A lesson from subjective computing: autonomous self-referentiality and social interaction as conditions for subjectivity

AISB Proceedings 2012:18-28 (2013)
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In this paper, we model a relational notion of subjectivity by means of two experiments in subjective computing. The goal is to determine to what extent a cognitive and social robot can be regarded to act subjectively. The system was implemented as a reinforcement learning agent with a coaching function. To analyze the robotic agent we used the method of levels of abstraction in order to analyze the agent at four levels of abstraction. At one level the agent is described in mentalistic or subjective language respectively. By mapping this mentalistic to an algorithmic, functional, and relational level, we can show to what extent the agent behaves subjectively as we make use of a relational concept of subjectivity that draws upon the relations that hold between the agent and its environment. According to a relational notion of subjectivity, an agent is supposed to be subjective if it exhibits autonomous relations to itself and others, i.e. the agent is not fully determined by a given input but is able to operate on its input and decide what to do with it. This theoretical notion is confirmed by the technical implementation of self-referentiality and social interaction in that the agent shows improved behavior compared to agents without the ability of subjective computing. On the one hand, a relational concept of subjectivity is confirmed, whereas on the other hand, the technical framework of subjective computing is being theoretically founded.

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Patrick Grüneberg
Kanazawa University


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