Autonomy and risk

The concept of autonomy is familiar to us as the action-theoretical ideal of the enlightened individual - as the capacity for self-determined behavior, as the principle of self-binding norm setting, and as the basis for the individual's responsibility in society. What began as the guiding idea of scientific and philosophical discourses on enlightenment is increasingly being transfigured into the ideal of technological future scenarios in times of advancing digitalization projects and the ongoing boom in artificial intelligences under the motive of assimilating human capacities for action. This is accompanied by new challenges in terms of 'autonomy and risk', since the relationship between humans and their digital technologies is fundamentally changing with the emergence of such (partially) autonomous systems. In this context, the technical protagonists of the digital transformation - systems and applications of robotics and voice assistance, modern warfare and mobility, as well as trends in digital capitalism and privacy - need to be examined and interpreted in terms of their autonomy potential. Greatest importance is attached to the interdisciplinary collaboration of different disciplines as well as to the creation of common content infrastructures. The shared research concern is the response to ethical, regulatory, political and cultural problem potentials of autonomous technologies and the formulation of concrete, solution-oriented recommendations for action, among other things for security policy concerns and human rights-related perspectives of so-called 'autonomous' weapons.

Research Group: Autonomy and autonomous systems

The project initiative 'Autonomy and Autonomous Systems' is a joint research initiative of the University of Bonn and the RWTH Aachen University.

Special Issue Call for Papers

From Automation to Autonomy: Human Machine Relations in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

The Special Issue, to be published in the 'Human-Machine Communication' Journal, aims to include diverse and interdisciplinary perspectives. We intend to explore the significance of autonomous living in our digital societies, to question the humanist concept of autonomy itself in our technological reality, and to analyse the implications of our interaction with (semi)autonomous systems. Submissions from all social sciences, humanities and technology disciplines related to the following topics and questions are highly welcomed, but do not need to be limited to these:

Section 1: Theoretical approaches & interdisciplinary perspectives

What is the status of the idea of autonomy in a digital society in which mutually autonomous interactions between humans and technology have become a reality? How to define and conceptualize autonomy of machines? How will the growing influence of autonomous systems affect social structures, political systems, labor and governmental control measures?

Section 2: Contexts & applications

How are (emerging) modes of (technical) autonomy and agency reshaping societies and personal life-worlds? Which different puzzles of “automation” and “autonomy” emerge in practical contexts and fields from art, medicine and political institutions? How can cultural and systemic differences in technology policy be reflected and specified on the basis of the innovation of autonomous systems?

Section 3: Norms and ethics

Which (post-Eurocentric) epistemologies and vocabularies question/enrich the debates about “autonomy” and humanism in the new digital reality? Should autonomy be understood as an intrinsic quality or as an effect in a relationship characterized by power relations? What normative requirements must autonomous systems and infrastructures meet in communication in an ethically engaged digital society?

Section 4: Collaboration

What degree of autonomy do we ascribe to robots in a collaboration situation? What synergies arise from the collaboration between humans and autonomous systems in different contexts? What role do autonomous robots play in hybrid decision-making- processes? Can autonomous robots be conceptualized as part of an automated process?

Submissions are due 1st November, 2023; the publication date will be spring 2024.

For more information or questions, please contact Caja Thimm ( or Gabriele Gramelsberger (

All manuscripts should be submitted via the journal’s online submission system (Link down below) with the remark, “Special Issue” in the cover letter. In the online submission system, there will be a drop-down menu under Document Type. Please choose “Special Issue Submission.” For formatting and length specifications, please see the journal’s Instructions for Authors.


Avatar Thimm

Prof. Dr. Caja Thimm

+49 228 73-5651/ -4746

Avatar Mayer

Prof. Dr. Maximilian Mayer

+49 228 73 5640

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