Simon Nøddebo Balle – New PhD at the Department of Theology

Simon Nøddebo Balle will research potential challenges to anthropology and ethics in lights of the ‘robot revolution’, breaking ground for a robo-theology.

In the summer of 2018, I handed in my MA dissertation at Aarhus University on robo-ethics: “Our new neighbour? – a theological Løgstrup-inspired ethics for social robotics”. Now, a year later, the issue seems only more urgent and exciting with an ever-increasing number of new inventions and applications of AI’s and robots.

 Invoking the cartography analogy, I’m very motivated to be venturing into and mapping a field, still to be developed – something like a “Theology for AI and Robotics”. Compared to the effort put in by philosophers in grappling with the subject, it’s striking how little theology, as a whole, has reacted to the challenges emerging from the ‘robot revolution’. It seems like a valuable pursuit for the theologian too, given that the inevitable ‘robotics age’ will present ethical, existential and religious challenges to practically everyone’s lives within this century.

A particular concern for the theologian might be the ‘threat’ to its anthropology posed implicitly by the reductive view of humans, that drives many of the continuous attempts at recreating human intelligences and abilities in robots and artificial intelligences (AI). Another is more directly connected to the ethical domain – what sort of moral status should AIs and robots have? Should we perceive them as Others, and even if we do not, how do we make sense of feelings and moral impulses we might have towards ‘them’? This is some of what I want to research.

 Philosophers have been working with these and related issues for quite some time, and right here at Aarhus University we have a Research Unit for Robophilosophy, or RUR (those familiar with Karel Čapek will appreciate the acronym). These researchers are leading voices in the international academic debate on the subject, and I feel particularly lucky to perform my research exactly here at Aarhus University and plan to make good use of the transdisciplinary research network, TRANSOR.


Simon Nøddebo Balle
Institut for Kultur og Samfund - Afdeling for Teologi
Jens Chr. Skous Vej 3
bygning 1453, 325
8000 Aarhus C