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Living with Robots

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Living with Robots

Harvard UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

What will living with empathetic, social machines – that is, robots – teach humans about their own being?

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  • Scientific
  • Visionary
  • Concrete Examples


Science philosophers Paul Dumouchel and Luisa Damiano argue for a “radically embodied,” profoundly social nature of mind. “Social robotics,” they assert, offers an experimental opportunity to understand the dynamics of social interaction and to create autonomous “substitutes” – empathetic, cognitive artificial beings that aid and stand in for humans. In supporting their thesis, the authors contrast Eastern and Western popular conceptions of intelligent robots, disassemble prevailing philosophies of mind, explore potential mechanisms of “artificial empathy,” and examine the military and bureaucratic establishment’s motives in defining “moral machines.” Dumouchel and Damiano present a refreshingly pure, divergent intellectual investigation into the “coevolution” of human and robot. Students and teachers of technological change, futurist investors, and all readers intrigued by this realm of science will appreciate their big-brain, complexity-embracing approach.


The Nature of Robots

“Social robotics” presents a moral problem. As humans create more “artificial social agents,” societies must confront the idea of machine empathy. As people interact with artificial agents, human behavior will matter as much as machine behavior. Increasingly, people will take part in an “experimental anthropology” of “inter-individual” human-machine interaction. Now, “synthetic ethics” offers an alternative to the human-versus-machine dichotomy and a morally beneficial cooperative evolution of human and robot. Originally, “robot” meant an artificial worker. The first robots –  “biosynthetic” beings as in Karel Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) – were indistinguishable from humans. Yet most real robots, such as drones, don’t resemble people or animals. Čapek’s robots kill their human masters. Fears of robot rebellion persist and fuel classics of popular culture, such as Isaac Asimov’s science fiction short story collection, I, Robot, featuring lethal cyborgs.

Robots’ advantages over human workers include tirelessness, focus, dependability, efficiency and economy. People ...

About the Authors

Canadian Paul Dumouchel is a professor of philosophy at the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Ritsumeikan University, Japan. Luisa Damiano is an associate professor of logic and the philosophy of science at the University of Messina. Malcolm DeBevoise has translated more than 30 scholarly works from French and Italian.

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