Vulnerability under the gaze of robots: relations among humans and robots

Vulnerability under the gaze of robots: relations among humans and robots The problem of artificial intelligence and human being has always raised questions about possible interactions among them and possible effects yielded by the introduction of such un-human subject. Dreyfus deeply connects intelligence and body based on a phenomenological viewpoint. Thanks to his reading of Merleau-Ponty, he clearly stated that an intelligence must be embodied into a body to function. According to his suggestion, any AI designed to be human-like is doom to failure if there is no tight bound with a human-like body. Today, we are facing the pervasive introduction of robots into our everyday life, and the problem of this co-existence raises again with new vigor since they are not mere speculations, but there are already products sold to the public. We will highlight how vulnerability has to be taken into consideration in the design of robots to create entities which are able to relate to human beings taking into consideration mainly the positions of Sartre, Habermas, Levinas, and Marleau-Ponty. A first part will focus on the vulnerability of the robots. Robots are going to be among us, but a real interaction is possible only the moment they have a “same” body of ours. Therefore, only through the realization of a “fragile” body we can achieve a cohabitation between equals. Thanks to Merleau-Ponty we will show how the vulnerability of a body is one of the most important element to found any social interaction. The second part will focus on how the robots will affect the vulnerability of the human subjects. To produce vulnerable robots is not a mere neutral introduction, but it shapes how the subjects are constituted. Thanks to Levinas, we will study how the vulnerable robots will shape the subjects. Thanks to Sartre, we will show how the creation of a different gaze in the robot changes the vulnerabilities of the human subjects. Introducing vulnerable robots is a way to shape ourselves. Keywords Vulnerability · Robotics · Otherness · Alterity · Agent · Mediation theory · Phenomenology 1 Introduction In the following section, we consider the history of humans in terms of struggles for overcoming vulnerability and situate Human ancestors have survived a narrow pathway of evolu- contemporary technologies advanced through agricultural, sci- tion. Smaller residence brought about by a climate change entific and industrial revolutions on the background of those and drastically reduced tropical rainforest might have kicked struggles. Then, in Sect. 3, we analyze what possible products them out of their homelands. Or they might have had “the of robotics mean to us from a viewpoint of vulnerability, with misfortune to be living at the margins of the forest” (Lieber- a special attention to the problem of robot-human coexistence man 2013, p. 48) and have been influenced by the climate thanks to the use of Habermas and Merleau-Ponty. change directly. Our ancestors were vulnerable in their origin. In Sects. 4 and 5, we will take into consideration what the introduction of vulnerable robots will mean for us. Especially, we will analyze how our constitution as human subjects are * Nicola Liberati shaped by the introduction of new vulnerabilities and new liberati.nicola@gmail.com vulnerable entities thanks to the use of Levinas and Sartre. Shoji Nagataki This work will not be a general analysis on the idea of vul- shojinagataki@gmail.com nerability in phenomenology to better clarify its importance Department of Philosophy, University of Twente, Enschede, within philosophy, but our analysis will focus on the effects the Netherlands introduction of vulnerability will have on the subjects in the Department of International Liberal Studies, Chukyo case of robots. Therefore, it will be an analysis oriented mainly University, Nagoya, Japan Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 AI & SOCIETY towards the introduction of this theme into robotics more than The application of natural sciences made it possible to a phenomenological analysis on vulnerability per se. supply more nutritious foods and succeeded in explicating and overcoming diseases that had been deemed incurable. On the other hand, science and technology have given humans the power to alter and even destroy nature itself on a different 2 Taming nature and vulnerability scale from before. For example, the progress of desertifi- cation by large-scale deforestation brought about the irre- 2.1 Taming nature versible transformation of the environment. They have also brought us new types of risks that have never been before. The vulnerability specific of humans has profoundly shaped The ingestion of much starch after the agricultural revolution their history, which goes back to the ages when they started brought us cavities, which were “rare among hunter-gatherers their lives in Savanna. It is also a history of striving for reduc- but extremely common in early farmers” (Lieberman 2013, ing dangers in nature and overcoming their vulnerability. p. 209). The growth of food production and the changes in Humans used to be so vulnerable and are often still so (Kruuk the quality of work life after the industrial revolution were 2002, p. 53). For example, “no person alive could possibly posing problems as well. They brought us mismatch diseases match” his relative, “a chimp, for speed, power, and agil- “such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease” (Lieberman 2013, ity” (Lieberman 2013, p. 31). They had to protect themselves p. 269) caused by a poor balance between the amount of from their predators before they could be big game hunters. eating and that of energy consumption. Mismatch diseases Compared with tropical rainforests, Savannas are more “open are “defined as diseases that result from our Paleolithic bod- and risky habitats” (Lieberman 2013, p. 55), so they had to ies being poorly or inadequately adapted to certain modern blush up their ability to cooperate with each other. Accord- behaviors and conditions” (Lieberman 2013, p. 182). We can ing to Hart and Sussman, “predation pressure was one of the call those risks a new type of vulnerability due to the devel- major catalysts for the evolution of humankind” (Hart and opment of science and technology. Sussman 2005, p. 247). Put simply, we have evolved while having been hunted. The ability to cooperate with each other 2.2 Facing new type of risks made it possible for our ancestors to hunt big game animals. However, it was still no easy task for them to obtain food Humans have devised a variety of tools and changed their even in the life of hunting and gathering; being cooperative environmental world to compensate for their vulnerabili- and sharing games could alleviate the risk of starvation. ties. As a result, while old types of risk, such as shortage In the history of coping with vulnerability, the agri- of food, menace of predators and so on, have been substan- cultural revolution, in which the cultivation of plants and tially reduced, new ones have emerged. For example, various domestication of animals began, enabled the stable supply of machines developed after the Industrial Revolution helped food and boosted the population increase. “[I]f infant mor- to relieve us, even though partially, of harsh manual labor. tality rates were as high among farmers as they were among However, they have transformed the form of labor and work foragers [hunter-gatherers], early farming populations would environment, which is conducive to the mismatch diseases have had twice the rate of population growth” (Lieberman mentioned above. This is also illustrated by the fact that the 2013, p. 203). Improvement in nutrition supply had an enor- use of X-rays aiming at the early detection of lesions might mous effect on prolonging the life span of humans. in turn cause new lesions, and that those with pacemakers The scientific and the industrial revolutions marked and ICDs implanted have to avoid electromagnetic and, in another two major watersheds. Before these greatest changes, some cases, high-frequency waves. There are new forms of nature was sometimes represented as mysterious, unintel- vulnerability which have never been before. ligible, even awesome for us. The empirical knowledge of natural sciences has transformed it into something “wholly [N]ew technologies … always create new risks and intelligible and nothing unpredictable” (Shapin 1998, p. 36). vulnerabilities, thus transforming human vulnerabil- Now nature became controllable to a certain extent. ity rather than substantially reducing it. (Coeckelbergh 2013, 12:5) They [modern experimental sciences] combined the objectivating attitude of the disinterested observer with We can view the current development of AI and robotics the technical attitude of an intervening actor producing from a historical perspective of coping with human vulner- experimental effects. … This gearing of science to the ability. It has reduced the burden of vast calculation and pre- task of converting an objectivated nature into some- cise work that are troublesome for humans. (This does not thing we may control by technological means had an mean that tasks on which human intelligence focuses have important impact on the process of societal moderniza- substantially reduced. Rather, they have been transformed so tion. (Habermas 2003, p. 45) that more advanced work has been placed upon us.) Just as 1 3 AI & SOCIETY considerable part of physical labor has been taken over by share with us “processes of reaching understanding and machines since the Industrial Revolution, more and more part self-understanding” (Habermas 2003, p. 10)? My thesis is of intellectual labor is being transferred to them since the latter that they have to be a moral agent with a kind of humanity. half of the twentieth century. Some people respond as modern Otherwise, such robots can be a new type of significant risk Luddites, having fear that human labor would be negatively for us. affected by the newcomers. This situation is also, though not very serious, a manifestation of human vulnerability. According to Cartesian ontology, products of scientific 3 Robot as moral agent technology, no matter how excellent they are, belong to res extensa, thus essentially different from humans in a metaphysi- What kind of beings do humans accept as moral agents? cal sense. In the near future, robotics and AI research may Analyzing situations in which someone is deemed a moral succeed in creating very humanlike beings which can exceed agent, there are, among others, two conditions to be met. human intelligence in a certain sense. The human desire to First, it can be seen as being basically similar with each replicate themselves may make such beings more than just other in terms of bodily structure, cognitive ability, and so industrial products, just res extensa. Those beings, which are on. Second, despite those similarities, there is a variety of a kind of externalization of human intelligence, could become differences in each individual, some of which are inscruta- res cogitans like us in the sense of beings with mind and con- ble from the first-person perspective. Third, morality can sciousness. We might even notice within us “the archaic rem- be acquired only if we are mindful of our vulnerability and nants of emotions which may linger in our revulsion” (Haber- social dependence. Habermas writes in a thought-provoking mas 2003, p. 25) against such beings. In that case, we will have way: a much more crucial problem of whether we should accept Moral rules are fragile constructions protecting both the such intelligent and humanlike robots as our partners. physis from bodily injuries and the person from inner or What is necessary for such robots to be accepted as social symbolical injuries. (Habermas 2003, p. 33f). members for us, or to coexist with us? How can they be In the following, we would like to elucidate relevant simi- not just mere objects, but intersubjective beings which can larities and differences with taking human vulnerability into consideration. 