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Saturday, May 11, 2024

Can Robots have Personal Identity?

Alonso, M.
Int J of Soc Robotics 15, 211–220 (2023).


This article attempts to answer the question of whether robots can have personal identity. In recent years, and due to the numerous and rapid technological advances, the discussion around the ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Agents or simply Robots, has gained great importance. However, this reflection has almost always focused on problems such as the moral status of these robots, their rights, their capabilities or the qualities that these robots should have to support such status or rights. In this paper I want to address a question that has been much less analyzed but which I consider crucial to this discussion on robot ethics: the possibility, or not, that robots have or will one day have personal identity. The importance of this question has to do with the role we normally assign to personal identity as central to morality. After posing the problem and exposing this relationship between identity and morality, I will engage in a discussion with the recent literature on personal identity by showing in what sense one could speak of personal identity in beings such as robots. This is followed by a discussion of some key texts in robot ethics that have touched on this problem, finally addressing some implications and possible objections. I finally give the tentative answer that robots could potentially have personal identity, given other cases and what we empirically know about robots and their foreseeable future.

The article explores the idea of personal identity in robots. It acknowledges that this is a complex question tied to how we define "personhood" itself.

There are arguments against robots having personal identity, often focusing on the biological and experiential differences between humans and machines.

On the other hand, the article highlights that robots can develop and change over time, forming a narrative of self much like humans do. They can also build relationships with people, suggesting a form of "relational personal identity".

The article concludes that even if a robot's identity is different from a human's, it could still be considered a true identity, deserving of consideration. This opens the door to discussions about the ethical treatment of advanced AI.