Ingarden’s Systems-Theoretical Philosophical Anthropology as a Tool for Analyzing the Technological Posthumanization of Persons and Societies

Ingarden’s Systems-Theoretical Philosophical Anthropology as a Tool for Analyzing the Technological Posthumanization of Persons and Societies (M. Gladden, 2020)

In In Roman Ingarden and His Times, edited by Dominika Czakon, Natalia Anna Michna, and Leszek Sosnowski, pp. 109-26 • Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka, 2020

ABSTRACT: While Roman Ingarden’s ontology and aesthetics have been widely studied, relatively little attention has been paid to his philosophical anthropology – despite the central role that it plays within his thought. Here we draw on the concept of the “relatively isolated system,” developed by Ingarden over more than three decades, in order to show how his philosophical model of the human being as a three-layered emergent whole can be understood as a particular application of his more generalized systems theory. Having reconstructed Ingarden’s systems-theoretical philosophical anthropology, it is argued that it provides a uniquely valuable methodological approach and tool for investigating those emerging processes of technological posthumanization that are diversifying and transforming human societies by expanding them to incorporate new types of non-human intelligent social actors (e.g., increasingly sophisticated social robots and AI) and “otherly” human beings (e.g., individuals whose capacities have been altered through neuroprosthetic augmentation). Conventional philosophical investigations that take as their starting point the status of human beings as biological, intentional, or moral beings often focus on the ways in which contemporary social robots and AI lack such status and thereby differ radically from human beings. However, by starting from the fact that all such entities are manifestations of relatively isolated systems, an Ingardenian systems-theoretical philosophical anthropology can highlight previously unappreciated similarities shared by the “naturally” human, otherly human, and non-human intelligent social beings expected to coexist within increasingly posthumanized societies.

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Phenomenology of the Gameworld: A Philosophical Toolbox for Video Game Developers

Phenomenology of the Gameworld (front cover)

ISBN 978-1-944373-74-0 • Defragmenter Media, 2019 • 362 pages

Good video games transport us to incredible new worlds. We don’t just enter such unforgettable “gameworlds” when we play first-person RPGs with high-resolution graphics; even relatively simple 2D puzzle or strategy games with retro visuals can immerse players in worlds that are beautiful, terrifying, mysterious, or moving, that are brutally realistic or delightfully whimsical.

The process by which a particular gameworld emerges is a symbiosis between developer and player: the game system presents a carefully architected stream of polygons and pixels, which somehow leads the player’s mind to construct and explore an intricate world full of places, people, relationships, dilemmas, and quests that transcend what’s actually appearing onscreen.

This book is meant for developers who want to create games that will evoke richer and more memorable gameworlds in the minds of their players. Drawing on insights from ontology and philosophical aesthetics, it provides you with conceptual frameworks and concrete tools that will enhance your ability to design games whose iconic gameworlds encourage the types of gameplay experiences you want to offer your players.

Once you’ve undertaken this philosophical and artistic journey, you’ll never look at your games – or their gameworlds – in quite the same way again.

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Twarde światło i architektura kosmiczna: Analiza fenomenologiczno-estetyczna filmu Tron jako wzorca paradygmatu ‘Siatki Cyberprzestrzennej’

Twarde światło i architektura kosmiczna: Analiza fenomenologiczno-estetyczna filmu Tron jako wzorca paradygmatu ‘Siatki Cyberprzestrzennej’ (M. Gladden, 2019)

In Rejestry Kultury (Perspektywy Ponowoczesności, vol. 9), edited by Ksenia Olkusz, pp. 481-501 • Wrocław: Facta Ficta Research Centre, 2019

ABSTRACT: W niniejszym rozdziale przedstawiona zostanie fenomenologiczno-estetyczna analiza sposobu, w jaki użycie namacalnego, „ucieleśnionego” światła jako budulca architektonicznego w filmie Disneya Tron z 1982 roku przyczyniło się do założenia paradygmatu konstrukcji i wizualizacji immersyjnych światów elektronicznych. Paradygmat ten (Siatka Cyberprzestrzenna) pozostaje aktualny w dzisiejszej erze rosnącej popularności technologii rzeczywistości wirtualnej. Analiza obejmuje dwie części. Po pierwsze, rozważane będzie użycie „twardego światła” jako elementu architektonicznego w świecie elektronicznym, przedstawionym w filmie Tron. Druga część analizy obejmie sposób, w jaki użycie twardego światła w Tronie przyczyniło się do stworzenia jednego z podstawowych paradygmatów albo metafor konstruowania cyberprzestrzeni i wizualizacji środowisk wirtualnych, to jest, paradygmatu Siatki Cyberprzestrzennej.