3.1 Embodiment and psychological abilities Robots can be introduced in our society as the following stud- ies suggest (Kanda et al. 2009; Wada and Shibata 2018; Foster et al. 2016; Aaltonen et al. 2017; Liberati 2018). Psychological abilities specific to humans are bodily Some people think that it is of particular importance for robots to restricted. Our cognitive style is largely determined by phys- have similar appearance with humans in order for them to be accepted ical features that we have. For example, the perceptual world as social members. Such human-like robots have appeared recurrently appears in a perspectival way due to the bodily constraints. in many novels and movies. Notably worth mentioning would be a development of humanoids in Japan. However, a Japanese engineer In spite of, or rather because of this perspectivality, our cog- proposed a noteworthy view on the very similarity between them nitive ability or intelligence functions in such a way as to more than 40 years ago. He wrote: extend a limited range of information. In addition, human I have noticed that, as robots appear more humanlike, our sense of cognition is not based on symbol processing separated from their familiarity increases until we come to a valley. I call this relation the “uncanny valley.” (Mori 1970, p. 33). the environmental world, but on bodily interaction with and The “uncanny valley” is the point where our sense of familiarity cognitive adaptation to it. Put another way, we generally with robots is allegedly fails suddenly. Much discussion has been use affordances according to specific purposes. As a matter made about its implications, especially in Japan, and several ideas of fact, our vulnerability emerges from such relationship; have been proposed as orientations for proceeding with the study. Put roughly, there are two general approaches to the study of humanoid foods afford eating, which can sometimes be harmful. A cliff robotics: one focusing on appearance and behavior, putting much affords our walking along it, involving the possibility of fall- weight on mimicking those of humans, the other on explicating and ing off and getting injured (Gibson 1979, p. 137). reproducing our “inner” cognitive functions. The former tries to fur- Various individuals are also included in our perceptual ther realizing as much human-like appearance as possible, assum- ing that the alleged valley does not pose, in fact, any serious obsta- world. When communicating and interacting with them, cles. We can name, among others, Dr. Ishiguro, whose meticulous the condition that a physical isomorphism holds between construction of Repliee Q1 and Geminoid (Becker-Asano 2011) are us is of great importance. Whether the other is a human or well known. The latter takes note of the remark made by Mori in a a human-like robot, clues to properly capture its intention more sincere manner, and tries to get over the “valley” by implement- ing functions similar to a human mind. Nagataki et al. (2013) can be are provided by our having similar bodies. Such similarity identified with this orientation. It should be noted, however, that these helps us to predict how it perceives the outer world and what two approaches are not exclusive at all. In fact, they can complement intent it has. and interact with each other in a fruitful way. In the present paper, I will elaborate this in some detail. 1 3 AI & SOCIETY The ability of joint attention that human children acquire Along with the similarity, it is what Merleau-Ponty calls in their early stage of development is a representative exam- the original “peaceful coexistence” (Merleau-Ponty 1945, ple to use the bodily similarity. Both the mother and the p. 408) that gives a basis for mutual understanding between young child understand, with gazes as a clue, what each oneself and others: a relationship holding on a “common other is seeing. This can be possible because the bodies and ground” of consciousness, or the intersubjective world of their usage are basically similar so that they can use the line perception. of sight as a clue to detect the direction of attention. This Merleau-Ponty writes that humans have “the primordial fact suggests that a similar bodily structure and psychologi- contract” (Merleau-Ponty 1945, p. 253) with this percep- cal abilities are necessary for a robot to be a moral agent. tual world. It is the event which provides their infrastructure and which is their birth (Merleau-Ponty 1945, p. 517). Why 3.2 Bodily similarity and ontological homogeneity you can see things and touch them? It is because the per- ceptual world, things in it, and humans are made from the As developmental psychologists have shown, even a new- same qualitative elements. “[T]he primordial intersubjectiv- born child can understand the basic meanings of others’ ity” (Zahavi 1999, p. 171) has always already been estab- expressions through a primitive body scheme. Understand- lished between myself and others by our participating in the ing facial expressions is one type of imitative behavior with world. Self and others have reached a fundamental mutual an implicit intention, and as such very primitive. Of course, understanding tacitly and preconsciously on the basis of the it would be possible to give an evolutionary explanation to ontological homogeneity with Mother Nature—that is, what this kind of psychological ability: it was favored by natural “makes us simultaneous with others … in the most private selection. realm of our life” (Merleau-Ponty 1968, p. 24). Dreyfus and From a phenomenological point of view, this kind of psy- Taylor put it in a different, but related way. “We can always chological ability is based on bodily similarity and ontologi- count on instant communication around our nature as bod- cal homogeneity among us. The similarity makes it possible ily agents, and the shared life needs...” (Dreyfus and Taylor for us to intuitively comprehend, for example, the ways how 2015, p. 112). organs such as eyes and a mouth function. It also enables us to recognize our relationship with things in general. “People 3.3 Skin, vulnerability, and humanity use this pipe to smoke cigarettes, use this spoon to eat, use this bell to call someone” (Merleau-Ponty 1945, p. 400). Humans can be subject to pain, illness, injury, disability, and Because of the constitutional similarity of the body, we can death. They can feel pleasure as well. There is “a common understand these things beyond cultural differences immedi- human vulnerability” (Butler 2004, p. 31), which is spe- ately. In their recent book, Dreyfus and Taylor write; cific to us, beings with the body. Butler wrote that “we can- not think the ontology of the body without the body being Our first level [of communication] is the universally somewhere, without some ‘thereness’” (Butler 2009, p. 53, human, and is closely linked with our similarity as note 12). organic beings—in certain cases, even with what we Injuries and diseases are caused when the skin and inner share with the animals.(Dreyfus and Taylor 2015, tissues are physically damaged, when ultraviolet rays erode p. 107) the skin, or when bacteria, viruses, or toxic substances affect the body through the skin-boundary. Even the diseases occurring inside the body are basically caused by events outside the skin. No matter how science and technology pro- gress, our vulnerability comes down to the fact that the skin A brief mention to a therapy robot named Paro (Bemelmans et  al. 2015) would be appropriate here. Paro, which looks like a seal, was is thin and susceptible to damage. As Coeckerlbergh says, developed under the inspiration of animal therapy and has been intro- “we have to realize that we are existentially vulnerable and duced into elderly facilities in Japan and some European countries. that we are naked.” (Coeckelbergh 2013, 12:43). It is covered with soft body hair and can make a weak cry. Though it does not engage in verbal interaction, elderly people can have a sense of direct interaction by hugging and stroking it. In fact, they some- times regard it as a vulnerable being worth caring and even cherish it. What is important is that this therapy robot appeals to our tactile sensations, inducing a rather strong familiarity in them. This can lead Relying on Gadamer’s conception of “fusing horizons,” they criti- to reducing the stress of elderly people as well as that of nursing and cize Davidson’s argument concerning “principle of charity” as “epis- medical staff. Paro can make people feel a kind of affinity with it, so temological” (Dreyfus and Taylor 2015, p. 111). Davidson’s argument that they treat it as if it were a moral subject, if not a moral agent. implies “[t]he disturbing possibility” that two societies or cultures This robot draws on an integral feature of human nature in which “may never be able to understand each other, may remain forever touching the partner can provoke a certain kind of moral sympathy locked inside their own ways of sense-making” (Dreyfus and Taylor for her. 2015, p. 111). 