About the Conference

International conference « Social Robot as the Object of Philosophical Inquiry »

Maison de la Recherche 30&31 May 2018

Conference announcement

Only few decades ago the industry of robots began to introduce conversational artificial agents in human environments in the form of chatbots, or robots able to interact with humans in a more natural way. A conversational agent is an intelligent agent designed to respond automatically to user’s questions through conversational interfaces. This new sort of interaction leads us to consider them as social agents by right. They start to transform the way people interact with the internet by facilitating the automation of many services, from an order of food delivery to a search of information through a piece of advice.

Social artificial agents, i.e. robots called “social” (physically embodied, like Pepper of Softbank Robotics), chatbots (like Google Home or Alexa Amazon), or even holographic virtual companions (Vinclu’s Gatebox) will by all means play a distinct role in our daily life as home assistants or within such areas as medicine, journalism, the war-industry, etc. They take their place by our side as companions or toys able to take care of children, as medical assistants of elderly persons or the people suffering of Alzheimer disease, or even in the private sphere of sexual relations. The industry of social robotics follows two principal goals: to answer the practical needs of users and put at the scientific community’s disposal the artefacts serving for the investigation of social phenomena. The originality of these artefacts is their capacity to engage people in social and affective long-term interaction with them. Their autonomy is expressed through their adaptation to environmental or social changes and by adjusting their behaviour according to the appropriate goals. Thus, the class of social robots is different from the class of technical objects to which human have been accustomed. To all appearances, the impact that social robotics has on science and society promises to be considerable. In this way, an adequate perception of the societal challenges due to progressive development of such technologies requires a systematic reflection.

We usually only consider human beings to be the sole legitimate members of society because they are persons and they are capable to recognize others respectively as equal persons. However, artificial social agents, even if they are not persons, can participate in social interactions with humans playing the role of social actors. Where are the limits and what are the potentials of these social interactions between humans and robots? The conference aims to explore this question through two principal lines of questioning:

  • The status of robots: If the robots are neither technical object in the simondonian sense nor organisms endowed with consciousness like humans, to which kind of entity do they belong? Is it necessary to create a new category for them? Can they be considered as legitimate members of society participating in the formation of the social order? What do they teach us about human sociality? What place do they take in respect of domestic pets? What are the advantages and the challenging issues of constructing anthropomorphic and zoomorphic robots?
  • Normative questioning: Should we allow social robot to enter our everyday life and let them substitute for certain natural social agents like nurses, sick-nurses, teachers or pets? What expectations should we have from social robots? Should we accept affective relations with social robots?



Professor of Philosophy of Science, Sorbonne University


Researcher, LIMSI-CNRS,

Professor of Informatics,

Sorbonne University



PhD student, ED V,

Sorbonne University