Artificial Speech and Its Authors

Minds and Machines 23 (4):489-502 (2013)
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Some of the systems used in natural language generation (NLG), a branch of applied computational linguistics, have the capacity to create or assemble somewhat original messages adapted to new contexts. In this paper, taking Bernard Williams’ account of assertion by machines as a starting point, I argue that NLG systems meet the criteria for being speech actants to a substantial degree. They are capable of authoring original messages, and can even simulate illocutionary force and speaker meaning. Background intelligence embedded in their datasets enhances these speech capacities. Although there is an open question about who is ultimately responsible for their speech, if anybody, we can settle this question by using the notion of proxy speech, in which responsibility for artificial speech acts is assigned legally or conventionally to an entity separate from the speech actant
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