Artificial Lives, Analogies and Symbolic Thought
An Anthropological Insight on Robots and AI
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Special issue: Robots and living organisms: New historical and philosophical perspectives
Edited by Marco Tamborini & Edoardo Datteri
Abstract: The aim of this article is to explore the conception of artificial life forms and the interactions we have with them by paying a particular attention to the analogies that characterize them and the mental processes they give rise to. The article adopts a crossed perspective, focusing on the representations conveyed by artificial life but also on the way we deal with the presence of so-called intelligent or social machines. Based on a multi-sited ethnography of design practices and human-machine interaction experiments, this article hypothesizes that robots and AI constitute a symbolic means of addressing problems regarding our understanding of what life could be whether it is biological or social. Starting from the history of automata, this article will first address the modalities by which an “artificial life” is conceived by analogy with vital processes. It will then focus on the way these processes come into play in an experimental interaction situation.
Keywords: Analogies, Artificial life, Human-robot interaction, Reconfiguration, Social anthropology, Symbolism
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