Accepted Paper:

Sapiens ex machina: towards an anthropology of human-robot relations  

Author:

Peter-Paul Verbeek (University of Twente)

Paper short abstract:

Robots challenge the frameworks that have been developed to understand the relations between humans and technologies. This paper investigates how to conceptualize human-robot relations in terms of mediation rather than otherness, relating this to current debates on the social impact of robots.

Paper long abstract:

The advent of ever more socially intelligent robots challenges the approaches and frameworks that have been developed to understand the human being and the relations between humans and technologies. This paper will investigate how we can conceptualize the relations between human beings and robots, and how social robots urge us to rethink the differences between humans and machines. First of all, the paper will address how robots challenge the existing postphenomenological framework for understanding human-technology relations. While human-robot relations could qualify as 'alterity relations', a more refined analysis is needed of the specific character of the relations humans have with robots as 'alter'. In order to do this, second, the paper will address how robots can find a place in existing anthropological frameworks for understanding human-technology relations. While robots are often seen as exteriorizations of the human, modeled after ourselves, I will argue that we in fact need to understand robots as mediators of human practices and perception. Third, the paper will further investigate this mediating role of robots, analyzing how they help to shape human intentionality, both in action and in perception. Rather than focusing on how robots have their own, artificial, intentionality, it will appear to be crucial to understand how robots help to organize human intentionality. To conclude, the paper will address how this analysis of robots in terms of mediation rather than otherness can contribute to societal discussions about living-with-robots.

Panel T145
Postphenomenological Research: Technologies, Robots, and Human Identity