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Novel Forms of ‘Magical’ Human-Computer Interaction Within the Cyber-Physical Smart Workplace: Implications for Usability and User Experience

International Journal of Research Studies in Management (2019)

ABSTRACT: The growing use of advanced AI, ambient intelligence, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) technologies of the sort found within the emerging cyber-physical smart workplace has been described as enabling new forms of human-computer interaction (HCI) that are “magical” in nature. This study shows that from an anthropological perspective, such a workplace environment can indeed be understood as “magical”; however, that “magicality” is a double-edged sword that can potentially both enhance and damage user experience (UX) for workers and other occupants of such environments. First, by analyzing existing social anthropological and philosophical anthropological accounts of magic, typical elements of magical practice are identified. Using Nielsen’s empirical analysis of HCI usability heuristics as a basis, a prospective heuristic evaluation is then carried out for the usability of a generic “magical” environment, in order to identify elements of magical practice that might be expected to enhance or impair user experience when they are required for interaction with the environment. A more specific heuristic usability evaluation is then performed for the “magical” aspects of HCI created by two kinds of constituent technologies that are typical for a cyber-physical smart workplace: those of (a) ambient intelligence and IoT-enabled systems and (b) AR and VR systems. It is shown that the magical aspects of HCI within the emerging cyber-physical smart workplace differ significantly in their potential UX impacts from the magicality involved with earlier forms of computing, and the implications of this fact for the management of future workplaces are identified and discussed.

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Beyond Buildings: Developing an Ingardenian Systems-Theoretical Aesthetics of Future Biomimetic, Interactive Architectural Entities

Beyond Buildings: Developing an Ingardenian Systems-Theoretical Aesthetics of Future Biomimetic, Interactive Architectural Entities

The European Society for Aesthetics Conference 2019 • University of Warsaw, Warsaw • June 13, 2019

ABSTRACT: For millennia, the buildings created by human architects largely displayed traits of solidity, immobility, passivity, limited interactivity, and reliance on fairly simple geometrical shapes to constitute their core structure. As a result, the field of architectural aesthetics could take for granted the fact that a “building” was such a motionless, non-interactive shell; the philosophical frameworks developed to analyze buildings thus had very little in common with those used to analyze, say, living organisms or moral agents.

This paper begins by showing how such historical assumptions are now being undermined through the development of technologies that enable the creation of types of buildings that would previously have been impossible. For example:

• Augmented reality technologies increasingly allow buildings to create perceived and experienced structures that differ wildly from the buildings’ actual physical components.
• Developments in ambient intelligence and social robotics allow a building to create intimately interactive spaces that interpret their occupants’ moods and unspoken thoughts and respond through physical changes, speech, and other social behaviors.
• AI-guided parametric design (championed by figures like Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher) is enabling the creation of highly complex, asymmetrical, curvilinear, resilient, biomimetic architectural forms that no human mind could design.

The building of the dawning future is more than just a “building”: it is a biomimetic, interactive architectural entity that is richly “biomimetic” not simply because of its curvilinear surface but because of its dynamism, agency, and role as an intelligent, autonomous social actor. Depending on its AI, such a building may even constitute a “person” capable of meaningful social relationships. In the language of Herbrechter’s critical posthumanism, such buildings are posthuman agents that create new types of posthumanized architectural spaces.

The emergence of such architectural entities requires the development of new conceptual frameworks for investigating them from the perspective of philosophical aesthetics. One popular paradigm employed to analyze parametrically designed architecture is that of Deleuze’s fold, which Deleuze illustrated in Le Pli: Leibnitz et le Baroque (1988) through his allegory of the “Baroque house.” The Deleuzian fold is active, curvilinear, and mediating; it thus possesses some properties common to biomimetic, parametrically designed buildings. However, we argue that Deleuze’s Baroque house allegory fails to capture the agency, dynamism, mutability, and interactivity of the emerging architectural entities described here; the need thus remains for new frameworks to describe them. We propose one such approach that draws on elements of Ingarden’s later thought that have been largely overlooked within the field of aesthetics.

