Sjoerd Bollebakker & Helen Piel – Towards a Robotic Dystopia? Replacing Animal Companions with Technology in Science and Fiction

Abstract

The arrival of a particular type of technology, sociable robots, can challenge our understanding of companionship. Our focus is on robot pets, as these
are finding their way into our families, schools, and nursing homes. In this paper we analyse two science fiction texts on robot dogs – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
(1954) and Isaac Asimov’s A Boy’s Best Friend (1974)– before concentrating on technology assessment, a scientific method to describe and extrapolate possible
impacts of emerging technologies. We argue in favour of the use of science fiction literature for this kind of research, as thus far technology assessment efforts have
focused remarkably little on ethical and philosophical dimensions that have already been discussed in science fiction literature for decades.

Keywords

Technology assessment, science fiction, relational artefacts, companion
species, anthropomorphism.

Section

Articles

Pages

Digressions 2.1 (2016), pp. 16-29.

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Sjoerd Bollebakker & Helen Piel - Towards a Robotic Dystopia? Replacing Animal Companions with Technology in Science and Fiction