Close Engagements with Artificial Companions: Key Social, Psychological, Ethical and Design Issues

Wilks, Y. (Ed.) (2010) Close Engagements with Artificial Companions. Key social, psychological, ethical and design issues. John Benjamins. 315 pp. Hardbound. €99.00 / $149.00. 978-90-272-4994-4.

Close Engagements with Artificial CompanionsWhat 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.

Contributors

Yorick Wilks, Sherry Turkle, Luciano Floridi, Stephen G. Pulman, Kieron O’Hara, Margaret A. Boden, Joanna J. Bryson, Dylan Evans, David Levy, Will Lowe, Daniela M. Romano, Alex Taylor, Anab Jain, Laurel Swan, Nikolaus Bee, Elisabeth Andre, Thurid Vogt, Patrick Gebhard, Elisabetta Bevacqua, Ken Prepin, Radoslaw Niewiadomski, Etienne de Sevin, Catherine Pelachaud, Roberta Catizone, Simon F. Worgan, Alexiei Dingli, Weiwei Cheng, Roddy Cowie, Alan Newell, Aaron Sloman, Alan FT Winfield, Rebecca Eynon, Chris Davies, Sergei Nirenburg, Noel Sharkey, Amanda Sharkey and Malcom Peltu.

Building Artificial Companions: The ‘Companions’ Project

This book is associated with the Companions project, which aims to change the way we think about the relationships of people to computers and the Internet by developing a virtual conversational ‘Companion’. This will be an agent or ‘presence’ that stays with the user for long periods of time, developing a relationship and ‘knowing’ its owners preferences and wishes. It will communicate with the user primarily by using and understanding speech.

The project consists of a consortium of 14 partners from across Europe and the US. The European Commission is funding the project as part of its 6th Research Framework, specifically as part of its focus on Information Society Technologies.