Humana Mente 13 (37) (2020)

Luisa Damiano
Università degli Studi di Messina
In this article we tackle the core question of machine emotion research – “Can machines have emotions?” – in the context of “social robots”, a new class of machines designed to function as “social partners” for humans. Our aim, however, is not to provide an answer to the question “Can robots have emotions?” Rather we argue that the “robotics of emotion” moves us to reformulate it into a different one – “Can robots affectively coordinate with humans?” Developing a series of arguments relevant to theory of emotion, philosophy of AI, and the epistemology of synthetic models, we argue that the answer to this different question is positive, and that it lays grounds for an innovative ethical approach to emotional robots. This ethical project, which we introduced elsewhere as “synthetic ethics”, rejects the diffused ethical condemnation of emotional robots as “cheating” technology. Synthetic ethics focuses not on an ideological refusal, but on the concrete sustainability of the emerging mixed human-robot social ecologies. On this basis, in contrast to a purely negative ethical approach to social robotics it promotes an analytical case by case ethical inquiry into the type of human flourishing that can result from human-robot affective coordination.
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