Books  |  ,   |  March 24, 2010

Close Engagements with Artificial Companions: Key social, psychological, ethical and design issues

Edited by Yorick Wilks.
Published by John Benjamins Publishing.
315 pages.

What will it be like to admit Artificial Companions into our society? How will they change our relations with each other? How important will they be in the emotional and practical lives of their owners – since we know that people became emotionally dependent even on simple devices like the Tamagotchi? How much social life might they have in contacting each other? The contributors to this book discuss the possibility and desirability of some form of long-term computer Companions now being a certainty in the coming years. It is a good moment to consider, from a set of wide interdisciplinary perspectives, both how we shall construct them technically as well as their personal philosophical and social consequences. By Companions we mean conversationalists or confidants – not robots – but rather computer software agents whose function will be to get to know their owners over a long period. Those may well be elderly or lonely, and the contributions in the book focus not only on assistance via the internet (contacts, travel, doctors etc.) but also on providing company and Companionship, by offering aspects of real personalization.

Series: Natural Language Processing

Table of Contents

Section I. Setting the scene

  • In good company?: On the threshold of robotic Companions — Sherry Turkle
  • Introducing artificial Companions — Yorick Wilks

Section II. Ethical and philosophical issues

  • Artificial Companions and their philosophical challenges — Luciano Floridi
  • Conditions for Companionhood — Stephen G. Pulman
  • Arius in cyberspace: Digital Companions and the limits of the person — Kieron O’Hara

Section III. Social and psychological issues: What should a Companion be like?

  • Conversationalists and confidants — Margaret A. Boden
  • Robots should be slaves — Joanna J. Bryson
  • Wanting the impossible: The dilemma at the heart of intimate human-robot relationships — Dylan Evans
  • Falling in love with a Companion — David Levy
  • Identifying your accompanist — Will Lowe
  • Look, emotion, language and behavior in a believable virtual Companion — Daniela M. Romano
  • New Companions — Alex Taylor, Anab Jain and Laurel Swan
  • On being a Victorian Companion — Yorick Wilks

Section IV. Design issues: Building a Companion

  • The use of affective and attentive cues in an empathic computer-based Companions — Nikolaus Bee, Elisabeth Andre, Thurid Vogt and Patrick Gebhard
  • GRETA: Towards an interactive conversational virtual Companion — Elisabetta Bevacqua, Ken Prepin, Radoslaw Niewiadomski, Etienne de Sevin and Catherine Pelachaud
  • A world-hybrid approach to a conversational Companion for reminiscing about images — Roberta Catizone, Simon F. Worgan, Yorick Wilks, Alexiei Dingli and Weiwei Cheng
  • Companionship is an emotional business — Roddy Cowie
  • Artificial Companions in society: Consulting the users — Alan Newell
  • Requirements for Artificial Companions: It’s harder than you think — Aaron Sloman
  • You really need to know what your bot(s) are thinking about you — Alan FT Winfield

Section V. Special purpose Companions

  • A Companion for learning in everyday life — Rebecca Eynon and Chris Davies
  • The Maryland virtual patient as a task-oriented conversational Companion — Sergei Nirenburg
  • Living with robots: Ethical tradeoffs in eldercare — Noel Sharkey and Amanda Sharkey

Section VI. Afterword

  • Summary and discussion of the issues — Malcom Peltu and Yorick Wilks

About the Editor
Yorick Wilks is a Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Sheffield. He received his MA and PhD (1968) from Pembroke College, Cambridge. He has also taught or researched at Stanford, Edinburgh, Geneva, Essex and New Mexico State Universities. His interests are artificial intelligence and the computer processing of language, knowledge and belief, especially as applied to the future of the Internet: the Semantic Web and the possibility of Companion-like interfaces. He is a Research Fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies.