Cyber-physical systems – Can technology be smart?

Oks SJ (2016)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Conference contribution, Abstract of lecture

Publication year: 2016

Event location: Nürnberg


Information technology has had a distinct influence on societies, their organizations and industries as well as the lives of their members. The automation of production processes and the usage of personal computers and mobile devices in both work and private related contexts are just a few examples. Nowadays, a further advancement brings inestimable potential based on IT infrastructure: The internet of things. Based on sensors, actuators and data analyzing solutions, cyber-physical systems build the infrastructure for new epoch of technology in use.

The term “smart” is often mentioned when cyber-physical systems are discussed in academia and practical oriented communities. But this smart does not refer to the systems users but to the technology itself. Smartness and the underlying intelligence were before characteristics which are strongly connected to living beings with gradations of different species. Even though the term artificial intelligence has been known for more than half a decade and associated developments reached impressive levels like IBM’s Watson until now, human intelligence is still obviously superior when it comes contextual understanding, continuous learning and decision making under unanticipated changing conditions. But how will the world look like if the visions based on cyber-physical systems around the term smart become reality? What if the cyber-physical systems reach a level of smartness that might not match the mental capabilities of humans but which is adequate to replace humans extensively in executing tasks, dangerous activities and basic fields of value creation? The areas of application of smart technologies are quite broad: “Smart home”, “smart health”, “smart mobility”, “smart logistics”, “smart grid”, “smart factory” and further more. When analyzing these ongoing occurrences the following points stand out:

The conducted research reflects the above described development from a philosophical and ethical perspective. By doing so, the following fields and questions find an emphasized consideration: Which consequences does it have, when smart technologies take over a multitude of executing tasks which were formerly conducted by persons and the proportion of executive to creative work changes significantly? Contemporary schools of thought of work ethics are applied to the formulated question. Furthermore a potential disentanglement of personal work and value creation and remuneration finds a philosophical evaluation: Is it desirable to free mankind from the performance of executive activities to offer the opportunity to fully focus on creative and scientific activities? Or is the conduction of executive work a meaningful activity beyond the income-generation? E.g. is it aspirational to approach the undersupply of workforce in elderly care by implementing smart technologies which could execute certain task but would lower the social interaction of care receiving persons?

As a result a comparison of different argumentations regarding artificial intelligence, cyber-physical systems and their effect on humans and societies is given.

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Oks, S.J. (2016). Cyber-physical systems – Can technology be smart? Paper presentation at Forum on Philosophy, Engineering & Technology (fPET), Nürnberg.


Oks, Sascha Julian. "Cyber-physical systems – Can technology be smart?" Presented at Forum on Philosophy, Engineering & Technology (fPET), Nürnberg 2016.

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