The Polish philosopher Roman Ingarden (1893-1970) is known in the field of architectural aesthetics primarily for the “classical” phenomenological frameworks that he developed in the 1920s and 1930s, which analyze the stratification of the architectural object (i.e., the “building”) as a work of art, the ontological status of the building as a purely intentional object, and the role of concretization in aesthetic experience. Today – after a century of developments in aesthetics – the ontological suppositions of those frameworks are seen as increasingly antiquated, and it is often presumed that Ingarden has little to offer for the analysis of posthumanized architectural entities.

In this paper, however, it is argued that the opposite is true, as the conventional view of Ingarden overlooks innovative strains of thought (a sort of “Ingarden 2.0”) that arose in his later years, as he explored ongoing scientific and technological advances. For example, we show how Ingarden foresaw future VR technologies, analyzed what today would be called “computational aesthetics,” and made one of his last (unfinished) projects the reworking of his earlier writings to account for new discoveries in neuroscience. Moreover, his work in systems theory proved so influential that he is considered a pioneering figure of Polish cybernetics.

Ingarden died before applying his mature systems theory (and especially, his model of the “relatively isolated system”) to aesthetics; as a result, it has been largely ignored by later aestheticians. However, we argue that it is not only possible to formulate a “systems-theoretical aesthetics” grounded in Ingarden’s systems theory, but that it offers a valuable tool for analyzing emerging biomimetic, interactive architectural entities.

Developing an Ingardenian systems-theoretical architectural aesthetics. As the foundation for its proposed systems-theoretical aesthetics, this paper analyzes Ingarden’s concept of the “relatively isolated system” by tracing its development over decades and providing translations of some passages previously available only in Polish. Sources analyzed include:

• Ingarden’s account of the membranes that partially isolate bodily organs from one another other, which is presented in O poznawaniu dzieła literackiego (1937).
• Ingarden’s model of a living organism as an enduring core surrounded by outer layers that arise and are destroyed throughout one’s life, as presented in Spór o istnienie świata, vol. 1 (1941).
• Ingarden’s model of the “partially isolated system” and the role played by semipermeable boundaries that regulate an object’s engagement with its environment, as described in a plan (1945-46) for Spór o istnienie świata, vol. 3. This concept was influenced by Ingarden’s reading of Bertalanffy’s Theoretische Biologie.
• Ingarden’s concept of the “relatively closed system,” found in preliminary notes (1950-54) for Spór o istnienie świata, vol. 3.
• Ingarden’s mature concept of the “relatively isolated system,” presented in Über die Verantwortung: Ihre ontischen Fundamente (1970).

Drawing on the multifaceted concept of space found in Christian Norberg-Schulz’s Heideggerian architectural phenomenology, we demonstrate how a systems-theoretical aesthetics grounded in Ingarden’s concept of the relatively isolated system identifies the emerging biomimetic, interactive architectural entity as a system that creates, encompasses, animates, and regulates a nexus of overlapping three-dimensional, experiential, informational, technological, social, and ecological spaces. Such an approach categorizes, compares, and evaluates architectural entities according to the nature of their semipermeable membranes and their openings.

In a manner consonant with contemporary environmental aesthetics, this approach locates a building’s aesthetic properties in the “porousness” of its external and internal physical, informational, and social boundaries – which include not only structures like walls, windows, and stairwells but also the topologies of Wi-Fi networks; information security mechanisms; air circulation patterns; elements that regulate colonization of the space by plant or animal species; social networks; enforced social conventions; and the relationships between a building’s human occupants and the artificial agents that enliven it. The definition and exploration of this approach represents this paper’s central achievement.

The paper concludes by discussing strengths and weaknesses of this proposed approach. It is argued that it can prove useful for analyzing the design and aesthetic experience of buildings transformed through the incorporation of artificial agency and biomimetic dynamics.

It is hoped that this paper can contribute to aesthetic discourse in several ways. First, it shows how diverse technologies are combining to create biomimetic, interactive, posthumanized architectural entities that differ qualitatively from buildings of earlier ages. Second, it formulates an Ingardenian systems-theoretical aesthetics whose foundations in emergentist theoretical biology render it at least as suitable for describing such entities as paradigms like the Deleuzian fold. Finally, the text presents a historical-textual analysis of aspects of Ingarden’s thought that are little known within philosophical aesthetics, thereby shedding new light on a leading 20th-century aesthetician.