1 3 AI & SOCIETY The direct and mutual relationship between humans and The irreplaceability can be viewed along another dimen- the world and things in it is sometime expressed by a meta- sion; it is related to the problem of whether a first-person phor of touching. “It is necessary that between exploration perspective can be attributed to the other in question. This and what it teaches me, between my movements and what I kind of perspective involves a private realm to which other touch, there exists some relationship of principle, some kin- people cannot have direct access, and which provides one ship, according to which they are ... initiation and openness reason for us to treat something as the other and to accept it to a tactile world” (Merleau-Ponty 1964, p. 175). Seeing as a moral agent. Such private realm is where our personality is strongly linked with touching to express that vision is a and irreplaceability, including that of moral responsibility, direct relationship with things. Vision is the palpation of the lie in. On Merleau-Pontian conception, such a realm is based eye (Merleau-Ponty 1964, p. 175). on the ontological common ground. Merleau-Ponty goes even further to say that our body is Habermas makes much the same point when he talks of made of the same “quale” or “tissue” as the world, or the “the morally relevant limit to instrumentalization” of other nature, and things in it (Merleau-Ponty 1964, pp. 175, 302, people. He discusses genetic intervention in humans, argu- 309). So, if he is justified in saying that, the world is also ing that the limit “is set by what, in the second person, will vulnerable as humans are. This leads to the view that the be out of my reach” (Habermas 2003, p. 55). This out-of- world can be susceptible to an excessive force that science reach-ness, which resonates with Levinasian thought, is an and technology brought about. Admitting that the world is essential element that constitutes rich inner-world of others. Mother Nature and a common basis among us would put us Thus, for example, a machine which functions in a pre- into an embarrassing situation. The excessive force of sci- dictable or required way does not have its “alterity,” even if ence and technology might commit parenticide. it is as good an industrial product as can be. When coordi- However, it is not only the human world that has become nating ourselves to engage in a cooperative activity, we will incomprehensible, but also nature itself nearly explodes. feel an affinity between us, while when failing in it, a sense Technology and science confront us with energies which of alterity, impenetrability, or inscrutability will be imposed are not in the framework of the world, which could possibly upon us. destroy it, and possess means of exploration which, even In fact, such alterity is very familiar. It is a common expe- before they have been employed, awaken the old desire and rience that we find similarities as well as differences between the old fear of encountering the absolute Other. (Merleau- us. Suppose that you and I agree to have lunch together, Ponty 1968, p. 145). but you force me to eat something I have not expected in a The “absolute Other” which Merleau-Ponty says here is restaurant. In that situation, I would feel I have lost my ini- neither a poor, a master, nor God in Levinas’s sense, but the tiative. This happens in our everyday life. We have a sense being which can be evil for us: the one which completely of alterity in unexpected transfers of initiative. However, lacks humanity. If robots and AIs produced by scientific this process can also cultivate our relationship and help us technologies in the twenty-first century do not share the to reconfirm the common basis between us. common ground with us and the world in some way, they As we discussed in Sect.  3.4, humans have their own cannot be moral agents. inner states which are inscrutable to each other. This aspect is, in relatively large part, realized by psychological abilities 3.4 Alterity, irreplaceability, and machine specific to humans. Alterity and morality are based on the as a moral agent irreplaceability of us, which is closely related with such an inscrutable inner affluence. If we can implement this afflu- The discussions so far suggest the importance of bodily sim- ence in robots, we might regard them as moral agents in ilarity and ontological homogeneity with us. (Of course, it is some way. If the results from the experiments introduced in extremely difficult for machines like robots to satisfy these Sect. 5 will be as expected, there would be some empirical conditions at the current moment.) However, these do not underpinning for our thesis. suffice for something’s being a moral agent. There is another As we have argued in Sect. 3.3, the ontological homoge- element to be considered: alterity, or otherness, against such neity with us is needed for something to be a moral agent. affinities. This homogeneity can be grasped by the concept of, for Alterity means an irreplaceability in some essential example, vulnerability characteristic of us. It seems impos- respect. To be a moral agent is to bear its own responsibil- sible to realize this property in machines at the current ity which others cannot take for it. My thesis is that such an moment. We are uncertain whether it is just a technologi- irreplaceability consists in its having a rich inner world. The cal problem of bio-engineering or a deeper metaphysical personhood of a moral agent, which is irreducible to a mere problem. difference of trait or feature of individuals, is firmly rooted in such an inner world. 1 3 AI & SOCIETY this point of view because by allowing the other to be rel- 4 Vulnerability and gaze in Sartre evant starting from his presence in the world as a perceptual and Levinas object, we risk losing some of its peculiarities. The other is not merely an object of perception, but it As we showed, the introduction of vulnerability into the calls for a completely different approach which tackles robot is one of the main element to change our relation themes like vulnerability. with them. Therefore, the ontological status of these robots among us directly depends on how we design them, and the 4.2 Levinas way they are perceived by the human subjects directly relates to specific features embedded in them. According to Levinas, the other is not merely an object of This direct introduction does not merely affect the robots perception, but when the subject encounters an other, the and their way of being perceived by the people around, but it subject faces its vulnerability, and this mere exposure of has effects also on the way these people think of themselves others’ vulnerability has deep effects on its constitution. and the way they think of their vulnerability. By producing The face of the other is something more than a mere vulnerable robots, the society actually shapes what means to object of perception. Facing the other is facing something be vulnerable and how they are constituted as human beings. which needs care and help. The simple presence of some- Thus, we will show it possible to see the introduction of thing outside of the subjects’ freedom demanding help vulnerability in the robots not as a mere improvement in makes the subject perceive other’s vulnerability and naked- what the robots are, but also as a way to shape ourselves ness (Levinas 1987, 100:55). through them. This encounter with the vulnerability of the other is the To show this modification, we will take into account the moment where the relation with the other becomes ethical. encounter of the other in Levinas and the effect of others’ Therefore, the other is not something which is merely a per- gaze in Sartre. Thanks to these two philosophers, it will be ceived object, but it is exposed to us, and this vulnerability clear how the introduction of vulnerability in the robots has founds the perceiving subject as something more than mere direct effects on the constitution of the subjects. acting subject by allowing him/her to care about the other. Thus, this encounter opens the subject to ethics. As Levinas 4.1 The “other” in phenomenology always highlights, the other is not merely an object perceived in the world, but it is part of the primordial constitution of The theme of the “other” is one of the most important the subject since it generates the subject as an ethical subject themes in phenomenology. who cares of the others (Altez 2007). In Husserl, the subject is always immersed into an inter- The “others” are part of the constitution of the subjects subjective world. The actions, and motivations of the subject since they shape who the subjects are by working on the are always deeply intertwined with the ones of others. The others’ vulnerability exposed in the encounter. subject is not alone, and the subject perceives others around them through empathy and the perception of their physical body. Obviously, in Husserl, perceiving subject and intersubjec- tivity are deeply intertwined since intersubjectivity founds “For Levinas, the “face” is precisely that which radically and infi- objectivity thanks to mutual understanding and the possi- nitely exceeds the “countenance,” not as inaccessible but as excep- bility of trading places (Duranti 2010; McGee and Warms tionally vulnerable.” (Burggraeve 1999, p. 43). 2013, p. 420; Husserl 1989, III:177, 1983, II:125). Objec- “Levinas will surely agree that to be moved by another person’s pain means to be shaken by his pain, that his vulnerability in some tivity is founded on the presence of others which make our sense reveals one’s own vulnerability.” (Nortvedt 2003, p. 226). perception not solipsistically founded, but grounded on “As Levinas develops his model, it becomes clear that his notion intersubjectivity. of vulnerability is one which will answer to my own use of the term However, even if the others are taken into consideration to mark a state which is as much that of the one as of the other. as part of the intersubjectivity (Husserl 1973), we do not Although initially it is the other who is vulnerable, who is figured as homeless, poor, widowed, orphaned, and whose suffering humanity have an accent on the presence of the others around the act- invokes response, that response itself—or rather the irrestistibility ing subject as in the case of other phenomenologists. Hus- of the call—pitches me also into vulnerability. I am exposed before serl focused on empathy and on the experience of the other the nakedness of the face, the certainty of my own existence thrown through the eyes of the perceiver (Hermberg 2006, p. 49). into doubt. It is my moral subjection to the other, my vulnerability in exposure to her vulnerability, that instantiates me as a subject. At The other is perceived as another subject in the world start- the level of my corporeity, of my incarnation ‘before being tied to ing from the presence of their body as perceptual objects. my body’, the relation with the other—before any conscious deter- Some of his scholars such as Levinas and Sartre criticize mination—is characterised by Levinas as maternal” (Shildrick 2002, p. 92). 