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Virtuous social robots, value creation, and social recognition theory

Massimiliano Lorenzo Cappuccio, Associate Professor, Philosophy Department, United Arab Emiraets University, United Arab Emirates

In an effort to overcome a merely instrumental conception of social robots (and the moral alienation that such conception produces), I emphasize the creative dimension of robot development. I suggest considering the creator-creation/creature recognition dynamics as a paradigmatic narrative to understand how aesthetic, epistemic, and moral values can be bestowed over social robots. This narrative has a strong normative valence, as it reveals that truly non-instrumental, autonomous, intrinsic value can be ascribed to social robots if we acknowledge that they exist to play a very special role: like works of art, cultural institutions, or other outstanding creations of the human spirit, social robots do not only exist to be used by humans but also, concurrently, to mirror, reproduce, and transcend the life and the intelligence of humans. 

Consistently with this narrative, I recommend social robots to be designed in ways that allow the human users to appreciate their peculiar axiological status of creature-like entities by acknowledging the features that provide them with a distinctive social identity: social robots will have individual needs, a unique history of interactions with human, artificial personality patterns reflecting this history, a non-replaceable relationship with their human companions based on such personality, and therefore the capability to express preferences and even decline some of the requests formulated by their human users. I suggest that a new, non-instrumentalist, concept of ownership should be developed so to allow a new form of social recognition that appropriately fits the semi-paradoxical complexity and asymmetry of the human-robot relationship.