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Who Will Be the Members of Society 5.0? Towards an Anthropology of Technologically Posthumanized Future Societies

Toward Society 5.0: The Dynamics of Posthumanization

Social Sciences 8, no. 5 (2019)

ABSTRACT: The Japanese Government’s “Society 5.0” initiative aims to create a cyber-physical society in which (among other things) citizens’ daily lives will be enhanced through increasingly close collaboration with artificially intelligent systems. However, an apparent paradox lies at the heart of efforts to create a more “human-centered” society in which human beings will live alongside a proliferating array of increasingly autonomous social robots and embodied AI. This study seeks to investigate the presumed human-centeredness of Society 5.0 by comparing its makeup with that of earlier societies. By distinguishing “technological” and “non-technological” processes of posthumanization and applying a phenomenological anthropological model, the study demonstrates: (1) how the diverse types of human and non-human members expected to participate in Society 5.0 differ qualitatively from one another; (2) how the dynamics that will shape the membership of Society 5.0 can be conceptualized; and (3) how the anticipated membership of Society 5.0 differs from that of Societies 1.0 through 4.0. The study describes six categories of prospective human and non-human members of Society 5.0 and shows that all six have analogues in earlier societies – which suggests that social scientific analysis of past societies may shed unexpected light on the nature of Society 5.0.

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Istoty inaczej-ludzkie, quasi-ludzkie i nie-ludzkie jako członkowie przyszłych społeczeństw: Analiza dynamiki posthumanizacji technologicznej

Świat sposthumanizowany

The International Conference on Humans in a Technological World: The Anthropology of Technics • Jagiellonian University, Kraków • May 10, 2019

ABSTRACT: Procesy „posthumanizacji” mogą być rozumiane jako dynamika, za pomocą której społeczeństwo ludzkie włącza do siebie poza „naturalnymi” biologicznymi istotami ludzkimi innych członków, którzy przyczyniają się do struktury, działalności albo znaczenia tego społeczeństwa.
Dzisiaj posthumanizacja identyfikowana jest głównie z włączeniem w ludzkie społeczeństwo zaawansowanej sztucznej inteligencji i robotów społecznych, które ludzie zapraszają do swoich domów i miejsc pracy jako asystentów, współpracowników i towarzyszy. Rozmaite projekty badawcze stwierdzają sposoby, w jakie takie łączenie nie-ludzkiej sprawczości do ludzkiego społeczeństwa stwarza nowe wymiary społecznej rzeczywistości. W niniejszej prezentacji natomiast twierdzimy, że chociaż taka „posthumanizacja technologiczna” faktycznie jest fenomenem dość nowym, może być ona porównana z procesami „posthumanizacji nietechnologicznej,” które od dawna poszerzały społeczeństwa ludzkie o wiele typów nie-ludzkiej sprawczości. Na przykład, wszystkie społeczeństwa, w których ludzie zamieszkiwali i pracowali z zwierzętami domowymi; wierzyli w aniołów, demony albo potwory; albo starali się rozmawiać z zmarłymi krewnymi mogą być rozumiane jako społeczeństwa (nietechnologicznie) posthumanizowane. Starożytne formy posthumanizacji nietechnologicznej i rozwijające się formy posthumanizacji technologicznej będą zidentyfikowane, zanalizowane, i porównane przy zastosowaniu podejścia fenomenologicznego. Prezentacja pokaże, jak społeczeństwa posthumanizowane zarówno technologicznie jak i nietechnologicznie włączają różnych członków, których można klasyfikować jako „naturalne” biologiczne istoty ludzkie, sztucznie rozszerzone istoty ludzkie lub meta-ludzkie, epi-ludzkie, para-ludzkie, albo nie-ludzkie istoty.

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Ingarden’s Concept of the Relatively Isolated System and the Aesthetics of Biomimetic Virtual Forms

An Ingardenian systems aesthetics of architecture

Roman Ingarden and His Times: An International Phenomenological Conference 2018 • Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Kraków • October 27, 2018

ABSTRACT: As virtual reality technology becomes more sophisticated, there is growing recognition of the importance of Ingarden’s thought for the aesthetic analysis of architecture in virtual worlds. For example, his distinction between the ‘building’ that is constituted as an intentional object and its physical ontic foundation provides a useful tool for understanding virtual buildings, whose unique character results largely from their novel ontic basis. Moreover, it has been noted that Ingarden’s envisioning of future technologies for the ‘illusory embodiment’ of buildings in “O dziele architektury” §2 foresaw immersive VR technologies that are only now becoming feasible.

