How to describe and evaluate “deception” phenomena

Subtitle:recasting the metaphysics, ethics, and politics of ICTs in terms of magic and performance and taking a relational and narrative turn
Authors/others:Coeckelbergh, Mark
Abstract:Contemporary ICTs such as speaking machines and computer games tend to create illusions. Is this ethically problematic? Is it deception? And what kind of “reality” do we presuppose when we talk about illusion in this context? Inspired by work on similarities between ICT design and the art of magic and illusion, responding to literature on deception in robot ethics and related fields, and briefly considering the issue in the context of the history of machines, this paper discusses these questions through the lens of stage magic and illusionism, with the aim of reframing the very question of deception. It investigates if we can take a more positive or at least morally neutral view of magic, illusion, and performance, while still being able to understand and criticize the relevant phenomena, and if we can describe and evaluate these phenomena without recourse to the term “deception” at all. This leads the paper into a discussion about metaphysics and into taking a relational and narrative turn. Replying to Tognazzini, the paper identifies and analyses two metaphysical positions: a narrative and performative non-dualist position is articulated in response to what is taken to be a dualist, in particular Platonic, approach to “deception” phenomena. The latter is critically discussed and replaced by a performative and relational approach which avoids a distant “view from nowhere” metaphysics and brings us back to the phenomena and experience in the performance relation. The paper also reflects on the ethical and political implications of the two positions: for the responsibility of ICT designers and users, which are seen as co-responsible magicians or co-performers, and for the responsibility of those who influence the social structures that shape who has (more) power to deceive or to let others perform.
Number of pages:15
Date of publication:19.10.2017
Journal title:Ethics and Information Technology
Peer reviewed:true
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Publication Type:Article