1 3 AI & SOCIETY Subjects are constituted through the presence of others 4.3 Sartre since they are open and vulnerable entities. Subjects feel shame and pride just because they are open to others, and In the case of Sartre, we have a different approach towards the encounter with the other (Jopling 1993). Even according their body is the center of this shameful feeling because it is what is vulnerable and open to the others’ gaze. to him, the encounter with the other is something more than what highlighted by Husserl. The other constitutes who the The other is not merely encountered because it is in the world like other objects, but the other has peculiar effect on subject is at a different level. However, Sartre does not follow the same path of Levi- the constitution of the subject just because it looks back, and it objectifies the subject. Subjects are “naked” in front nas, and he shows how the other constitutes the subjects not because the subject looks at the other, but because the other of the other just because subjects encounter another person who is objectifying them, and subjects have no power at all looks at the subject. Therefore, the accent does not fall on the subject who perceives and encounters the face of the on this objectification. other, but the point of view of this encounter is inverted. The other is not an alterity encountered by the subject, but 4.4 Constitution through vulnerability the other acts on the subject in this encounter. The others are not objects of the subjects’ perception, but they make As we showed, according to Levinas and Sartre the presence of the others deeply affects the constitution of the subject the subjects objects of their perception. Especially Sartre highlights how the other always looks (Sealey 2013). Especially the others in their vulnerability turn the subject into an ethical subject and the presence of at the perceiving subject, and he takes this element into the constitution of the subject (Dolezal 2017). The other per- the gaze of others turns the subject into a vulnerable being. Thus, we have a two elements highlighted by the intro- ceives the subject and so it turns it from an active entity into a mere object of perception. Therefore, the other is not duction of the other. The subject feels ashamed by looking at the vulnerability of the other. The others are vulnerable in merely another entity which helps to constitute the objec- tivity of our world as Husserl suggested. The other is not their own nakedness and this vulnerability affects us. At the same time, the subject is turned into a mere object even merely something different from an object because it is vulnerable and it triggers ethical actions in the subject as through the gaze of others, and so the subject itself is turned into a vulnerable entity by the introduction of the others. shown by Levinas. The other, according to Sartre, has the power to make the subject feel powerless because the subject becomes a mere object for the other. The subjects perceive themselves 5 Robots and vulnerability through the eyes of the other, and so they objectivize our- selves. Therefore, the presence of the other has the power to The idea of otherness related to the phenomenological tradi- tion and robots is not new (Sandry 2015). However, many change the perspective of the subject (Sartre 2001; Zahavi 2011, 2014). aspects related to the vulnerability and the constitution of the subject which are relevant to our theme are often excluded. The encounter with another person is not conjectural, but it is actual. The person can feel shame through this change As we showed the introduction of an “other” entity in the world is not neutral, but it shapes the way the subject is of perspective because the subjects perceive how the other perceives them. The subject is powerless in front of the gaze constituted, and the vulnerability is one of the main element founding this modification. Therefore, the introduction of of the others. It is vulnerable because its body and its actions are exposed to the others’ gaze as objects of their perception. different kind of others which are vulnerable in different ways and which have different perceptual capabilities like There is an inversion of power relations. With objects, the subjects direct their gaze towards them. With others, robots have an impact even on the constitution of the subject. The introduction of new vulnerable robots is not merely an the situation the opposite, and the subjects find themselves under the gaze of someone else. The subjects’ body is not introduction of a new entity, but through this introduction subjects shape themselves. merely a private body, but others look at it. Subjects are perceived as objects from other people, and, through this 5.1 Different vulnerability in the robots objectification from their point of view, subjects become vulnerable and exposed. The introduction of a vulnerable entity has effects in the way we feel our vulnerability, and so it affects also how the subjects are constituted in their vulnerability. “In Sartre, the other’s look is not defenseless and exposed; rather, I As we have shown, Levinas clearly highlights how the am exposed and vulnerable when I am subjected to the other’s look.” perception of the vulnerability of the other transforms the (Overgaard 2013, p. 115). 1 3 AI & SOCIETY subject into an ethical being. The perception of the fact there The way the vulnerability of the other is perceived is an entity needing help is more than enough to turn the changes according to the kind of entity the subject is facing subject into something different. and so, with it, it changes also the ethical call involved. The difference in the vulnerability of the robot and the human being is related to the kind of body they have. They 5.2 Robots and their different gaze are different, and so they have also different vulnerabilities (Coeckelbergh 2011). Both of them have needs, but the The other effect we have with the introduction of the other nature of these needs can vary sensibly. For example, one into the constitution of the subject is related to the others’ needs to be fed of bread and the other one has to fed with gaze on the subject. We showed, how, according to Sartre, electricity. the gaze of the others changes the subject by turning it into Obviously, Levinas never introduced the face of the other something vulnerable. as related to the physical body of the other (Levinas 1988; The simple presence of the other turns the subject into Atterton 2011; Davy 2007; Guenther 2007). The face is something which is open to the others and this openness is introduced to highlight a relation between the subject and what makes it vulnerable. the other without focusing on any kind of physical element. Sartre, as Levinas, never talks about actual others in rela- Therefore, by eluding any physical relation to the physical tion to their physical appearances. The subject is objecti- body of the other, the face of the other does not change if fied, exposed and vulnerable because of the very presence the other is a human being or another entity with a differ - of others without relating to any specific elements of the ent body like a robot. However, at the same time, there is a others’ body. Therefore, this opening is not related to how clear link to the vulnerability of the other which is directly the others perceive the subject, but merely on the possibility related to the others’ needs. If the other suffers or is needing of the presence of others in general. However, it is possible a help, the subject is called to act. Therefore, this call for to relate this gaze to the actual perceptual capabilities of the help changes according to the different needs and differ - otherness who is observing the subject. ent vulnerabilities exposed in the other. Even if the gen- The body of the subject becomes object of the percep- eral call for help does not relate specifically to their actual tion of the other, and so the way the other is able to perceive body, the different actions moved by the face of the other the subject affect the way the objectification is performed. directly depends on the actual body of the other exposing Subjects are under the gaze of the other, and depending on their vulnerabilities. what kind of gaze the other have, some aspect of the subjects For example, the Sociable Trash Robot developed by are visible or not. Toyohashi University clearly highlights the relation between The simple fact a robot can have different sensors which users and robots according to the specific vulnerability of the make visible to them hidden aspect of human subjects makes robots (Yamaji et al. 2010). The robots are supposed to pick them open in different ways, and so their vulnerability is up trash, but they are not able to act merely on their own. modified accordingly. For example, if the eyes of the robot Since it is possible to visualize this limit of the robot as a are composed of a camera which is able to detect thermal kind of vulnerability which stimulates the subject to help infrared radiations, the robot is able to detect emotions like them in their task, the subjects are called to help them and the sexual arousal of a person (Kukkonen et al. 2007; Kuk- to pick up the trash. Therefore, even if it is just an example, konen 2015; Ioannou et al. 2014; Hahn et al. 2012; Cardone it is clear how the vulnerability of the robot is not merely et al. 2015). Therefore, these robots can perceive something something designed and introduced into the world, but it which was hidden before like the emotions of the human has effects on the subjects too by making them face new subjects. This is enough to generate a different vulnerability vulnerabilities and act accordingly. The social trash robot in the subject since now the gaze reaches different aspects is vulnerable, and it asks for help. This mere vulnerability of themselves. Because the robots can perceive in a different introduced into the robot actually has a direct effect on the way, human subjects are naked in other aspects. subjects who are moved to help them in their task to clean This new opening modifies what the human subject is the area from trash, and so it opens the subject to modify since it touches its vulnerability and how the subject feels their values accordingly to the value of the robots. Even in exposed and objectified by others. the case the subject did not see the trash as something to be taken away, once the robot, in its struggle to pick up the trash is introduced, the subject is moved to help it, and so the trash For example, a robot able to detect the emotions (Liu et  al. 2017) becomes something to be taken away. Obviously, this is just of the users make the users is able to detect what other human beings an example, but it shows how the subject is shaped by the maybe cannot. Therefore, the users are exposed to the gaze of the introduction of a new vulnerability in a robot. robot in a different way because their emotions are not private any - more, and their vulnerability is shaped accordingly. 1 3 AI & SOCIETY Becker-Asano C (2011) Affective computing combined with android 6 Conclusions science. Künstl Intell 25:245–250. https ://doi.org/10.1007/s1321 8-011-0116-9 The world could be a ruthless, amoral arena, without under- Bemelmans R, Gelderblom GJ, Jonker P, Witte L (2015) Effectiveness standing the fact we are essentially vulnerable. The ability of robot Paro in intramural psychogeriatric care: a multicenter quasi-experimental study. J Am Med Dir Assoc 16(11):946–950. of imagination helps us to recognize vulnerability in others, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.05.0071525-8610/Ó2015 even in many kinds of organisms. 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Springer, “Theorizing Technological Mediation: toward an empirical-philo- Cham, pp  753–763. https ://doi.or g/10.1007/978-3-319-47437 sophical theory of technology’’ (Grant number: 277-20-006). Shoji -3_74 Nagataki is supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C), no. Gibson JJ (1979) The ecological approach to visual perception. 16K02144. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston Guenther L (2007) Le Flair animal: Levinas and the possibility of ani- Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Crea- mal friendship. PhaenEx 2(2):216–238 tive Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creat iveco Habermas J (2003) The future of human nature. Polity Press, mmons.or g/licenses/b y/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribu- Cambridge tion, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate Hahn AC, Whitehead RD, Albrecht M, Lefevre CE, Perrett DI credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the (2012) Hot or not? 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Vulnerability under the gaze of robots: relations among humans and robots