Here, however, we argue that a different aspect of Ingarden’s thought – the concept of the relatively isolated system – may hold even more promise as a tool for analyzing innovations in virtual architecture. We trace Ingarden’s development of this concept over three decades, from his description of the ‘organism’ as a hierarchical structural functional system (1937) to his model of the human being as a stable core with changing outer layers (ca. 1941), his analysis of Bertalanffy’s ‘open system’ model (1943), his notion of the ‘partially isolated system’ (1945-46), his description of the ‘relatively closed system’ (1950-54), and the mature concept of the ‘relatively isolated system’ developed in Über die Verantwortung: Ihre ontischen Fundamente (1968-70).

We then investigate the concept’s significance for virtual architecture. A growing trend is the use of computer-aided ‘form-finding’ techniques in which the shape of a building’s exterior ‘skin’ is not intentionally planned by a human architect but emerges organically through posthumanized processes of evolutionary computation; the resulting forms often display ‘Deleuzian’ curvilinear shapes resembling the bodies of biological organisms. In “O dziele architektury,” Ingarden had noted that in practice, human architecture never displays the organic irregularity and curvilinearity seen in living trees or in the ‘cities’ built by insects, because (1) functional considerations render such forms suboptimal for human inhabitation, and (2) human architects have been historically conditioned to believe that every building they design is ‘supposed to’ harmoniously concretize regular geometric shapes. However, Ingarden’s reasoning can be interpreted as anticipating precisely those radically irregular organic structures that are now becoming possible, as innovative AI technologies allow the task of form-finding to be separated from the anthropic intentional processes of a human architect and entrusted to non-human agents.

Moreover, such biomimetic design can be carried even further in virtual environments, whose looser constraints allow the construction (and aesthetic experiencing) of buildings whose forms would be impractical to fabricate in the ‘real’ world; such virtual surfaces can serve as sites of sensation and response that mediate between interior and exterior domains, reflecting the form and function of a living organism’s skin. We argue that Ingarden’s concept of the relatively isolated system provides a powerful framework for analyzing such virtual structures, thanks to its grounding in theoretical biology and its rich analysis of the outer ‘membrane’ that selectively shelters an entity’s inner workings from external causality. Such architectural applications represent another way in which Ingarden’s thought continues to bear new and unexpected fruit.

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Cognition of the Virtual: An Ingardenian Systems-Phenomenological Account of the Perception and Understanding of Virtual Objects

An Ingardenian Model of the Human Being as a Relatively Isolated System

The 5th Avant Workshop, on “Inspirations: 20th-century Philosophy and Contemporary Studies on Cognition” • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw • October 12, 2018

ABSTRACT: As immersive, interactive virtual reality (VR) technologies grow increasingly sophisticated, contemporary philosophers like Rabanus have attempted to formulate phenomenological analyses of the experiences they offer. We would argue, though, that one of the richest phenomenological approaches for interpreting the virtual objects perceived and understood through the use of VR systems was pioneered in the 20th century by Roman Ingarden, who in “O dziele architektury” hypothesized the future development of what would now be described as “VR systems” and explored our potential cognition of virtual objects.

An Ingardenian approach can incorporate: (1) Ingarden’s analysis of the stratification of artistic products, which distinguishes different types of cognitive access afforded to the physical fundament and intentional artistic, aesthetic, and cultural objects associated with a virtual object, and (2) Ingarden’s account (grounded in systems theory) of the human being as an emergent whole comprising a physical body, sensory-emotional “soul,” and intentional «I». This framework enables us to: (1) distinguish cognition of virtual objects from that of “real” objects, dreams, hallucinations, and the fictional worlds experienced when reading novels, and (2) explain the cognitive shift that occurs when someone immersed in a virtual environment comes to “forget” that the objects encountered there are “only” virtual.

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A Phenomenological Analysis of the Virtual World as Aesthetic Object: Echo, Deepening, or Dissolution of the Lifeworld?

A Phenomenological Analysis of the Virtual World

17th Annual Conference of the Polish Phenomenological Association: History, Body, and Life-World – On Patočka and Beyond • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw • December 15, 2017

ABSTRACT: In this work we build on the ontological and aesthetic frameworks formulated by Roman Ingarden to develop a phenomenological analysis of the virtual world as aesthetic object. First, ‘virtual reality technology’ is distinguished from ‘virtual environments’ and ‘virtual worlds.’ The types of immersive, interactive virtual worlds accessed through contemporary VR technologies are further distinguished from the types of ‘virtual worlds’ accessed, e.g., by reading a novel or watching a film. Essential and optional elements of virtual worlds are identified, with special attention given to the (software-enforced) ‘laws of nature’ governing the structure and dynamics of elements in a world, the pseudo-natural origins of apparently ‘natural’ elements like wild animals and geographic formations, and the unique positions of the world’s designer(s) and human visitor(s). The potential ‘incompleteness’ of virtual architectural structures and inability to determine whether one’s social interactions are with human or artificial agents is analyzed in light of Ingarden’s interpretation of Husserl’s phenomenological model of intentionality and the perception of objects. It is shown that a virtual building, e.g., does not display all the features of a real-world building but instead possesses some characteristics found in real-world paintings.

