Companion robots: the hallucinatory danger of human-robot interactions

In AIES '18: Proceedings of the 2018 AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society. pp. 17-22 (2018)
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The advent of the so-called Companion Robots is raising many ethical concerns among scholars and in the public opinion. Focusing mainly on robots caring for the elderly, in this paper we analyze these concerns to distinguish which are directly ascribable to robotic, and which are instead preexistent. One of these is the “deception objection”, namely the ethical unacceptability of deceiving the user about the simulated nature of the robot’s behaviors. We argue on the inconsistency of this charge, as today formulated. After that, we underline the risk, for human-robot interaction, to become a hallucinatory relation where the human would subjectify the robot in a dynamic of meaning-overload. Finally, we analyze the definition of “quasi-other” relating to the notion of “uncanny”. The goal of this paper is to argue that the main concern about Companion Robots is the simulation of a human-like interaction in the absence of an autonomous robotic horizon of meaning. In addition, that absence could lead the human to build a hallucinatory reality based on the relation with the robot.
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