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Abstract

The problem of artificial intelligence and human being has always raised questions about possible interactions among them and possible effects yielded by the introduction of such un-human subject. Dreyfus deeply connects intelligence and body based on a phenomenological viewpoint. Thanks to his reading of Merleau-Ponty, he clearly stated that an intelligence must be embodied into a body to function. According to his suggestion, any AI designed to be human-like is doom to failure if there is no tight bound with a human-like body. Today, we are facing the pervasive introduction of robots into our everyday life, and the problem of this co-existence raises again with new vigor since they are not mere speculations, but there are already products sold to the public. We will highlight how vulnerability has to be taken into consideration in the design of robots to create entities which are able to relate to human beings taking into consideration mainly the positions of Sartre, Habermas, Levinas, and Marleau-Ponty. A first part will focus on the vulnerability of the robots. Robots are going to be among us, but a real interaction is possible only the moment they have a “same” body of ours. Therefore, only through the realization of a “fragile” body we can achieve a cohabitation between equals. Thanks to Merleau-Ponty we will show how the vulnerability of a body is one of the most important element to found any social interaction. The second part will focus on how the robots will affect the vulnerability of the human subjects. To produce vulnerable robots is not a mere neutral introduction, but it shapes how the subjects are constituted. Thanks to Levinas, we will study how the vulnerable robots will shape the subjects. Thanks to Sartre, we will show how the creation of a different gaze in the robot changes the vulnerabilities of the human subjects. Introducing vulnerable robots is a way to shape ourselves. Keywords Vulnerability · Robotics · Otherness · Alterity · Agent · Mediation theory · Phenomenology 1 Introduction In the following section, we consider the history of humans in terms of struggles for overcoming vulnerability and situate Human ancestors have survived a narrow pathway of evolu- contemporary technologies advanced through agricultural, sci- tion. Smaller residence brought about by a climate change entific and industrial revolutions on the background of those and drastically reduced tropical rainforest might have kicked struggles. Then, in Sect. 3, we analyze what possible products them out of their homelands. Or they might have had “the of robotics mean to us from a viewpoint of vulnerability, with misfortune to be living at the margins of the forest” (Lieber- a special attention to the problem of robot-human coexistence man 2013, p. 48) and have been influenced by the climate thanks to the use of Habermas and Merleau-Ponty. change directly. Our ancestors were vulnerable in their origin. In Sects. 4 and 5, we will take into consideration what the introduction of vulnerable robots will mean for us. Especially, we will analyze how our constitution as human subjects are * Nicola Liberati shaped by the introduction of new vulnerabilities and new liberati.nicola@gmail.com vulnerable entities thanks to the use of Levinas and Sartre. Shoji Nagataki This work will not be a general analysis on the idea of vul- shojinagataki@gmail.com nerability in phenomenology to better clarify its importance Department of Philosophy, University of Twente, Enschede, within philosophy, but our analysis will focus on the effects the Netherlands introduction of vulnerability will have on the subjects in the Department of International Liberal Studies, Chukyo case of robots. Therefore, it will be an analysis oriented mainly University, Nagoya, Japan Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 AI & SOCIETY towards the introduction of this theme into robotics more than The application of natural sciences made it possible to a phenomenological analysis on vulnerability per se. supply more nutritious foods and succeeded in explicating and overcoming diseases that had been deemed incurable. On the other hand, science and technology have given humans the power to alter and even destroy nature itself on a different 2 Taming nature and vulnerability scale from before. For example, the progress of desertifi- cation by large-scale deforestation brought about the irre- 2.1 Taming nature versible transformation of the environment. They have also brought us new types of risks that have never been before. The vulnerability specific of humans has profoundly shaped The ingestion of much starch after the agricultural revolution their history, which goes back to the ages when they started brought us cavities, which were “rare among hunter-gatherers their lives in Savanna. It is also a history of striving for reduc- but extremely common in early farmers” (Lieberman 2013, ing dangers in nature and overcoming their vulnerability. p. 209). The growth of food production and the changes in Humans used to be so vulnerable and are often still so (Kruuk the quality of work life after the industrial revolution were 2002, p. 53). For example, “no person alive could possibly posing problems as well. They brought us mismatch diseases match” his relative, “a chimp, for speed, power, and agil- “such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease” (Lieberman 2013, ity” (Lieberman 2013, p. 31). They had to protect themselves p. 269) caused by a poor balance between the amount of from their predators before they could be big game hunters. eating and that of energy consumption. Mismatch diseases Compared with tropical rainforests, Savannas are more “open are “defined as diseases that result from our Paleolithic bod- and risky habitats” (Lieberman 2013, p. 55), so they had to ies being poorly or inadequately adapted to certain modern blush up their ability to cooperate with each other. Accord- behaviors and conditions” (Lieberman 2013, p. 182). We can ing to Hart and Sussman, “predation pressure was one of the call those risks a new type of vulnerability due to the devel- major catalysts for the evolution of humankind” (Hart and opment of science and technology. Sussman 2005, p. 247). Put simply, we have evolved while having been hunted. The ability to cooperate with each other 2.2 Facing new type of risks made it possible for our ancestors to hunt big game animals. However, it was still no easy task for them to obtain food Humans have devised a variety of tools and changed their even in the life of hunting and gathering; being cooperative environmental world to compensate for their vulnerabili- and sharing games could alleviate the risk of starvation. ties. As a result, while old types of risk, such as shortage In the history of coping with vulnerability, the agri- of food, menace of predators and so on, have been substan- cultural revolution, in which the cultivation of plants and tially reduced, new ones have emerged. For example, various domestication of animals began, enabled the stable supply of machines developed after the Industrial Revolution helped food and boosted the population increase. “[I]f infant mor- to relieve us, even though partially, of harsh manual labor. tality rates were as high among farmers as they were among However, they have transformed the form of labor and work foragers [hunter-gatherers], early farming populations would environment, which is conducive to the mismatch diseases have had twice the rate of population growth” (Lieberman mentioned above. This is also illustrated by the fact that the 2013, p. 203). Improvement in nutrition supply had an enor- use of X-rays aiming at the early detection of lesions might mous effect on prolonging the life span of humans. in turn cause new lesions, and that those with pacemakers The scientific and the industrial revolutions marked and ICDs implanted have to avoid electromagnetic and, in another two major watersheds. Before these greatest changes, some cases, high-frequency waves. There are new forms of nature was sometimes represented as mysterious, unintel- vulnerability which have never been before. ligible, even awesome for us. The empirical knowledge of natural sciences has transformed it into something “wholly [N]ew technologies … always create new risks and intelligible and nothing unpredictable” (Shapin 1998, p. 36). vulnerabilities, thus transforming human vulnerabil- Now nature became controllable to a certain extent. ity rather than substantially reducing it. (Coeckelbergh 2013, 12:5) They [modern experimental sciences] combined the objectivating attitude of the disinterested observer with We can view the current development of AI and robotics the technical attitude of an intervening actor producing from a historical perspective of coping with human vulner- experimental effects. … This gearing of science to the ability. It has reduced the burden of vast calculation and pre- task of converting an objectivated nature into some- cise work that are troublesome for humans. (This does not thing we may control by technological means had an mean that tasks on which human intelligence focuses have important impact on the process of societal moderniza- substantially reduced. Rather, they have been transformed so tion. (Habermas 2003, p. 45) that more advanced work has been placed upon us.) Just as 1 3 AI & SOCIETY considerable part of physical labor has been taken over by share with us “processes of reaching understanding and machines since the Industrial Revolution, more and more part self-understanding” (Habermas 2003, p. 10)? My thesis is of intellectual labor is being transferred to them since the latter that they have to be a moral agent with a kind of humanity. half of the twentieth century. Some people respond as modern Otherwise, such robots can be a new type of significant risk Luddites, having fear that human labor would be negatively for us. affected by the newcomers. This