5. Beyond realism

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Previously, I argued that the decision for fiction and reality was based on individual sensitivity and tolerance as related to signal strength. However, such decisions for ‘real’ or ‘unreal’ are the end phase of a larger process of epistemic appraisal. In addition, we also identified in earlier chapters a contamination between the attribution of truth and ethical considerations. This chapter argues that truth attribution and perception of realism have an affective component. The best way to illustrate this is to look at how we respond to virtual people. Not only do we have to deal with those who pretend being someone else (cf. the phisher), we also respond emotionally to fictional characters, whether we can interact with them (e.g., game characters, embodied agents, avatars, robots) or not (e.g., in novels, movies, soap series, reality shows, or theater play). In many of these cases, epistemic appraisals are affected by emotionally-laden factors. This chapter will also look at characters with a symbolic or figurative side and at humanoid robots that are meant to replace real people at certain tasks. Moreover, we will touch upon the possibilities of interacting with virtual people by connecting the computer directly to our brains (cf. cyborgs) and how that may relate to moral reasoning.


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