Personal robots, appearance, and human good: A methodological reflection on roboethics

  • Coeckelbergh M
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The development of pet robots, toy robots, and sex robots suggests a near-future scenario of habitual living with ‘personal’ robots. How should we evaluate their poten- tial impact on the quality of our lives and existence? In this paper, I argue for an approach to ethics of personal robots that advocates a methodological turn from robots to humans, from mind to interaction, from intelligent thinking to social-emotional being, from reality to appearance, from right to good, from external criteria to good internal to prac- tice, and from theory to experience and imagination. First I outline what I take to be a common approach to roboethics, then I sketch the contours of an alternative methodology: ethics of personal robots as an ethics of appearance, human good, experience, and imagination. The result is a sketch of an empirically informed anthro- pocentric ethics that aims at understanding and evaluating what robots do to humans as social and emotional beings in virtue of their appearance, in particular how they may con- tribute to human good and human flourishing. Starting from concrete experience and practice and being sufficiently sen- sitive to individual and cultural differences, this approach invites us to be attentive to how human good emerges in human–robot interaction and to imagine, possibilities of liv- ing with personal robots that help to constitute good human lives.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Appearance
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Ethics of robotics
  • Human flourishin
  • Personal robots

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  • Mark Coeckelbergh

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