1st Edition

What is Essential to Being Human? Can AI Robots Not Share It?

Edited By Margaret S. Archer, Andrea M. Maccarini Copyright 2021
    230 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    This book asks whether there exists an essence exclusive to human beings despite their continuous enhancement – a nature that can serve to distinguish humans from artificially intelligent robots, now and in the foreseeable future. Considering what might qualify as such an essence, this volume demonstrates that the abstract question of ‘essentialism’ underpins a range of social issues that are too often considered in isolation and usually justify ‘robophobia’, rather than ‘robophilia’, in terms of morality, social relations and legal rights. Any defence of human exceptionalism requires clarity about what property(ies) ground it and an explanation of why these cannot be envisaged as being acquired (eventually) by AI robots. As such, an examination of the conceptual clarity of human essentialism and the role it plays in our thinking about dignity, citizenship, civil rights and moral worth is undertaken in this volume. What is Essential to Being Human? will appeal to scholars of social theory and philosophy with interests in human nature, ethics and artificial intelligence.

    1. Introduction

    Margaret S. Archer and Andrea M. Maccarini

    2. On Robophilia and Robophobia

    Douglas V. Porpora

    3. Sapience and Sentience: A Reply to Porpora

    Margaret S. Archer

    4. Relational Essentialism

    Pierpaolo Donati

    5. Artificial Intelligence: Sounds like a friend, looks like a friend, is it a friend?

    Jamie Morgan

    6. Growing Up in a World of Platforms: What Changes and What Doesn’t?

    Mark Carrigan

    7. On Macropolitics of Knowledge for Collective Learning in the Age of AI-Boosted

    Big Relational Tech

    Emmanuel Lazega and Jaime Montes-Lihn

    8. Can AIs do Politics?

    Gazi Islam

    9. Inhuman Enhancements? When Human Enhancements Alienate from Self, Others, Society and Nature

    Ismael Al-Amoudi

    10. The Social Meanings of Perfection: Human Self-Understanding in a Post-Human Society

    Andrea M. Maccarini


    Margaret S. Archer founded the Centre for Social Ontology in 2013 (now based at the École de Management, Université de Grenoble) when she was Professor of Social Theory at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. Her books include Social Origins of Educational Systems; Culture and Agency: The Place of Culture in Social Theory; Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach; Being Human: The Problem of Agency; Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation; Making our Way Through the World; The Reflexive Imperative; Late Modernity: Trajectories Towards Morphogenic Society; Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order; Morphogenesis and the Crisis of Normativity; and Morphogenesis and Human Flourishing.

    Andrea M. Maccarini is Professor of Sociology and Associate Chair in the Department of Political Science, Law and International Studies at the University of Padua, Italy. He is also a member of the teaching board of the Ph.D. programme in Sociology and Social Research at the University of Bologna, Italy, and has been a visiting scholar at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Boston University and the Humboldt-Universität Berlin, among others. He is a board member of IACR (International Association for Critical Realism) and collaborator of the Centre for Social Ontology, founded by Margaret S. Archer. His current research interests lie in the fields of social theory, education and socialiaation, and cultural change. He is the author of Deep Change and Emergent Structures in Global Society: Explorations in Social Morphogenesis and the co-editor of Engaging with the World: Agency, Institutions, Historical Formations.