||I explore social robots through three large philosophical, communicative, and cultural dimensions.
First, social robots serve as very fine-grained test-beds and experiments that – as exemplified in the projects of Artificial Intelligence – issue in a techno-philosophical anthropology that helps us empirically define and (re)affirm distinctive human capacities vis-à-vis the machine. I will illuminate these findings in part in conjunction with recent work from John Sullins, Luciano Floridi, Wendell Wallach, and others. Second, virtue ethics is especially helpful in exploring questions of how should we program social robots as moral agents, where “morality” in human beings implicates autonomy, emotion, and other essential human social and communicative skills.
Finally, the social and communicative dimensions of social robots bring to the foreground important cultural assumptions regarding technology. I will contrast the characteristic “Western” trope of “the evil robot” in science fiction with salient Japanese cultural dimensions, beginning with animism, that apparently issue in a greater optimism regarding the development and presence of social robots. I will argue that the Western thematic is comparatively recent and more superficial – and hence more easily moved beyond – than we might assume. The upshot is cautious optimism regarding our futures with social robots.