM and the challenge of openness in education’ Koichi Mikami (Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University)
  • ‘Ethical and legal framework and public dialogue on expanding genome editing applications’ Jusaku Minari (Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University)
  • ‘AI and medicine: changing role and responsibilities of experts’ Arisa Ema (Institute for Future Initiatives, University of Tokyo)
  • ‘Embodied engagement: a case study of the multidisciplinary creation of a cyborg’ Knut Jørgen Vie (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘Technological care: health professionals’ discourses on home technology seen through a capability approach’ Erik Thorstensen (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘Engaging stakeholders in biotechnology patenting; a post-normal analysis of the European patent system’ Anders Braarud Hanssen (Faculty of Technology, Art and Design, OsloMet)
  • ‘RRI and Open Science: synergies, differences and the potential for transformative change’ Mads Dahl Gjefsen & Clare Shelley-Egan (AFI, OsloMet)

Journey from darkness into light

This is a hot story of where the pepper grows. My research journey now starts from PE – not ‘public engagement’, but ‘positive environment’. Environment is critical for people to think and talk of any issues, let alone science. Well, science museums, public labs and lecture halls are absolutely comfortable if you are science-philia, but it could be a nightmare or a poor-taste joke for science-phobia. In between, public surveys in UK, Australia and Japan show that more than one third of the population is potentially interested and engaged in science but they are often worried about certain aspects of science (Ipsos MORI 2011; Kano et al. 2016).

It would be important to engage such the less engaged, if not the unengaged, not simply for the sake of democracy, but rather to reflect their own views in the governance of science and innovation. So, how to mobilize them? In social sciences, mobile methods focus on how people physically and socially make the world through the ways they move and mobilize people, objects, information and ideas (Büscher & Urry 2009). Tourism is worth studying as it may create a new environment for people to think of science in a different way. Whereas the environment may usually be positive for them, the term ‘positive’ is here referred to as a counterpart to the negative context, never in hedonic terms. As going simply to fancy science places can negatively influence the less engaged people, we need to start thinking how to turn their eyes from negative to positive, or accommodate both.

Take dark tourism for example. In the lightest form, it is visiting sites associated with death and suffering (Stone & Sharpley 2006). Pyramiden is an abandoned Russian settlement and coal-mining community on the archipelago of Svalbard, Norway. Visiting such industrial heritage sites makes us ponder over consequences of human activities on this planet and possibly future developments in science and technology.


No wonder that there have been inconclusive debates about the ethics of dart tourism, where tragic historical events are frequently sanitised, distorted, or otherwise misrepresented by an emphasis on spectacle and entertainment (Light 2017). Real stories make people more serious and disciplined, but what about a fictionalized world? Histories of the past are often contentious and histories for the future are often speculative anyway. Literary tourism or film-induced tourism are tourist visits to places and events featured on fictional texts, television, video, or cinema screen. Another form of media-induced tourism has come to gain popularity is anime tourism, which originated in the 1990s in Japan (Okamoto 2015). Places and events depicted in anime, games, manga and other forms of Japanese sub-culture are often based on real ones and regarded as ‘pilgrimage’ sites by the tourists.

As a composite art in which moving pictures, sounds and voices are woven together to form complex and enriched images, anime tourism enables us to more intimately engage with landscape that can offer privileged insights into both place and self. Various interactions and between visitors, local communities, consumers and creators on site, the mass media and the internet create new forms of emotional linkage, continuous communication and reciprocal relationship by changing their original roles, which can be placed at the active end of ‘creative tourism‘ (Richards 2014). The more serious a context behind the work become, the more deeply but positively people engage in the modelled place and event. After watching the animation film In This Corner of The World (2016), not only young pop-culture fans but even old generations have encouragingly visited Kure city in Hiroshima, the largest naval base and arsenal in wartime Japan, in order to image how people went about their daily life during the war and to relish small pleasures for the present.

Kure anime tourist attractions map

Sakura Quest (2017) is a TV animation series set in a depopulated rural town, modelled after Nanto city in Toyama. After the TV series, Nanto city established a sister-city relationship with the fictional city, by which anime tourists have since been working together with residents to revitalize the local community by planting and protecting cherry trees.

Sakuragaike Quest (20 May 2018)

But where is science? Trans-humans like androids, zombies, ghosts, chimeras and monsters are popular and attractable characters in sci-fi works, but promoting any real places for this tourism would again raise the aforementioned ethical issues. Looking for a positive linkage with science and people, the journey continues.