Drawing on Ingarden’s framework, the (physical) ontic basis of a virtual world is distinguished from the (purely intentional) virtual world as a work of art that is grasped through perception and the related aesthetic and cultural objects that may be constituted by a visitor who undergoes the right sort of conscious experience. The stratification of a virtual world as a work of art is also investigated. Building on Ingarden’s critique of Husserl’s concept of the ‘lifeworld’ as the natural world that is simultaneously (a) stripped of modern scientific theory and (b) the world that we live in and manipulate, it is suggested that VR-facilitated virtual worlds (like other highly technologized forms of art) undermine the factual possibility for such a lifeworld to exist. In response, though, Patočka’s notion (influenced by Ingarden) of fictional literary worlds as ‘echoes’ of the lifeworld is noted; we thus close by raising the question of whether certain virtual worlds might potentially be employed to help restore the possibility of (perhaps temporarily) establishing a Husserlian lifeworld.

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Technomancy and the Conjuring of Virtual Worlds: The Utilization of ‘Digital Magical Practice’ as Organizational Strategy

Technomancy and the Conjuring of Virtual Worlds

The 3rd DELab UW International Conference: Ongoing Digitalisation of Economies and Societies • Digital Economy Lab, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Warszawa • September 29, 2017

ABSTRACT: Efforts to formally define ‘magic’ and to identify the aspects that distinguish magical practice from other human pursuits have been made from both a theological perspective (e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas) and, more recently, an anthropological perspective (e.g., Frazer, Mauss, Durkheim, Malinowski, and Tambiah). Frequently cited elements of magic include its use of esoteric symbols, gestures, and speech that are only understood only by a small, elite group of initiated practitioners; its use of specially prepared ritual instruments; its attempt to harness the power of invisible, intelligent, nonhuman entities (such as demons or nature deities) to produce specific physical effects; and its attempt to manipulate hidden (or ‘occult’) forms of causality rather than obviously explicable physical causality.

As early as the 1970s, scholars noted that the practice of computer programming reflects several such aspects of magic as it is traditionally defined. For example, conventional computer programming requires mastery of an esoteric body of knowledge passed down between generations of programmers; it employs arcane symbols arranged in elaborate sequential scripts structurally similar to magical incantations; and it allows computers to perform highly complex, seemingly ‘intelligent’ behaviors by means of causal processes that may be comprehensible to programmers but which to ordinary computer users appear quite mystifying.

In this presentation, we argue that it can be expected that the ‘magical’ aspects of computing technology will be transformed and enhanced over the coming years through the development of increasingly sophisticated technologies for virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and ubiquitous computing (UC) that converge to create ‘magically responsive’ digital-physical ecosystems and ‘enchanted’ cyber-physical societies.

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The Diffuse Intelligent Other: An Ontology of Nonlocalizable Robots as Moral and Legal Actors

In Social Robots: Boundaries, Potential, Challenges, edited by Marco Nørskov, pp. 177-98 • Farnham: Ashgate, 2016

ABSTRACT: Much thought has been given to the question of who bears moral and legal responsibility for actions performed by robots. Some argue that responsibility could be attributed to a robot if it possessed human-like autonomy and metavolitionality, and that while such capacities can potentially be possessed by a robot with a single spatially compact body, they cannot be possessed by a spatially disjunct, decentralized collective such as a robotic swarm or network. However, advances in ubiquitous robotics and distributed computing open the door to a new form of robotic entity that possesses a unitary intelligence, despite the fact that its cognitive processes are not confined within a single spatially compact, persistent, identifiable body. Such a “nonlocalizable” robot may possess a body whose myriad components interact with one another at a distance and which is continuously transforming as components join and leave the body. Here we develop an ontology for classifying such robots on the basis of their autonomy, volitionality, and localizability. Using this ontology, we explore the extent to which nonlocalizable robots—including those possessing cognitive abilities that match or exceed those of human beings—can be considered moral and legal actors that are responsible for their own actions.

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