situation is also, though not very serious, a manifestation of human vulnerability. According to Cartesian ontology, products of scientific 3 Robot as moral agent technology, no matter how excellent they are, belong to res extensa, thus essentially different from humans in a metaphysi- What kind of beings do humans accept as moral agents? cal sense. In the near future, robotics and AI research may Analyzing situations in which someone is deemed a moral succeed in creating very humanlike beings which can exceed agent, there are, among others, two conditions to be met. human intelligence in a certain sense. The human desire to First, it can be seen as being basically similar with each replicate themselves may make such beings more than just other in terms of bodily structure, cognitive ability, and so industrial products, just res extensa. Those beings, which are on. Second, despite those similarities, there is a variety of a kind of externalization of human intelligence, could become differences in each individual, some of which are inscruta- res cogitans like us in the sense of beings with mind and con- ble from the first-person perspective. Third, morality can sciousness. We might even notice within us “the archaic rem- be acquired only if we are mindful of our vulnerability and nants of emotions which may linger in our revulsion” (Haber- social dependence. Habermas writes in a thought-provoking mas 2003, p. 25) against such beings. In that case, we will have way: a much more crucial problem of whether we should accept Moral rules are fragile constructions protecting both the such intelligent and humanlike robots as our partners. physis from bodily injuries and the person from inner or What is necessary for such robots to be accepted as social symbolical injuries. (Habermas 2003, p. 33f). members for us, or to coexist with us? How can they be In the following, we would like to elucidate relevant simi- not just mere objects, but intersubjective beings which can larities and differences with taking human vulnerability into consideration. 3.1 Embodiment and psychological abilities Robots can be introduced in our society as the following stud- ies suggest (Kanda et al. 2009; Wada and Shibata 2018; Foster et al. 2016; Aaltonen et al. 2017; Liberati 2018). Psychological abilities specific to humans are bodily Some people think that it is of particular importance for robots to restricted. Our cognitive style is largely determined by phys- have similar appearance with humans in order for them to be accepted ical features that we have. For example, the perceptual world as social members. Such human-like robots have appeared recurrently appears in a perspectival way due to the bodily constraints. in many novels and movies. Notably worth mentioning would be a development of humanoids in Japan. However, a Japanese engineer In spite of, or rather because of this perspectivality, our cog- proposed a noteworthy view on the very similarity between them nitive ability or intelligence functions in such a way as to more than 40 years ago. He wrote: extend a limited range of information. In addition, human I have noticed that, as robots appear more humanlike, our sense of cognition is not based on symbol processing separated from their familiarity increases until we come to a valley. I call this relation the “uncanny valley.” (Mori 1970, p. 33). the environmental world, but on bodily interaction with and The “uncanny valley” is the point where our sense of familiarity cognitive adaptation to it. Put another way, we generally with robots is allegedly fails suddenly. Much discussion has been use affordances according to specific purposes. As a matter made about its implications, especially in Japan, and several ideas of fact, our vulnerability emerges from such relationship; have been proposed as orientations for proceeding with the study. Put roughly, there are two general approaches to the study of humanoid foods afford eating, which can sometimes be harmful. A cliff robotics: one focusing on appearance and behavior, putting much affords our walking along it, involving the possibility of fall- weight on mimicking those of humans, the other on explicating and ing off and getting injured (Gibson 1979, p. 137). reproducing our “inner” cognitive functions. The former tries to fur- Various individuals are also included in our perceptual ther realizing as much human-like appearance as possible, assum- ing that the alleged valley does not pose, in fact, any serious obsta- world. When communicating and interacting with them, cles. We can name, among others, Dr. Ishiguro, whose meticulous the condition that a physical isomorphism holds between construction of Repliee Q1 and Geminoid (Becker-Asano 2011) are us is of great importance. Whether the other is a human or well known. The latter takes note of the remark made by Mori in a a human-like robot, clues to properly capture its intention more sincere manner, and tries to get over the “valley” by implement- ing functions similar to a human mind. Nagataki et al. (2013) can be are provided by our having similar bodies. Such similarity identified with this orientation. It should be noted, however, that these helps us to predict how it perceives the outer world and what two approaches are not exclusive at all. In fact, they can complement intent it has. and interact with each other in a fruitful way. In the present paper, I will elaborate this in some detail. 1 3 AI & SOCIETY The ability of joint attention that human children acquire Along with the similarity, it is what Merleau-Ponty calls in their early stage of development is a representative exam- the original “peaceful coexistence” (Merleau-Ponty 1945, ple to use the bodily similarity. Both the mother and the p. 408) that gives a basis for mutual understanding between young child understand, with gazes as a clue, what each oneself and others: a relationship holding on a “common other is seeing. This can be possible because the bodies and ground” of consciousness, or the intersubjective world of their usage are basically similar so that they can use the line perception. of sight as a clue to detect the direction of attention. This Merleau-Ponty writes that humans have “the primordial fact suggests that a similar bodily structure and psychologi- contract” (Merleau-Ponty 1945, p. 253) with this percep- cal abilities are necessary for a robot to be a moral agent. tual world. It is the event which provides their infrastructure and which is their birth (Merleau-Ponty 1945, p. 517). Why 3.2 Bodily similarity and ontological homogeneity you can see things and touch them? It is because the per- ceptual world, things in it, and humans are made from the As developmental psychologists have shown, even a new- same qualitative elements. “[T]he primordial intersubjectiv- born child can understand the basic meanings of others’ ity” (Zahavi 1999, p. 171) has always already been estab- expressions through a primitive body scheme. Understand- lished between myself and others by our participating in the ing facial expressions is one type of imitative behavior with world. Self and others have reached a fundamental mutual an implicit intention, and as such very primitive. Of course, understanding tacitly and preconsciously on the basis of the it would be possible to give an evolutionary explanation to ontological homogeneity with Mother Nature—that is, what this kind of psychological ability: it was favored by natural “makes us simultaneous with others … in the most private selection. realm of our life” (Merleau-Ponty 1968, p. 24). Dreyfus and From a phenomenological point of view, this kind of psy- Taylor put it in a different, but related way. “We can always chological ability is based on bodily similarity and ontologi- count on instant communication around our nature as bod- cal homogeneity among us. The similarity makes it possible ily agents, and the shared life needs...” (Dreyfus and Taylor for us to intuitively comprehend, for example, the ways how 2015, p. 112). organs such as eyes and a mouth function. It also enables us to recognize our relationship with things in general. “People 3.3 Skin, vulnerability, and humanity use this pipe to smoke cigarettes, use this spoon to eat, use this bell to call someone” (Merleau-Ponty 1945, p. 400). Humans can be subject to pain, illness, injury, disability, and Because of the constitutional similarity of the body, we can death. They can feel pleasure as well. There is “a common understand these things beyond cultural differences immedi- human vulnerability” (Butler 2004, p. 31), which is spe- ately. In their recent book, Dreyfus and Taylor write; cific to us, beings with the body. Butler wrote that “we can- not think the ontology of the body without the body being Our first level [of communication] is the universally somewhere, without some ‘thereness’” (Butler 2009, p. 53, human, and is closely linked with our similarity as note 12). organic beings—in certain cases, even with what we Injuries and diseases are caused when the skin and inner share with the animals.(Dreyfus and Taylor 2015, tissues are physically damaged, when ultraviolet rays erode p. 107) the skin, or when bacteria, viruses, or toxic substances affect the body through the skin-boundary. Even the diseases occurring inside the body are basically caused by events outside the skin. No matter how science and technology pro- gress, our vulnerability comes down to the fact that the skin A brief mention to a therapy robot named Paro (Bemelmans et  al. 2015) would be appropriate here. Paro, which looks like a seal, was is thin and susceptible to damage. As Coeckerlbergh says, developed under the inspiration of animal therapy and has been intro- “we have to realize that we are existentially vulnerable and duced into elderly facilities in Japan and some European countries. that we are naked.” (Coeckelbergh 2013, 12:43). It is covered with soft body hair and can make a weak cry. Though it does not engage in verbal interaction, elderly people can have a sense of direct interaction by hugging and stroking it. In fact, they some- times regard it as a vulnerable being worth caring and even cherish it. What is important is that this therapy robot appeals to our tactile sensations, inducing a rather strong familiarity in them. This can lead Relying on Gadamer’s conception of “fusing horizons,” they criti- to reducing the stress of elderly people as well as that of nursing and cize Davidson’s argument concerning “principle of charity” as “epis- medical staff. Paro can make people feel a kind of affinity with it, so temological” (Dreyfus and Taylor 2015, p. 111). Davidson’s argument that they treat it as if it were a moral subject, if not a moral agent. implies “[t]he disturbing possibility” that two societies or cultures This robot draws on an integral feature of human nature in which “may never be able to understand each other, may remain forever touching the partner can provoke a certain kind of moral sympathy locked inside their own ways of sense-making” (Dreyfus and Taylor for her. 2015, p. 111). 