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New Networks of Desire

Intimate Human-Machine Relationships in Contemporary Science Fiction and its Implications for Robot Ethics

Sophie Wennerscheid, Ghent University, Belgium

Questions concerning the ethical impact of companion robots have for some time now been the subject of controversial debates both in the field of robot ethics and in science fiction film and TV studies. The aim of my paper is to expand on and to further develop these considerations into what I want to call an ethics of posthuman desire. Such an ethics will be based on insights provided by actor-network theory and critical posthumanism. In accordance with these theories, I do not regard technology as a tool we use without being affected but as something we form bonds with. These bonds restructure our world and call for a redefinition of the human person as a rela­tional being which is inclined to extend human qualities to non-human agents, i.e. to anthropomor­phize them. Without downplaying the risks that might arise from this kind of anthropomorphization, I argue in my paper that we can regard humans’ capacity to be affected by machines as a resource of transfor­mation. By getting in touch, (wo)man and machine, humans and posthumans both change; and thereby our con­cepts and practices of relationality and intimacy. The Swedish TV series Äkta Människor / Real Humans (2012-2014) will serve as a basis for discussing the issues raised.