My talk is concerned with the possibility of social interaction with robots. A
central aim of social robotics and human-robot interaction is to create robots that
can be perceived as social agents and that can engage in social interaction with
human beings. This seems problematic, however, because the term “sociality”
does not seem to be readily applicable to artifacts like robots. Even if we were
to allow taking robots as intentional agents, as in functionalism or Dennett’s
intentional stance approach, social interaction is typically understood to take
place between persons and to involve capacities that arguably are beyond robots.
Contrary to the common way of talking within AI and robotics, I argue that
robots are not autonomous agents. That is, they are not autonomous agents in
the philosophical sense relevant to personhood or moral agency that requires
fitness to be held responsible. This arguably imples that, strictly speaking, they
are not capable of social interaction with humans that typically involves social
commitments and other normative relations between participants. However,
they can still be programmed to behave in ways that resemble cooperative social
interaction and joint action. We can hence coordinate our actions with them by
attributing to them certain social capacities. This is similar to the Dennettian
intentional stance, but goes beyond it, into a social stance, which creates room
for taking robots, for instrumental purposes, as social agents and partners in
social interaction.