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Master and Slave: the Dialectic of Human-Artificial Intelligence Engagement


The massive introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) has triggered significant societal concerns, ranging from “technological unemployment” and the dominance of algorithms in the work place and in everyday life, among others. While AI is made by humans and is, therefore, dependent on the latter for its purpose, the increasing capabilities of AI to carry out productive activities for humans can lead the latter to unwitting slavish existence. This has become evident, for example, in the area of social media use, where AI programmers tie psychology and persuasion to the human social need for approval and validation in ways that few users can resist. We argue that AI should serve humans with humans as masters and not the other way around. Moreover, we propose that virtue ethics might play a role to solidify the human as master of AI and guard against the alternative of AI as the master.

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  2. Another way to divide strong and weak AI is that strong AI “seeks not only to think, but to feel and purpose as well, becoming a “mind” and not only a model of one, while “weak AI” is meant to be at the service of human designs (Botica 2017).

  3. It should be noted that we deliberately use the term “slave” in this essay in reference to Hegel’s use of the term in the “Master-Slave Dialectic”, without connecting to the practice of slavery, past and present, or reference to persons with dignity that were or are enslaved.


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Correspondence to Benito Teehankee.

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Kim, T.W., Maimone, F., Pattit, K. et al. Master and Slave: the Dialectic of Human-Artificial Intelligence Engagement. Humanist Manag J 6, 355–371 (2021).

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  • Human-artificial intelligence engagement
  • Virtue ethics
  • Human flourishing