Rowman and Littlefield International

Humans and Robots

Ethics, Agency, and Anthropomorphism

By Sven Nyholm

5 Reviews

This book argues that we need to explore how human beings can best coordinate and collaborate with robots in responsible ways. It investigates ethically important differences between human agency and robot agency to work towards an ethics of responsible human-robot interaction.

Ebook ISBN: 9781786612281 Release date: Apr 2020
£22.95 €32.95 $33.00
Hardback ISBN: 9781786612267 Release date: Apr 2020
£80.00 €112.00 $120.00
Paperback ISBN: 9781786612274 Release date: Apr 2020
£23.95 €33.95 $34.95

Series: Philosophy, Technology and Society

Pages: 169


Can robots perform actions, make decisions, collaborate with humans, be our friends, perhaps fall in love, or potentially harm us? Even before these things truly happen, ethical and philosophical questions already arise. The reason is that we humans have a tendency to spontaneously attribute minds and “agency” to anything even remotely humanlike. Moreover, some people already say that robots should be our companions and have rights. Others say that robots should be slaves. This book tackles emerging ethical issues about human beings, robots, and agency head on. It explores the ethics of creating robots that are, or appear to be, decision-making agents. From military robots to self-driving cars to care robots or even sex robots equipped with artificial intelligence: how should we interpret the apparent agency of such robots? This book argues that we need to explore how human beings can best coordinate and collaborate with robots in responsible ways. It investigates ethically important differences between human agency and robot agency to work towards an ethics of responsible human-robot interaction.

1.Artificial Agency, Human Responsibility: An “Existential” Problem / 2. Human-Robot Collaborations and Responsibility-Loci / 3. Moral Machines? Robotic Agents and the Traditional Moral Theories / 4. The Ethics of Human-Robot Coordination / 5. Human-Robot Relationships: Could there be Friendship or Mutual Love between Humans and Robots? / 6. Is it Wrong to Create Robots that Humans will become Emotionally Attached to? / 7. Robot Rights – should Robots be “Slaves”?

Sven Nyholm’s 2012 dissertation (from the University of Michigan) won the Proquest Distinguished Dissertation Award, and was published in book-form by De Gruyter. Nyholm’s articles have appeared in general philosophy journals, ethics journals, philosophy of technology journals, and bioethics journals. He writes about ethical theory, human self-understanding, and emerging technologies.

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5 Reviews

How should human beings and robots live together? Sven Nyholm’s Humans and Robots responds to this epoch-defining question with remarkable insight and intellectual dexterity, providing readers with an illuminating and timely examination of the ethics of responsible human-robot interaction. An essential resource not just for surviving but flourishing in the 21st century, and a must-read for humans and robots alike.

David J. Gunkel, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Northern Illinois University

As robots and artificial intelligence become more and more integrated into our everyday lives, the need for a robust conversation about the ethics of human-robot coexistence and interaction could not be more urgent. Sven Nyholm takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the most cutting-edge and controversial issues in this area, maximizing clarity and accessibility without sacrificing philosophical rigor.

Brian D. Earp, Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics & Health Policy, Yale University and The Hastings Center, and Research Fellow, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford

As robots become smarter, more autonomous, and increasingly part of our lifeworld, the ethics of human-robot interaction needs our attention. Engaging with concrete examples such as the robot Sophia, self-driving cars, and sex robots, this well-argued and easy to read book focuses on interesting issues concerning agency and anthropomorphism. For example, how to respond to the phenomenon that humans project agency onto robots? And do robots have a mind and can they be good? But Nyholm’s book is not only about robots; it is also a helpful philosophical discussion of ethical theory and related philosophical issues. What exactly do we mean by “agency” anyway, and what does a particular kind of agency imply for responsibility? What does it mean for humans to be good? In asking such foundational questions, the book demonstrates once again how good philosophy of technology is always also us, humans, and about how we (should) think.”

Mark Coeckelbergh, Professor of the Philosophy of Media and Technology at the University of Vienna

There is no doubt that we have to think seriously about the ethics of human-robot interactions. Eschewing the usual philosophical science fiction in favour of concrete real-world examples, Nyholm provides the reader with a tightly-argued, erudite, and accessible guide to the key issues. This is a book that will appeal to both general and specialist audiences.

John Danaher, Lecturer in Law, NUI Galway

Nyholm combines a philosopher’s rigour with a lightness of touch that makes this as pleasurable to re​ad as it is intellectually stimulating. The greats of philosophy – Aristotle, Kant, Hume – keep easy company with pop-culture icons like R2-D2 and Wall-E. More than just another book on AI ethics, this ultimately challenges us to rethink our ideas about human relationships, responsibility and what it means to be good.

Colin Gavaghan, New Zealand Law Foundation Chair in Law and Emerging Technologies, University of Otago

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