1 3 AI & SOCIETY The direct and mutual relationship between humans and The irreplaceability can be viewed along another dimen- the world and things in it is sometime expressed by a meta- sion; it is related to the problem of whether a first-person phor of touching. “It is necessary that between exploration perspective can be attributed to the other in question. This and what it teaches me, between my movements and what I kind of perspective involves a private realm to which other touch, there exists some relationship of principle, some kin- people cannot have direct access, and which provides one ship, according to which they are ... initiation and openness reason for us to treat something as the other and to accept it to a tactile world” (Merleau-Ponty 1964, p. 175). Seeing as a moral agent. Such private realm is where our personality is strongly linked with touching to express that vision is a and irreplaceability, including that of moral responsibility, direct relationship with things. Vision is the palpation of the lie in. On Merleau-Pontian conception, such a realm is based eye (Merleau-Ponty 1964, p. 175). on the ontological common ground. Merleau-Ponty goes even further to say that our body is Habermas makes much the same point when he talks of made of the same “quale” or “tissue” as the world, or the “the morally relevant limit to instrumentalization” of other nature, and things in it (Merleau-Ponty 1964, pp. 175, 302, people. He discusses genetic intervention in humans, argu- 309). So, if he is justified in saying that, the world is also ing that the limit “is set by what, in the second person, will vulnerable as humans are. This leads to the view that the be out of my reach” (Habermas 2003, p. 55). This out-of- world can be susceptible to an excessive force that science reach-ness, which resonates with Levinasian thought, is an and technology brought about. Admitting that the world is essential element that constitutes rich inner-world of others. Mother Nature and a common basis among us would put us Thus, for example, a machine which functions in a pre- into an embarrassing situation. The excessive force of sci- dictable or required way does not have its “alterity,” even if ence and technology might commit parenticide. it is as good an industrial product as can be. When coordi- However, it is not only the human world that has become nating ourselves to engage in a cooperative activity, we will incomprehensible, but also nature itself nearly explodes. feel an affinity between us, while when failing in it, a sense Technology and science confront us with energies which of alterity, impenetrability, or inscrutability will be imposed are not in the framework of the world, which could possibly upon us. destroy it, and possess means of exploration which, even In fact, such alterity is very familiar. It is a common expe- before they have been employed, awaken the old desire and rience that we find similarities as well as differences between the old fear of encountering the absolute Other. (Merleau- us. Suppose that you and I agree to have lunch together, Ponty 1968, p. 145). but you force me to eat something I have not expected in a The “absolute Other” which Merleau-Ponty says here is restaurant. In that situation, I would feel I have lost my ini- neither a poor, a master, nor God in Levinas’s sense, but the tiative. This happens in our everyday life. We have a sense being which can be evil for us: the one which completely of alterity in unexpected transfers of initiative. However, lacks humanity. If robots and AIs produced by scientific this process can also cultivate our relationship and help us technologies in the twenty-first century do not share the to reconfirm the common basis between us. common ground with us and the world in some way, they As we discussed in Sect.  3.4, humans have their own cannot be moral agents. inner states which are inscrutable to each other. This aspect is, in relatively large part, realized by psychological abilities 3.4 Alterity, irreplaceability, and machine specific to humans. Alterity and morality are based on the as a moral agent irreplaceability of us, which is closely related with such an inscrutable inner affluence. If we can implement this afflu- The discussions so far suggest the importance of bodily sim- ence in robots, we might regard them as moral agents in ilarity and ontological homogeneity with us. (Of course, it is some way. If the results from the experiments introduced in extremely difficult for machines like robots to satisfy these Sect. 5 will be as expected, there would be some empirical conditions at the current moment.) However, these do not underpinning for our thesis. suffice for something’s being a moral agent. There is another As we have argued in Sect. 3.3, the ontological homoge- element to be considered: alterity, or otherness, against such neity with us is needed for something to be a moral agent. affinities. This homogeneity can be grasped by the concept of, for Alterity means an irreplaceability in some essential example, vulnerability characteristic of us. It seems impos- respect. To be a moral agent is to bear its own responsibil- sible to realize this property in machines at the current ity which others cannot take for it. My thesis is that such an moment. We are uncertain whether it is just a technologi- irreplaceability consists in its having a rich inner world. The cal problem of bio-engineering or a deeper metaphysical personhood of a moral agent, which is irreducible to a mere problem. difference of trait or feature of individuals, is firmly rooted in such an inner world. 1 3 AI & SOCIETY this point of view because by allowing the other to be rel- 4 Vulnerability and gaze in Sartre evant starting from his presence in the world as a perceptual and Levinas object, we risk losing some of its peculiarities. The other is not merely an object of perception, but it As we showed, the introduction of vulnerability into the calls for a completely different approach which tackles robot is one of the main element to change our relation themes like vulnerability. with them. Therefore, the ontological status of these robots among us directly depends on how we design them, and the 4.2 Levinas way they are perceived by the human subjects directly relates to specific features embedded in them. According to Levinas, the other is not merely an object of This direct introduction does not merely affect the robots perception, but when the subject encounters an other, the and their way of being perceived by the people around, but it subject faces its vulnerability, and this mere exposure of has effects also on the way these people think of themselves others’ vulnerability has deep effects on its constitution. and the way they think of their vulnerability. By producing The face of the other is something more than a mere vulnerable robots, the society actually shapes what means to object of perception. Facing the other is facing something be vulnerable and how they are constituted as human beings. which needs care and help. The simple presence of some- Thus, we will show it possible to see the introduction of thing outside of the subjects’ freedom demanding help vulnerability in the robots not as a mere improvement in makes the subject perceive other’s vulnerability and naked- what the robots are, but also as a way to shape ourselves ness (Levinas 1987, 100:55). through them. This encounter with the vulnerability of the other is the To show this modification, we will take into account the moment where the relation with the other becomes ethical. encounter of the other in Levinas and the effect of others’ Therefore, the other is not something which is merely a per- gaze in Sartre. Thanks to these two philosophers, it will be ceived object, but it is exposed to us, and this vulnerability clear how the introduction of vulnerability in the robots has founds the perceiving subject as something more than mere direct effects on the constitution of the subjects. acting subject by allowing him/her to care about the other. Thus, this encounter opens the subject to ethics. As Levinas 4.1 The “other” in phenomenology always highlights, the other is not merely an object perceived in the world, but it is part of the primordial constitution of The theme of the “other” is one of the most important the subject since it generates the subject as an ethical subject themes in phenomenology. who cares of the others (Altez 2007). In Husserl, the subject is always immersed into an inter- The “others” are part of the constitution of the subjects subjective world. The actions, and motivations of the subject since they shape who the subjects are by working on the are always deeply intertwined with the ones of others. The others’ vulnerability exposed in the encounter. subject is not alone, and the subject perceives others around them through empathy and the perception of their physical body. Obviously, in Husserl, perceiving subject and intersubjec- tivity are deeply intertwined since intersubjectivity founds “For Levinas, the “face” is precisely that which radically and infi- objectivity thanks to mutual understanding and the possi- nitely exceeds the “countenance,” not as inaccessible but as excep- bility of trading places (Duranti 2010; McGee and Warms tionally vulnerable.” (Burggraeve 1999, p. 43). 2013, p. 420; Husserl 1989, III:177, 1983, II:125). Objec- “Levinas will surely agree that to be moved by another person’s pain means to be shaken by his pain, that his vulnerability in some tivity is founded on the presence of others which make our sense reveals one’s own vulnerability.” (Nortvedt 2003, p. 226). perception not solipsistically founded, but grounded on “As Levinas develops his model, it becomes clear that his notion intersubjectivity. of vulnerability is one which will answer to my own use of the term However, even if the others are taken into consideration to mark a state which is as much that of the one as of the other. as part of the intersubjectivity (Husserl 1973), we do not Although initially it is the other who is vulnerable, who is figured as homeless, poor, widowed, orphaned, and whose suffering humanity have an accent on the presence of the others around the act- invokes response, that response itself—or rather the irrestistibility ing subject as in the case of other phenomenologists. Hus- of the call—pitches me also into vulnerability. I am exposed before serl focused on empathy and on the experience of the other the nakedness of the face, the certainty of my own existence thrown through the eyes of the perceiver (Hermberg 2006, p. 49). into doubt. It is my moral subjection to the other, my vulnerability in exposure to her vulnerability, that instantiates me as a subject. At The other is perceived as another subject in the world start- the level of my corporeity, of my incarnation ‘before being tied to ing from the presence of their body as perceptual objects. my body’, the relation with the other—before any conscious deter- Some of his scholars such as Levinas and Sartre criticize mination—is characterised by Levinas as maternal” (Shildrick 2002, p. 92). 