Hegel, the Struggle for Recognition, and Robots

Abstract

While the mediational theories of Don Ihde and Peter-Paul Verbeek have helped to uncover the role that technologies play in ethical life, the role that technologies play in political life has received far less attention. In order to fill in this gap, I turn to the mediational theory of Hegel. Hegel shows how understanding the mediated nature of experience is vital to understanding the development of political life. Through examples found in the military, in particular concerning the relationship between explosive ordnance detonation soldiers and robots, I illustrate how Hegel’s analysis of the “struggle for recognition” can be used to understand human-technology relations from a political perspective. This political perspective can consequently help us to appreciate how technologies come to have a role in political life through our ability to experience solidarity with technology. Solidarity is experienced by users due to the recognition of technologies as serving roles in society that I describe as functionally equivalent to the social roles of the user. The realization of this functional equivalence allows users to learn how they are perceived and respected by society through the experience of how functionally equivalent technologies are perceived and respected. I conclude by focusing on the importance of understanding functional equivalence in design, as well as in the case of the Dallas Police Department having turned an EOD robot from a life-saving to a life-taking device. These examples show why Hegel is necessary for helping us to understand the political significance of recognizing and of misrecognizing technologies.

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Nolen Gertz
University of Twente

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