Ethics and Information Technology 4 (4):305-318 (2002)

Authors
Robert Sparrow
Monash University
Abstract
Following the success of Sony Corporation’s “AIBO”, robot cats and dogs are multiplying rapidly. “Robot pets” employing sophisticated artificial intelligence and animatronic technologies are now being marketed as toys and companions by a number of large consumer electronics corporations. It is often suggested in popular writing about these devices that they could play a worthwhile role in serving the needs of an increasingly aging and socially isolated population. Robot companions, shaped like familiar household pets, could comfort and entertain lonely older persons. This goal is misguided and unethical. While there are a number of apparent benefits that might be thought to accrue from ownership of a robot pet, the majority and the most important of these are predicated on mistaking, at a conscious or unconscious level, the robot for a real animal. For an individual to benefit significantly from ownership of a robot pet they must systematically delude themselves regarding the real nature of their relation with the animal. It requires sentimentality of a morally deplorable sort. Indulging in such sentimentality violates a (weak) duty that we have to ourselves to apprehend the world accurately. The design and manufacture of these robots is unethical in so far as it presupposes or encourages this delusion. The invention of robot pets heralds the arrival of what might be called “ersatz companions” more generally. That is, of devices that are designed to engage in and replicate significant social and emotional relationships. The advent of robot dogs offers a valuable opportunity to think about the worth of such companions, the proper place of robots in society and the value we should place on our relationships with them.
Keywords Animal  Artificial Intelligence  Ethics  Robot  Sentimentality
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/a:1021386708994
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,133
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

On the Morality of Artificial Agents.Luciano Floridi & J. W. Sanders - 2004 - Minds and Machines 14 (3):349-379.
The Lives of Animals.J. M. Coetzee - 2016 - In The Lives of Animals [Princeton Classics]. Princeton University Press. pp. 13-70.
Agent-Based Virtue Ethics.Michael Slote - 1995 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 20 (1):83-101.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Robots, Rape, and Representation.Robert Sparrow - 2017 - International Journal of Social Robotics 9 (4):465-477.
Robots in Aged Care: A Dystopian Future.Robert Sparrow - 2016 - AI and Society 31 (4):1-10.
Designing Virtuous Sex Robots.Anco Peeters & Pim Haselager - 2019 - International Journal of Social Robotics:1-12.

View all 25 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Ethics of Robot Servitude.Stephen Petersen - 2007 - Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 19 (1):43-54.
There is No 'I' in 'Robot': Robots and Utilitarianism (Expanded & Revised).Christopher Grau - 2011 - In Susan Anderson & Michael Anderson (eds.), Machine Ethics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 451.
Robots and Reality: A Reply to Robert Sparrow.Russell Blackford - 2012 - Ethics and Information Technology 14 (1):41-51.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total views
640 ( #10,316 of 2,448,252 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #144,130 of 2,448,252 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes