We’re about to undergo a foundational shift in the field of robotics, from artificial intelligence to artificial empathy. Today’s robots engage with human beings not only on the assembly line but as therapists, trainers, mediators, caregivers, and companions. As roboticists become adept at programming artificial empathy into their creations, they are abandoning the conventional conception of human emotions as discrete, private, internal experiences in favor of a continuum between two actors who coordinate their behavior in real time. For social robots to be effective, they must be attentive to human uniqueness and exercise a degree of social autonomy. More than mere automatons, they must become social actors, capable of modifying the rules that govern their interplay with humans.
Paul Dumouchel is a Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Ritsumeikan University and a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Université du Québec à Montréal. He is the author or co-author of five books, most recently Living with Robots (Harvard University Press, 2017).