Presence, Reciprocity and Robotic Mediations: The Case of Autonomous Social Robots

Presence, Reciprocity and Robotic Mediations: The Case of Autonomous Social Robots

Pericle Salvini (BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/jte.2012040102
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In this paper, the author proposes a theoretical framework for drawing a line between acceptable and non-acceptable technologies, with a focus on autonomous social robots. The author considers robots as mediations and their ethical acceptance as depending on their impact on the notion of presence. Presence is characterised by networks of reciprocity which make human beings subject and object of actions and perceptions at the same time. Technological mediation can either promote or inhibit the reciprocity of presence. A medium that inhibits presence deserves ethical evaluation since it prevents the possibility of a mutual exchange, thus creating a form of power. Autonomous social robots are a special kind of technological mediation because they replace human presence with a simulation of presence. Therefore, in interactions between human beings and autonomous robots, attention should be paid to the consequences on legal, moral, and social responsibility, and, at the same time, the impact of simulated forms of presence on human beings.
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1. Introduction

In the following, I will attempt to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not from an ethical point of view with regard to the technological enhancements of human beings through robotic technologies. With such an objective, I may appear to be a technophobe, a Luddite or a conservationist—quite the opposite. I agree with the definition that humans are technical by nature, even if it may sound to be a contradiction in terms, but I also agree with the truism that “not all progress is good or necessary.” We cannot deny that technology and science are core aspects of the human nature. Nevertheless, it is also unquestionable that there are other forces, driven by scientific interest and economics, which push scientific and technological developments towards choices that are not always integral to the survival of human species.

This paper responds to the needs and objectives of the ethics of technology, which are called technoethics or roboethics and these are:

  • 1.

    To identify the dangers and benefits that come out from the research and application of advanced robotic technologies and systems;

  • 2.

    To develop tools and knowledge which allows us to direct the development of robotic technology in a sustainable way for the human being (present and future generations) and the natural environment (Veruggio & Operto, 2010)

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