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It's About People 2022: Embracing Digital Transformation: For a Sustainable and Ethical Future

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Do You Love Me Alexa? Ai and Authentic Relationship

Noreen Herzfeld
St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict
United States

AI is becoming ubiquitous in our society. Will Ais ever be considered persons? This is a problematic question because personhood, as a legal construct, is binary. Relationship is a non-binary category, so it makes sense to ask how authentic any relationship we have with an AI can be. Karl Barth presents four criteria for authentic relationship: to look the other in the eye, to speak to and hear the other, to aid the other, and to do it gladly.

The final criterion is a sticking point with AI. Can computers do anything gladly? Computers will increasingly recognize emotional cues and give emotionally salient responses. But emotion is a three-step process. We apprehend a stimulus, experience a bodily feeling, and formulate a response. Without a body, the process reduced to stimulus, calculation, response. There are humans similarly lacking the physical reaction—we call them sociopaths. Those who do not feel another’s pain tend toward objectification, treating persons as things. This confusion of person and thing, of real emotion with act, is especially salient to the rapidly evolving development of sex bots.



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