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The Robot as Person: Robotic Futurism and A Theology of Human Ethical Responsibility Among Humanoid Machines

DeBaets, Amy Michelle (2012)
Dissertation (277 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisers: Bounds, Elizabeth M; Hall, Pamela M
Committee Members: Wolpe, Paul Root ; McFarland, Ian
Research Fields: Theology; Religion, General; Engineering, Robotics
Keywords: Ethics; Robotics; Theology; Theological Anthropology; Personhood; Futurism
Program: Laney Graduate School, Religion (Ethics and Society)
Permanent url: http://holden.library.emory.edu/ark:/25593/bp4jb

Abstract

Abstract
The Robot as Person:
Robotic Futurism and A Theology of Human Ethical Responsibility Among
Humanoid Machines
A world in which humans and robots coexist is one with tremendous possibilities for
good and ill. Futurist thought in robotics has contributed both positively and negatively to
the development of humanoid robots to this point, offering ideas and values about what it
means to be human and what it could be for a robot to be a moral person. Some of the
more popular forms of robotic futurism have tended to overemphasize intellection and a
disembodied mind as the ultimate form of existence, while the more constructive forms
have looked at human emotional and social interactions and patterned their robots after
them. Robots that are embodied, sociable, and situated in their environment and history
are ones that begin to mirror humanity and the beings that we consider to be morally
valuable in themselves. But robotics and related psychology do not offer a complete
picture into the possibilities for robotic personhood in interaction with human beings. It is
here that theology can provide a useful history of reflection and understanding of
personhood beyond the human that can begin to develop creative possibilities for the
future direction of robotic personhood as well. Fully humanoid robots, then, could
embody the qualities of freedom and constraint, goodness and fallenness, finitude and
transcendence, and embodied spirituality that characterize human personal life. These
qualities can be considered in the development of robustly humanoid robots in a number
of different application areas and the ethical effects of those developments can be better
understood using these criteria. Humanoid robots can perform jobs that humans cannot or
would not do, they can change the ethical calculus of war, and they may even be able to
provide genuine companionship and friendship to human beings, but they need to be
designed in such a way as to facilitate human flourishing first, so that robotic flourishing
can follow.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acronym List

1

Introduction

2

Chapter 1: Key Questions About Humanoid Robotics and Ethics

10

Of Humans and Our Machines

10

Why the Contributions of Theology?

16

Theological Reflections on Humanoid Robotics

20

The Theological Idea of the "Person"

31

Project Summary

36

Applications for Humanoid Robotics

39

Policy and Funding of Humanoid Robotics Development

46

Chapter 2: Robotic Futurism and the Idea of the "Person"

50

Ray Kurzweil

53

Hans Moravec

63

Marvin Minsky

72

J. Storrs Hall

81

Rodney Brooks

90

Cynthia Breazeal

98

The Influence of Robotic Futurism on Humanoid Robotics Development

101

Chapter 3: Ethical Implications of Robotic Futurism on the Development of Humanoid Robots

105

Ethical Implications of Robotic Futurism

105

Anthropological Problems in Robotic Futurism:

108

1. Neo-Cartesian Materialist Dualism

108

2. Techno-immortality / Uploading

112

3. Evolution and the "Law of Accelerating Returns"

117

4. Determinism and Political Quietism

121

5. Political Naivete / Technology Solving Social Problems

124

6. Politics and Privilege Without Recognition

128

Constructive Anthropological Possibilities in Robotic Futurism:

130

1. Theory of Mind - Emergence, Emotion, and Ethics

131

2. Embodiment

137

3. Sociality

139

4. Situatedness

141

Futurism and Theology: Toward a Robotic Anthropology

142

Chapter 4: Theological Anthropology for Contemporary Technoscience

144

Philip Hefner and Brent Waters: Two Theological Lenses on the (Human) Person

144

Philip Hefner and the Created Co-Creator

146

Brent Waters and the Embodied-Finite-Mortal Creature

161

Hefner and Waters Reframed and Reformed

174

Embodiment, Sociality, and Situatedness in Christian Theological Anthropology

186

Chapter 5: Robotic Anthropology and the Future of Humanoid Robots

194

Widening the Circle of Grace

194

Robots as Objects of Moral Action

198

Moral Action and Moral Value

199

Robots, Pets, and Chimps

204

Relation to Human Beings as Objects of Moral Action

208

Robots as Subjects of Moral Action

209

Three Futurist Concepts: Embodiment, Sociality, and Situatedness

210

An Irreducible Who-ness: Theological Features of Created Persons

213

Freedom and Constraint

213

Goodness and Fallenness

218

Finitude and Transcendence

221

Image of God

224

Impact and Future Possibilities for Human and Robotic Personhood

232

Theology and the Politics of Technology

232

Skepticism About Privilege and Power Relations

233

Concern for the Least: See What (and Who) is Obscured

235

Beyond Utopia and Dystopia

240

Technology is Neither the (Ultimate) Problem Nor the (Ultimate) Solution

241

Toward the Ethical Development of Humanoid Robots

241

Labor Replacement and Human Services

242

Military and Defense

245

Love and Sex

248

Conclusion

254

Bibliography

256

Files

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