Could social robots make us kinder or crueller to humans and animals?

Journal article


Coghlan, Simon, Vetere, Frank, Waycott, Jenny and Barbosa Neves, Barbara. (2019). Could social robots make us kinder or crueller to humans and animals? International Journal of Social Robotics. 11(5), pp. 741-751. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-019-00583-2
AuthorsCoghlan, Simon, Vetere, Frank, Waycott, Jenny and Barbosa Neves, Barbara
Abstract

The Montréal Declaration for Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence states that emerging technologies ought not “encourage cruel behaviour towards robots that take on the appearance of human beings or animals and act in a similar fashion.” The idea of a causal link between cruelty and kindness to artificial and living beings, human or animal, is controversial and underexplored, despite its increasing relevance to robotics. Kate Darling recently marshalled Immanuel Kant’s argument—that cruelty to animals promotes cruelty to people—to argue for an analogous link concerning social robots. Others, such as Johnson and Verdicchio, have counter-argued that animal analogies are often flawed, partly because they ignore social robots’ true nature, including their lack of sentience. This, they say, weakens Darling’s argument that social robots will have virtue-promoting or vice-promoting effects regarding our treatment of living beings. Certain ideas in this debate, including those of anthropomorphism, projection, animal analogies, and Kant’s causal claim, require clarification and critical attention. Concentrating on robot animals, this paper examines strengths and weaknesses on both sides of this argument. It finds there is some reason for thinking that social robots may causally affect virtue, especially in terms of the moral development of children and responses to nonhuman animals. This conclusion has implications for future robot design and interaction.

Keywordssocial robots; companion robots; animals; moral virtue; anthropomorphism; children
Year2019
JournalInternational Journal of Social Robotics
Journal citation11 (5), pp. 741-751
PublisherSpringer
ISSN1875-4791
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-019-00583-2
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85076479044
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range741-751
FunderAustralian Research Council (ARC)
Publisher's version
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All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online11 Oct 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted22 Aug 2019
Deposited31 Aug 2021
ARC Funded ResearchThis output has been funded, wholly or partially, under the Australian Research Council Act 2001
Grant IDARC/FT170100420
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