Assisting Ourselves to Death – A Philosophical Reflection on Lifting a Finger with Advanced Assistive Systems

  • Bruno GranscheEmail author
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 31)


Artificial assistance is about to become a major intermediary between humans and the world. Siri, Alexa, Cortana etc. are positioned to become tomorrow’s everyday life djinns that will grant all sorts of wishes at a magical wake word. They are positioned to unburden us even of the slightest effort of lifting a finger. At the brink of a possible future assistive society, the relation between human actors and the world’s resistance has been transformed by interposed artificial assistants. The comprehensive saturation of all spheres of life with such comfort oriented assistants calls again for a philosophical reflection on our relation to labour, work, and action. This article focuses on the nexus of work, competence, and comfort, of automation, assistance, and autonomy. It analyses the emerging human-assistant-world relation in the light of a master-slave-thing relation leaning mainly on Hannah Arendt. The following key questions are addressed: If we proceed on the path to an assistive society, how would this development alter the behaviour of individuals within that society, what would be the consequences for the relation between humans and the world, and how would this rearrange the distribution of competencies among human actors and artificial agents? In an assistive society, the loss of the things’ resistance is not regretted as an incapacitating development; on the contrary, it is celebrated as a gain in comfort. Yet, this means to submit ourselves to a regime of pseudo-magical effortlessness of a simple-and-easy society no longer capable of lifting a finger and no longer knowing what for.


Advanced assistance systems Comfort Competence Action theory Philosophy of technology 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Advanced Studies FoKoSUniversity of SiegenSiegenGermany

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