Introducing artificial Companions

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This introductory chapter, like the whole book itself, concerns a range of closely related topics: the possibility of machines having identifiable personalities, the possible future legal responsibilities of such companionable machines, and the design characteristics of such machines, including their technical implementation and the kinds of computational theory they will need to embody. As will become clear, I wish to explore these topics in terms of software entities, rather than robots, and in particular the sort of software agents now being encountered on the web, ranging at present from technical advisers to mere chatbots. I shall call them Companions. This introduction explores the following related aspects of a Companion in more detail: what kind and level of personality should be in a machine agent so as to be acceptable to a human user, more particularly to one who may fear technology and have no experience of it; and what levels of responsibility and legal attribution for responsibility can we expect from entities like complex web agents in the near future?


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