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Can Robots Make us Better Humans?

Virtuous Robotics and the Good Life with Artificial Agents

Abstract

This position paper proposes a novel approach to the ethical design of social robots. We coin the term “Virtuous Robotics” to describe Human–Robot Interaction (HRI) designed to help humans reach a higher level of moral development. Our approach contrasts with mainstream approaches to robot design inspired by the other normative theories, Consequentialism and Deontology. In the paper we theoretically justify our proposal, illustrating how the Virtuous Robotics approach allows us to discriminate between positive and negative applications of robotics systems, of which we provide examples. From an ethical perspective, our proposal is theoretically robust because it is based on the assistive role played by the robot rather than the robot’s moral agency. From a designer’s perspective, Virtuous Robotics is technically feasible because it transfers the cognitive burden of HRI from the robot to the user, bypassing the need for complex decision-making abilities. From the user’s perspective, it is concretely advantageous, because it envisions a realistic way to make robots morally desirable in our lives, as supports for personal betterment and fulfilment.

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Correspondence to Massimiliano L. Cappuccio.

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This research was supported by a DHRG Seedcorn Funding Grant awarded to Omar Mubin and Massimiliano L. Cappuccio by the School of Digital Humanities of Western Sydney University on 19/5/2018.

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Cappuccio, M.L., Sandoval, E.B., Mubin, O. et al. Can Robots Make us Better Humans?. Int J of Soc Robotics 13, 7–22 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-020-00700-6

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Keywords

  • Virtuous Robotics
  • Virtue Ethics
  • Self-improvement
  • Deontology
  • Consequentialism
  • Human–Robot interaction
  • Recognition theory
  • Character formation
  • Machine Ethics
  • Aristotle