Lessons from Venice: Authenticity, Emotions, and ICTs

Naomi S. Baron, American University

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Since the emergence of modern artificial intelligence research in the 1950s, scholars have striven to model the ways in which humans think, speak, move, and emote. A presumed measure of success is the degree to which computer-driven programs or mechanical constructs can reproduce (that is, simulate) behaviors of their human counterparts. With the development of robotic pets, comparable measures have been considered. The goal of simulation is based upon an assumption regarding the extent to which humans seek authenticity, more generally, in the representations they encounter. By “representation” we mean everything from an audio recording of a musical performance, to an architectural reproduction of an original edifice, to a sculpture depicting a person, to a robotic pet. This essay argues that authenticity in representation is not always a desired goal. As a result, as we think about the extent to which the robots of today (and tomorrow) are capable of expressing emotion and other behaviors that are judged to be life-like, it behooves us to consider the degree to which users of robots are actually seeking verisimilitude.