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Root, D. “Reconfiguring the alterity relation: the role of communication in interactions with social robots and chatbots”

International Journal publishing refereed scholarly articles, position papers, debates, short communications, and reviews of books and other publications


Don Ihde’s alterity relation focuses on the quasi-otherness of dynamic technologies that interact with humans. The alterity relation is one means to study relations between humans and artificial intelligence (AI) systems . However, research on alterity relations has not defined the difference between playing with a toy, using a computer, and interacting with a social robot or chatbot. We suggest that Ihde’s quasi-other concept fails to account for the interactivity, autonomy, and adaptability of social robots and chatbots, which more closely approach human alterity. In this article, we will examine experiences with a chatbot, Replika, and a humanoid robot, a RealDoll, to show how some users experience AI systems as companions. First, we show that the perception of social robots and chatbots as intimate companions is grounded in communication. Advances in natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation (NLG) allow a relationship to form between some users and social robots and chatbots. In this relationship, some users experience social robots and chatbots as more than quasi-others. We will use Kanemitsu’s another-other concept to analyze cases where social robots and chatbots should be distinguished from quasi-others.

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