Non-human Intention and Meaning-Making: An Ecological Theory
Social robots have the potential to problematize many attributes that have previously been considered, in philosophical discourse, to be unique to human beings. Thus, if one construes the explicit programming of robots as constituting specific objectives and the overall design and structure of AI as having aims, in the sense of embedded directives, one might conclude that social robots are motivated to fulfil these objectives, and therefore act intentionally towards fulfilling those goals. The purpose of this paper is to consider the impact of this description of social robotics on traditional notions of intention and meaningmaking, and, in particular, to link meaning-making to a social ecology that is being impacted by the presence of social robots. To the extent that intelligent non-human agents are occupying our world alongside us, this paper suggests that there is no benefit in differentiating them from human agents because they are actively changing the context that we share with them, and therefore influencing our meaningmaking like any other agent. This is not suggested as some kind of Turing Test, in which we can no longer differentiate between humans and robots, but rather to observe that the argument in which human agency is defined in terms of free will, motivation, and intention can equally be used as a description of the agency of social robots. Furthermore, all of this occurs within a shared context in which the actions of the human impinge upon the non-human, and vice versa, thereby problematising Anscombe's classic account of intention.