International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 217–221 | Cite as

Personal Robots, Appearance, and Human Good: A Methodological Reflection on Roboethics

  • Mark Coeckelbergh
Open Access
Original Paper


The development of pet robots, toy robots, and sex robots suggests a near-future scenario of habitual living with ‘personal’ robots. How should we evaluate their potential impact on the quality of our lives and existence?

In this paper, I argue for an approach to ethics of personal robots that advocates a methodological turn from robots to humans, from mind to interaction, from intelligent thinking to social-emotional being, from reality to appearance, from right to good, from external criteria to good internal to practice, and from theory to experience and imagination. First I outline what I take to be a common approach to roboethics, then I sketch the contours of an alternative methodology: ethics of personal robots as an ethics of appearance, human good, experience, and imagination.

The result is a sketch of an empirically informed anthropocentric ethics that aims at understanding and evaluating what robots do to humans as social and emotional beings in virtue of their appearance, in particular how they may contribute to human good and human flourishing. Starting from concrete experience and practice and being sufficiently sensitive to individual and cultural differences, this approach invites us to be attentive to how human good emerges in human–robot interaction and to imagine, possibilities of living with personal robots that help to constitute good human lives.


Personal robots Ethics of robotics Appearance Human flourishing Artificial intelligence 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

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