1 3 AI & SOCIETY Subjects are constituted through the presence of others 4.3 Sartre since they are open and vulnerable entities. Subjects feel shame and pride just because they are open to others, and In the case of Sartre, we have a different approach towards the encounter with the other (Jopling 1993). Even according their body is the center of this shameful feeling because it is what is vulnerable and open to the others’ gaze. to him, the encounter with the other is something more than what highlighted by Husserl. The other constitutes who the The other is not merely encountered because it is in the world like other objects, but the other has peculiar effect on subject is at a different level. However, Sartre does not follow the same path of Levi- the constitution of the subject just because it looks back, and it objectifies the subject. Subjects are “naked” in front nas, and he shows how the other constitutes the subjects not because the subject looks at the other, but because the other of the other just because subjects encounter another person who is objectifying them, and subjects have no power at all looks at the subject. Therefore, the accent does not fall on the subject who perceives and encounters the face of the on this objectification. other, but the point of view of this encounter is inverted. The other is not an alterity encountered by the subject, but 4.4 Constitution through vulnerability the other acts on the subject in this encounter. The others are not objects of the subjects’ perception, but they make As we showed, according to Levinas and Sartre the presence of the others deeply affects the constitution of the subject the subjects objects of their perception. Especially Sartre highlights how the other always looks (Sealey 2013). Especially the others in their vulnerability turn the subject into an ethical subject and the presence of at the perceiving subject, and he takes this element into the constitution of the subject (Dolezal 2017). The other per- the gaze of others turns the subject into a vulnerable being. Thus, we have a two elements highlighted by the intro- ceives the subject and so it turns it from an active entity into a mere object of perception. Therefore, the other is not duction of the other. The subject feels ashamed by looking at the vulnerability of the other. The others are vulnerable in merely another entity which helps to constitute the objec- tivity of our world as Husserl suggested. The other is not their own nakedness and this vulnerability affects us. At the same time, the subject is turned into a mere object even merely something different from an object because it is vulnerable and it triggers ethical actions in the subject as through the gaze of others, and so the subject itself is turned into a vulnerable entity by the introduction of the others. shown by Levinas. The other, according to Sartre, has the power to make the subject feel powerless because the subject becomes a mere object for the other. The subjects perceive themselves 5 Robots and vulnerability through the eyes of the other, and so they objectivize our- selves. Therefore, the presence of the other has the power to The idea of otherness related to the phenomenological tradi- tion and robots is not new (Sandry 2015). However, many change the perspective of the subject (Sartre 2001; Zahavi 2011, 2014). aspects related to the vulnerability and the constitution of the subject which are relevant to our theme are often excluded. The encounter with another person is not conjectural, but it is actual. The person can feel shame through this change As we showed the introduction of an “other” entity in the world is not neutral, but it shapes the way the subject is of perspective because the subjects perceive how the other perceives them. The subject is powerless in front of the gaze constituted, and the vulnerability is one of the main element founding this modification. Therefore, the introduction of of the others. It is vulnerable because its body and its actions are exposed to the others’ gaze as objects of their perception. different kind of others which are vulnerable in different ways and which have different perceptual capabilities like There is an inversion of power relations. With objects, the subjects direct their gaze towards them. With others, robots have an impact even on the constitution of the subject. The introduction of new vulnerable robots is not merely an the situation the opposite, and the subjects find themselves under the gaze of someone else. The subjects’ body is not introduction of a new entity, but through this introduction subjects shape themselves. merely a private body, but others look at it. Subjects are perceived as objects from other people, and, through this 5.1 Different vulnerability in the robots objectification from their point of view, subjects become vulnerable and exposed. The introduction of a vulnerable entity has effects in the way we feel our vulnerability, and so it affects also how the subjects are constituted in their vulnerability. “In Sartre, the other’s look is not defenseless and exposed; rather, I As we have shown, Levinas clearly highlights how the am exposed and vulnerable when I am subjected to the other’s look.” perception of the vulnerability of the other transforms the (Overgaard 2013, p. 115). 1 3 AI & SOCIETY subject into an ethical being. The perception of the fact there The way the vulnerability of the other is perceived is an entity needing help is more than enough to turn the changes according to the kind of entity the subject is facing subject into something different. and so, with it, it changes also the ethical call involved. The difference in the vulnerability of the robot and the human being is related to the kind of body they have. They 5.2 Robots and their different gaze are different, and so they have also different vulnerabilities (Coeckelbergh 2011). Both of them have needs, but the The other effect we have with the introduction of the other nature of these needs can vary sensibly. For example, one into the constitution of the subject is related to the others’ needs to be fed of bread and the other one has to fed with gaze on the subject. We showed, how, according to Sartre, electricity. the gaze of the others changes the subject by turning it into Obviously, Levinas never introduced the face of the other something vulnerable. as related to the physical body of the other (Levinas 1988; The simple presence of the other turns the subject into Atterton 2011; Davy 2007; Guenther 2007). The face is something which is open to the others and this openness is introduced to highlight a relation between the subject and what makes it vulnerable. the other without focusing on any kind of physical element. Sartre, as Levinas, never talks about actual others in rela- Therefore, by eluding any physical relation to the physical tion to their physical appearances. The subject is objecti- body of the other, the face of the other does not change if fied, exposed and vulnerable because of the very presence the other is a human being or another entity with a differ - of others without relating to any specific elements of the ent body like a robot. However, at the same time, there is a others’ body. Therefore, this opening is not related to how clear link to the vulnerability of the other which is directly the others perceive the subject, but merely on the possibility related to the others’ needs. If the other suffers or is needing of the presence of others in general. However, it is possible a help, the subject is called to act. Therefore, this call for to relate this gaze to the actual perceptual capabilities of the help changes according to the different needs and differ - otherness who is observing the subject. ent vulnerabilities exposed in the other. Even if the gen- The body of the subject becomes object of the percep- eral call for help does not relate specifically to their actual tion of the other, and so the way the other is able to perceive body, the different actions moved by the face of the other the subject affect the way the objectification is performed. directly depends on the actual body of the other exposing Subjects are under the gaze of the other, and depending on their vulnerabilities. what kind of gaze the other have, some aspect of the subjects For example, the Sociable Trash Robot developed by are visible or not. Toyohashi University clearly highlights the relation between The simple fact a robot can have different sensors which users and robots according to the specific vulnerability of the make visible to them hidden aspect of human subjects makes robots (Yamaji et al. 2010). The robots are supposed to pick them open in different ways, and so their vulnerability is up trash, but they are not able to act merely on their own. modified accordingly. For example, if the eyes of the robot Since it is possible to visualize this limit of the robot as a are composed of a camera which is able to detect thermal kind of vulnerability which stimulates the subject to help infrared radiations, the robot is able to detect emotions like them in their task, the subjects are called to help them and the sexual arousal of a person (Kukkonen et al. 2007; Kuk- to pick up the trash. Therefore, even if it is just an example, konen 2015; Ioannou et al. 2014; Hahn et al. 2012; Cardone it is clear how the vulnerability of the robot is not merely et al. 2015). Therefore, these robots can perceive something something designed and introduced into the world, but it which was hidden before like the emotions of the human has effects on the subjects too by making them face new subjects. This is enough to generate a different vulnerability vulnerabilities and act accordingly. The social trash robot in the subject since now the gaze reaches different aspects is vulnerable, and it asks for help. This mere vulnerability of themselves. Because the robots can perceive in a different introduced into the robot actually has a direct effect on the way, human subjects are naked in other aspects. subjects who are moved to help them in their task to clean This new opening modifies what the human subject is the area from trash, and so it opens the subject to modify since it touches its vulnerability and how the subject feels their values accordingly to the value of the robots. Even in exposed and objectified by others. the case the subject did not see the trash as something to be taken away, once the robot, in its struggle to pick up the trash is introduced, the subject is moved to help it, and so the trash For example, a robot able to detect the emotions (Liu et  al. 2017) becomes something to be taken away. Obviously, this is just of the users make the users is able to detect what other human beings an example, but it shows how the subject is shaped by the maybe cannot. 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