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01-02-2011 | Original Paper | Issue 1/2011 Open Access

AI & SOCIETY 1/2011

You, robot: on the linguistic construction of artificial others

AI & SOCIETY > Issue 1/2011
Mark Coeckelbergh


How can we make sense of the idea of ‘personal’ or ‘social’ relations with robots? Starting from a social and phenomenological approach to human–robot relations, this paper explores how we can better understand and evaluate these relations by attending to the ways our conscious experience of the robot and the human–robot relation is mediated by language. It is argued that our talk about and to robots is not a mere representation of an objective robotic or social-interactive reality, but rather interprets and co-shapes our relation to these artificial quasi-others. Our use of language also changes as a result of our experiences and practices. This happens when people start talking to robots. In addition, this paper responds to the ethical objection that talking to and with robots is both unreal and deceptive. It is concluded that in order to give meaning to human–robot relations, to arrive at a more balanced ethical judgment, and to reflect on our current form of life, we should complement existing objective-scientific methodologies of social robotics and interaction studies with interpretations of the words, conversations, and stories in and about human–robot relations.
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