“Robot” as a Life-Form Word

  • Hans Bernhard SchmidEmail author
Part of the Studies in the Philosophy of Sociality book series (SIPS)


In much of earlier philosophy of robotics and artificial intelligence, it is argued that while robots can perform fully standardized routine work, they are, as a matter of principle, unable to participate in the discursive practices within which our social form of life is negotiated. With robots (and their virtual counterparts, the bots) currently entering our service economy, it is not entirely unlikely to assume that this view is about to be disproven by the facts. It may well be that robots will soon be more “like us” in that the conventions and practices that shape our social form of life will be negotiated, in part, in cooperation with and partly even among our mechanical helpers. This paper investigates into the reasons for and causes of some of the fears at this prospect – a field of investigation in which literary fiction has often been more clear-sighted than received philosophy of robotics. It is argued that an influential and historically deeply rooted form of “robophobia” originates in an “us” versus “them” frame of mind that rests on a concept of radical self-alienation of mankind.


Robophilosophy Robophobia Discursive practice Life-form Self-alienation 



I am grateful to Johanna Seibt and Raul Hakli for many insightful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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