Ethical AI begins with language

Prof. Dr. Karen Joisten (
Dr. Ettore Barbagallo (

Due to the ongoing advancements of AI technologies, we will have to face a totally new ethical problem that never occurred with other technologies before, that is the problem of the increasing resemblance between AI systems and biological systems, especially human beings and animals. This resemblance will gradually make it more obvious for us to attribute human or animal qualities to AI systems, even if we know that they are not self-conscious or alive. We are not able to predict the consequences on the social, psychological, educational, political, and economical level of the spread of such AI systems. In our meta-project, we want to address this problem from an ethical point of view.
In the first five months, we will base our analysis on the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI (2019) written by the High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG) set up by the European Commission. We will focus in particular on the language used by the AI HLEG for describing AI systems’ activity and the human-machine interaction. The focus on language is philosophically motivated by the close correlation existing between language, habits (see Aristotle), and practical as well as emotional relationship with the world.
Over the following three months we will try to generalize the results of our analysis. We will propose some examples of how an adequate linguistic practice can help us to make sharp terminological and conceptual distinctions and so describe and understand the human-AI interaction correctly.
These two steps (8 months) are the first phase of a larger project that only in its second phase will expand through collaboration with one partner from the HumanE AI Net community or one external partner.

Connection of Results to Work Package Objectives:
WP5 is concerned with AI ethics and responsible AI. Our project wants to address the responsibility of our linguistic practices with regard to AI. The way in which we speak about AI and the human-AI interaction creates habits, shapes our practical and emotional relationship with the machines and therefore has ethical consequences.
WP3 deals with the human-AI collaboration and interaction. Our project will address the language we use to talk about AI and to describe the interaction between us and AI systems.


1) Paper: a) that analyzes the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI paying attention to the way in which the human-AI interaction is presented; b) that develops clear-cut concepts as part of an appropriate vocabulary for the description of the human-AI interaction.
2) Discussion of the outcomes of the paper with the AI HLEG.
3) Providing the outcomes of the microproject within HumanE AI Net to find a partner for project expansion.

Project Partners

  • RPTU-Kaiserslautern, /

Primary Contact

Karen Joisten, RPTU-Kaiserslautern